It has taken us
too long a while, but we promised to make some cocktail recipes that also include an alcohol-free “mocktail” version, so this is the first. And as our kids enjoy their “mocktails”, this will probably not be the last.
In any event, this week we got our first watermelons at the farmers market (ours are still tiny) and we just had to make a watermelon cocktail. The challenge with watermelon is that has very light, tasty and “summery” flavor and a great aroma, but both are easily lost when mixed with too many strong flavors. So when making a cocktail with watermelon, we tend to look towards vodka (although tequila and watermelon also play well). The Watermelon Drop combines watermelon juice, lemon juice, a bit of simple syrup or agave nectar, some (optional) rhubarb bitters and vodka, preferably quality lemon vodka. And you can simply omit the vodka for a very tasty summer cooler or “mocktail”.
These days many mixologists, and more than a few cocktail bloggers, have a certain amount of disdain for vodka. Plain vodka has little flavor, by design, and has light texture and little aroma. If you want to add flavor to a cocktail with the base spirit, vodka won’t add much. But if you want some booze in a drink and have the fruit or vegetable shine through, vodka is a good fit. And it is “OK” to simply want some buzz with your juice…nothing to be ashamed of (in moderation 😉 .
These days, many vodkas come with fruit (and/or other flavorings). Most are just cheap hooch with some artificial flavors. But some are high-quality spirits infused with fruit or vegetable flavors in a style almost like gin. You can also make very good vodka-fruit infusions at home. These kinds of vodkas are quite good, and do add a lot to cocktails. In this cocktail, we use Hangar One’s Buddhas Hand Vodka and it is a lovely addition to the drink. But even here we use a light hand with the vodka, we do not want to dilute the watermelon too much. And if you are curious, Buddhas Hand is a type of Asian citrus similar to lemons but more aromatic- good stuff, and a great compliment to watermelon.
To make this drink, you do need to take the extra step of making watermelon juice. We simply muddle chunks of watermelon and then fine-strain the pulp. A cup of watermelon chunks will get you 2-3 ounces of juice. It only takes a few minutes, but will leave your bar or kitchen a bit sticky (such is life with watermelons). Otherwise simply combine the watermelon juice, lemon juice, simple syrup / agave, rhubarb bitters (if you have them, they add a nice touch) and the vodka, if using. If making a cocktail, we prefer to shake and strain the drink, if making a “mocktail”, serving on the rocks works as well.
So if simply eating watermelon (and spitting seeds) isn’t enough fun, try this drink out. It is light and tasty, but has big watermelon flavor. And the Watermelon Drop also makes a good “mocktail”, so feel free to share with the kids…
The Watermelon Drop:
- 2 and 1/2 oz. watermelon juice (about 1 cup diced watermelon, muddled and strained)
- 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 1/3 oz. simple syrup or agave nectar
- 1 oz. lemon vodka (Hangar One Buddhas Hand is really good here). Omit for a “mocktail”
- 2 dashes rhubarb bitters (optional, FYI some bitters have alcohol- check the label before using in “mocktail”)
- Dice watermelon and muddle in a large glass or bowl. Fine-strain the pulp and collect the juice.
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupé. Serve.
- If making a “mocktail”, follow all the steps above, but omit the vodka. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass or lowball glass with ice.
- 15 Delicious Non-Alcoholic Spritzers, Sodas, and Mocktails Drink Recipe Roundup (thekitchn.com)
- Rainbow Sherbet Mocktail (popcornonthestove.com)
- Spicy Summer Cocktails (thisislifeinaustin.com)