Make it: Pickled Watermelon Garnish and a sweet and sour ginger cockail

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comGrowing up, there was a place where my Dad played pool that boasted a large, murky glass jug filled with iridescent white orbs; you might call them pickled eggs. Something about their appearance on a bar top, poorly lit by the fluorescent lighting, made the act of eating them akin to sticking ones hand in fire: you just didn’t do it unless you were drunk and your friend dared you to.

However, given a few decades between that memory and now, I probably wouldn’t have to be dared to eat them, and there’s a good chance I’d eat them sober too. My love of pickled food items has grown tremendously over the last 10 years. Partly because I’ve eaten some really, really good pickled items out at restaurants. Another part might have to do with my chunk of Scandinavian heritage. And partly because once you’ve eaten enough food your friends have dared you to eat while drinking, well, at some point you start to like it all.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comMy introduction to pickled watermelon rinds did not, however, come at the tail-end of a deep Southern drinking spree. I was offered some from a friend, tried them, and liked them. And today, because I’ve been overindulging in the bounty that is summer watermelon, I decided to make up a batch from all those leftover rinds.Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

I’m also including a complimentary cocktail to go along with your pickled watermelon. It too uses scraps in the form of ginger knobs (My freezer is full of tiny bits of ginger because I can never quite buy the right amount and cannot bring myself to throw away anything.). A tiny bit of the brine goes a long way to perk up the cocktail, so definitely make both!

You’ll find that these tiny sweet and salty, slightly crunchy rinds are also a delicious bar snack to have around for the summer. And I’m sure any guests will appreciate these just a tad more than the jar of pickled eggs.Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.com

Pickled Watermelon Rind:

1 small watermelon, about 4 pounds
1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
2 cloves, whole
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, whole

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove outer green layer of skin from watermelon (if you have a smaller watermelon, cut the bottom and top ends off so you can stand your watermelon up to peel. If it’s larger, cut in half to stand up). Discard skin. Cut rind into 1-inch cubes and reserve pink flesh for another use.
  2. Combine apple cider vinegar, sugar, water, salt, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, bay leaf, chili pepper flakes, cloves, and coriander seeds in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add watermelon rind, return to a boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and carefully place a heatproof plate on top of the rind to keep it submerged as the mixture comes to room temperature.
  3. Once cool, transfer entire mixture to an airtight container and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 days and up to 2 weeks.

Ginger Infused Vodka:

1 cup peeled fresh ginger root, sliced 1/2-inch thick
2 cups vodka, such as St. George Spirits All Purpose Vodka

  • Combine vodka and ginger in an airtight container. Let stand in a cool, dark place for 5 days or to your desired spiciness, up to 14 days total. Strain into an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds and a Sweet and Sour Ginger Cocktail // stirandstrain.comFor each cocktail:

1-1/2 ounces Ginger Infused Vodka
1/4 ounce dry vermouth, such as Dolin
3 ounces chilled Prosecco
Pickled Watermelon Rind, for garnish

  • Combine Ginger Infused Vodka and vermouth in a mixing glass and fill two-thirds full with ice. Stir until well chilled, about 20 seconds. Strain into a small wine glass or coupe. Top with Prosecco and garnish with the pickled watermelon rind.

Classic and Watermelon-Infused Frozen Negroni Cocktails

Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.comIt’s summertime folks. Let’s all take a backseat to being serious and let our hair down and deep freeze our favorite cocktails.

That’s right. Snobbery be damned: I froze some Negorni cocktails. And they were TASTEEEEE!Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

Now, please stay with me on this. First, shake off your assumptions that suddenly the lofty Negroni has gone the way of the 7/11 slurpee machine: believe me, this is nothing like that. Gone are the teeth-tinglingly sweet frozen drinks you’re used to downing in the summer. The wasted calories of footlong, electric blue “adult” slushies that have about a thimble of alcohol in them and more corn syrup than anything else. These frozen versions of the Negroni take the actual, delicious drink, and whiz it up with ice for all of the bittersweet flavor, only now you sip it through a straw.Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

Oh, and when I say versions, I mean you get TWO variations for this frozen cocktail: classic and a fruit-forward twist on a white negroni: watermelon. The watermelon version is inspired by a drink I just had at a friend’s wedding which was, essentially, a White Negroni whose vermouth had been infused with watermelon. The idea was playful and it was delicious and I knew I needed to make something like that for the site. Lately, I’ve been enjoying a bit more whimsy in my cocktails, I still enjoy the classics, but when you’re recipe developing all the time, your brain wants to go in warped places. At least mine does.Frozen Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

Anyways, the idea was great, but I wanted some flexibility with the recipe. And since I wanted something a bit more versatile that I could use in multiple drinks, I infused the gin instead. It’s a short infusion, just two days, and you could always start tasting after day 1 if you don’t want a super-watermelon-y flavor and strain when you think it’s ready. Hint: if you want something over ice, instead of something made of ice, try the watermelon gin with some tonic; the sweet and bitter work well together.Frozen Watermelon White Negroni Cocktail Slushies // stirandstrain.com

OK! So let’s stop taking ourselves SO seriously, at least for today, and enjoy some frozen cocktails.

Frozen Negroni

4-1/2 ounces gin, such as G’Vine or Fords
2-1/2 ounces Campari
2-1/2 ounces Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Orange slices, for garnish

  1. Combine gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth in an airtight container. Place in freezer and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
  2. When ready to serve, add chilled alcohol and ice to blender. Blend on high speed until uniform and smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour into rocks glasses or small wine glass. Garnish with an orange slice and serve immediately.

Frozen Watermelon White Negroni

1/2 cup cubed watermelon
1-1/2 cups gin, such as Broker’s or St. George Botanivore
4-1/2 ounces watermelon gin (see recipe below, line 1)
2-1/2 ounces Cocchi Americano
2-1/4 ounces Dolin Dry Vermouth
3 cups ice (for a thicker drink, add an additional 1/2 cup ice to each batch)
Watermelon and orange slices, for garnish

  1. For the watermelon gin: In an airtight container, combine gin and watermelon. Keep in a cool, dark place for 48 hours. Strain into a clean, airtight container until ready to use. Will keep up to one year.
  2. For the Watermelon White Negroni Slushie: Combine watermelon gin, Cocchi Americano, and vermouth in an airtight container and freeze for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.
  3. When ready to serve, add frozen alcohol to a blender with ice. Blend on high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds. Split between rocks glasses or small wine glasses. Garnish each glass with a watermelon.

First, drink these with an ounce of caution; they kinda go straight to your head if you sip them up quickly. Second, the chilling overnight is so your mixture does not dilute the ice too quickly while you blend (this step is optional). The classic Negroni tastes pretty much like what you’d get in its natural state. Even though the bitterness is still very present, with this icy state it’s lovely and the citrus notes are quite present. And not watered down tasting! The watermelon on the other hand is delicate with only a hint at the bitterness from the Cocchi Americano. While the fruity watermelon is present, it doesn’t overpower the drink as a whole – it’s a nice accent.

So choose one, or both, to make this weekend. I choose both.

I originally published this recipe on Serious Eats.

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