If summer was a cocktail, it would be a Watermelon Margarita. It brings together two of the most refreshing and universally beloved members of the culinary kingdom. But sadly, it is rarely made to its full potential. That fate will not befall you.
You can't just add watermelon to a Margarita and call it a day, adjustments need to be made. Like a Strawberry Margarita, or just about any fruit-flavored Margarita, it's best to eliminate the Cointreau or orange liqueur so the watermelon flavor can shine brightly and unimpeded. But the trick is how you incorporate that watermelon flavor. I use this recipe for watermelon syrup which is super simple and a total game changer. Follow it and you'll have a Watermelon Margarita that lives up to its name. You might be thinking that it looks too much syrup in this drink, but keep in mind it is a weak simple syrup - 2 parts to juice to 1 part sugar, more on that below.
Side note: if you're into spicy, I highly recommend this with jalapeño tequila.
2 oz blanco tequila (or jalapeño tequila for a spicy version)
1 oz watermelon syrup
¾ oz lime juice
Combine ingredients in a shaker, fill with ice. Shake for 8 seconds and strain into a salt-rimmed (optional) rocks glass over fresh ice, or serve straight up if you prefer. Garnish with a watermelon slice.
Watermelon Syrup - (makes enough for about 5-6 cocktails)
1 cup watermelon juice
½ cup sugar
Make watermelon juice. Muddle about 2 cups worth of watermelon chunks until it's a soupy pulp. Strain through a fine strainer to remove the solids. Or, even easier, run some watermelon through a juice extractor if you have one - and strain.
Stir together the watermelon juice and sugar until dissolved. Don't apply any heat, with so much juice it doesn't take long. You can also combine the juice and sugar in a closed container like a mason jar and shake until sugar is dissolved. Refrigerate. This is best made fresh, but will keep for about a week.
Perfecting Watermelon Cocktails
Successfully incorporating watermelon into cocktails is deceptively challenging. It seems like it would be as simple as muddling a few fresh chunks, the same way you would raspberries or strawberries, but with watermelon, that approach results in a resounding “meh”. The trouble is, watermelon has a very subtle flavor, a lot of what we associate with watermelon actually comes from its juicy texture - which you can't mimic in a cocktail. It also has a very high water content, so when it is shaken or stirred with ice, the flavor is diluted further resulting in a thinned out drink that tastes only faintly of watermelon.
I tried multiple strategies over the years - infusions, liqueurs, topping a drink with watermelon juice after shaking it - before finally figuring out the key to great watermelon cocktails was weak watermelon syrup. Meaning 2 parts watermelon juice and 1 part sugar (I employ a similar technique with celery syrup). Watermelon juice is the best way to get concentrated watermelon flavor, but it's still very understated. A weak syrup allows you to add more of it into the drink without making it too sweet, plus it eliminates the need for simple syrup, which also contains water.
Use 1-1½ ounces of this in cocktails and never be disappointed with a watermelon drink again.
If you make a Watermelon Margarita,
let me see! Tag a photo with #socialhourcocktails on Instagram.