Looking for a mouthwateringly good warm-weather cocktail with garden-fresh ingredients? How about a savory-sweet Watermelon-Cucumber Refresher?
I was leafing through DIY Cocktails when this summer sipper immediately caught my eye. A drink made from cool slabs of sweet watermelon and soothingly vegetal cucumber seemed like the perfect thing on a hot day. The curious thing about the recipe, though, was that all of its ingredients were listed in parts instead of the ounces found in most cocktail books. And its ingredients were each given a descriptive designation. Categories like "strong," "sweet," and "sour."
Turns out that "Ditch the Recipe, Use the Ratio," is the cheerful message of this engagingly instructive, encouragingly freewheeling cocktail book. Providing the thirsty reader with 10 basic recipe ratios, or templates, to work from, it opens the doors to creativity while making sure flavors stay beautifully balanced.
But let's get back to that deliciously cool watermelon-cucumber cocktail. One of many recipes in the "Life of the Party" section of the book, it sits alongside classic sours such as Margaritas, Sidecars, and Cosmopolitans. It uses a homemade watermelon-cucumber-mint juice as a base, combining it with something strong (vodka), something sweet (triple sec), and something sour (lime juice).
I gave the recipe a try and it truly was refreshing. The watermelon-cucumber-mint juice took a few extra minutes to make, but was well worth it (and the leftovers came in handy as you can see in my suggested riffs below).
Watermelon-Cucumber Refresher (adapted from DIY COCKTAILS: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks by Marcia Simmons & Jonas Halpren)
3 parts vodka (I used 1 1/2 ounces) [Note: tequila makes a great recipe variation too]
1 part (1/2 ounce) triple sec
1 part (1/2 ounce) watermelon-cucumber-mint juice*
1 part (1/2 ounce) fresh lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a watermelon and/or cucumber slice and/or a sprig of mint.
2 parts (I used 2 cups) diced, seeded watermelon flesh
1 part (1 cup) peeled, seeded cucumber
2 sprigs mint (10-12 leaves)
Whir all ingredients together in a blender. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard pulp.
Some Possible Riffs:
- Swap out vodka for tequila. I tried this one and found it made a great variation on a Margarita. (I haven't tested it yet, but would also like to try subbing in a slice or two of jalapeño for the mint.)
- Use the watermelon-cucumber-mint juice as the base for a highball. Add a shot of vodka, tequila, or mezcal; a squeeze of lime; some sugar if you'd like; and a healthy splash of club soda. A good way to use up leftover juice. So easy and so good.
- Make a non-alcoholic cocktail. I tried this one after a sweaty workout on a hot day. Skip the booze and simply add a squeeze of lime and a splash of club soda to the watermelon-cucumber-mint juice. Incredibly refreshing and restorative.
Buy the Book: DIY COCKTAILS: A Simple Guide to Creating Your Own Signature Drinks by Marcia Simmons & Jonas Halpren, Adams Media, 2011, $11 from Amazon.
Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC's Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.
(Images: Nora Maynard)