When temperatures rise, I adore a slice of chilled watermelon sprinkled with a bit of sea salt. I think of it as nature’s Gatorade. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty that after a long run or a hard day in the yard quenches your thirst while also cooling you down. So I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that I didn’t think about using watermelon in a margarita sooner. After all, margaritas, with that crunchy line of salt around the rim of the glass and the classic balance of sweet and sour may be the most refreshing cocktail.
I took inspiration from Frank Stitt for this recipe. One of our dear friends who lives in Birmingham sent us Stitt’s cookbook, Frank Stitt’s Southern Table, years ago. Since then it’s been one of my favorites. It’s a beautiful book and Stitt’s cooking style, which is the epitome of cooking with a sense of place, resonates with me. His recipe for watermelon margaritas is delicious, but also rather punchy. That first sip slaps you a bit and lets you know you are drinking. By the last sip, unless you weigh 250 lbs, you are feeling a bit woozy.
That’s fine, but I wanted a less serious drink for my front porch sipping. The emphasis in my recipe is more on the fruit and less on the booze. The alcohol content equates to a standard drink, but fresh watermelon juice is the major player in this version. The result is a quaffable drink that’s just right for a warm summer day and your biggest challenge will be limiting yourself to just one.
Where do you find fresh watermelon juice? From watermelons, silly. I like to use seedless watermelons, but either version is fine. You can squeeze chunks of watermelons using your hands (wash them first!) to extract the juice or simply place chunks of watermelon in a blender. I prefer the latter as the squeezing of the fruit, while satisfying, results in a mess. If using a blender, process the fruit until liquified and then pour it through a fine-mesh strainer. As a general rule, every pound of watermelon (rind still attached) yields about 2/3s cup fresh juice.
When making this drink, don’t omit the lime juice. It adds needed acidity to balance the sweetness of the drink. Also, splurge on tequila. You don’t need the best of the best, but a smooth tequila makes this drink truly exceptional. While I think making one cocktail at a time yields the best tasting drink, you can double (or quadruple!) this recipe. Simply omit shaking the cocktail over ice and instead combine all the ingredients and whisk them together in a large pitcher. Chill the mixture well in the fridge and be sure to stir well (the watermelon juice will settle) before serving. Cheers!
Watermelon Margaritas – Printer Friendly Recipe
Makes 1 refreshing cocktail
In terms of measurements, one ounce equals 2 tablespoons. Most jiggers are either 1 ounce or 1-½ ounces. The latter being the amount of liquor considered a serving.
3 ounces fresh watermelon juice (see tips in my post on how to obtain this juice)
1 ounce good quality tequila
½ ounce Cointreau liqueur
½ ounce simple syrup*
Juice of ½ a lime
Lime slice, for garnish
Rub the lime slice around the edge of a martini glass and then dip the edge of the glass in margarita salt. Turn to coat.
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the fresh watermelon juice, tequila, Cointreau, simple syrup and lime juice and shake to combine. Use a strainer to pour the concoction into the prepared glass. Serve immediately garnished with a lime slice.
*Simple syrup is as easy to make as it sounds. Simply combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar completely dissolves. Allow to cool and then store in the refrigerator and use as needed.