I did something wild, guys – I juiced an entire 12 lb watermelon in my blender.
In my tiny kitchen.
It was mayhem but I lived to tell the tale and the Watermelon Basil Coolers that were borne of that sticky afternoon were worth every drop.
Firstly, cutting a watermelon is messy business; they are obviously juicy and made mostly of water, but given the minuscule amount of counter space and patience that I have, I’m not sure what I was thinking. No sooner had I quartered it, I realized how much watermelon and flesh, and ultimately juice, I was dealing with. I cubed it up and blended 4 batches of deep pink, pulpy juice. As it whizzed around in the blender I helped myself to the remains and cleaned all the pink from the rinds and thought about how sticky the kitchen was. But how amazing is this: that one watermelon yielded almost 4 litres of juice!
This begs the question: what does one do with nearly a gallon of fresh watermelon juice?
If you’re me, you add vodka. So that’s exactly what I did.
One step I didn’t anticipate as I set out to make these Watermelon Basil Coolers was the straining of the juice. Watermelon seems so pure and juicy, I for one, hadn’t considered how fibrous it really is. I lined a fine sieve with paper towel and poured through the juice. What was left behind was a paler pink foam as seen in the picture above. That, I discarded. But what was left beneath (in the stock pot I was straining it into) was a gorgeous nearly clear juice that looked like liquid rubies. It was beautiful. I thought it would be cute to compliment that gorgeous color and make a bit of a visual nod to what we’d be drinking by doing a sugar rim for the glass but making it green with basil.
I considered a basil simple syrup in the cocktail itself, but I didn’t want its licorice-y freshness to get lost so I blitzed together sugar and basil with a smidge of salt (for balance) and what I got was a beautiful grass green sugar to edge the glasses with. I’m usually not into sugar rims because a)eating straight sugar seems like a bad idea, and b)they are a bit fussy for my liking, both in practice and aesthetics. In this case, however, it was cute and worth it to get the cute “rind on the rim” of delicious basil-y flavor.
If you want to get really fancy, reserve some watermelon for melon balls and freeze them so they make non-diluting ice balls to keep things cold or just use plenty of ice when you’re shaking these up and don’t stop until your shaker is too cold to hold. The recipe below can easily be extrapolated to make a stirred pitcher of these cocktails if making them 2 at a time doesn’t suit your crowd or your timeline. When you have a gallon of juice that starts to seem like a good idea, believe me. Enjoy these drinks and stay cool!
Watermelon Basil Coolers
Muddle together in a cocktail shaker:
a pinch of sugar
4 basil leaves
Add ice and the following
4 oz fresh watermelon juice
3 oz vodka
juice of half a lime
Shake vigorously until very cold. Pour into two chilled glasses rimmed with basil sugar (recipe below) and top with club soda.
Garnish with extra lime and basil or frozen chunks of watermelon.
Basil Sugar Rim Mix
1/4 cup white sugar
6 basil leaves
pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until well mixed and fragrant. Tip out onto a paper towel lined plate or tray and “rake” the sugar into a single thin layer to dry – the moisture from the basil will clump it slightly. Once it has dried (about an hour) break up any remaining clumps before dipping the moistened rims of your cocktail glasses into it.