Rhubarb-Ginger Cooler: A Booze-Free Pitcher Drink That's Great for Brunch

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Tangy rhubarb syrup and fresh lime are ideal matches for spicy ginger beer in this non-alcoholic drink. [Photograph: Lauren Rothman]

We're coming to the end of rhubarb season, and I'm making these last few days count by preparing my very favorite spring crop in every way I can imagine: in a classic compote, to be paired with tart yogurt; roasted in the oven and spooned over pound cake; and simmered into a delicate, rose-pink syrup that I shake into cocktails and stir into pitcher drinks for a crowd.

When it comes to hosting brunches, I tend to reach for the booze, serving loaded Bloody Marys or puckery Greyhounds, but now that my sister-in-law is pregnant I've spent a lot more time thinking about well-crafted drinks that don't need any alcohol to be darned delicious. The key is layering flavors to build depth: while you can just squeeze a lime in seltzer, it doesn't take much more effort to make a drink that's way more interesting.

This bubbly sipper is one of my very favorites: I take ginger beer— for me, the spicier the better—and add a rhubarb syrup that I've accented with fresh ginger, fragrant orange zest, and a few allspice berries for a warm, well-rounded flavor. Plenty of fresh lime juice keeps the drink from straying into too-sweet territory, resulting in a fizzy, refreshing libation that's great alongside French toast or eggs.

Can't resist boozing it up? Slip a little dark rum into your glass for one of the best Dark 'n' Stormies you'll ever try.

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