It’s a three day weekend. Time to grab a watermelon, eat some frozen champagne and dress up like a cocktail!
It’s the official start of summer. So let’s tap a (watermelon) keg, freeze up the champagne (pops), and break out the patriotic bunting and vodka. You’re going to need some shades out there in that sun, so they might as well resemble your favorite cocktail. And if that’s too loud a statement, put your favorite spritz on your shoes instead.
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 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
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.
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.
Once cool, transfer entire mixture to an airtight container and let stand in refrigerator for at least 2 days and up to 2 weeks.
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.
For 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.
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.
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.
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.
OK! So let’s stop taking ourselves SO seriously, at least for today, and enjoy some frozen cocktails.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Both my mother and mother-in-law are not big drinkers. So imagine this roundup more for those of you who have a booze lovin’ mamma. Or spend an afternoon at the club making the boys fetch you drinks while you never get around to playing tennis. Or better, perhaps, these are for the sons and daughters having to endure hours on Sunday being told you’re not coming around or calling enough. Yes, these drinks are for you.
In a Mixing Glass, muddles the mint with the limoncello. Add the pinch of salt and muddle just enough to mix it in. Add the watermelons to the glass and muddle until smooth (this may take a few minutes). Strain through a medium-fine strainer into a rocks glass. You’ll need to use the back of a spoon to push the solids through to help get the remaining liquid in your glass. Add the champagne and garnish with a mint sprig.
This drink is a great balance of flavors with the addition of salt (just like in baking). The watermelon is present, but not overpowering to make it too sweet. That champagne cuts through to help aid in that as well. And in the background there is a nice herbal-citrus note that finishes well. I was really happy with this, and I hope you can enjoy it too.
UPDATE: instead of using the strainer to get the last bits in, you can mix and muddle your ingredients in a bar shaker and then flip it over into the glass and push solids through the top. Less dishes and mess.