Photo: Paul Watson, Flickr
My grandfather grew watermelons, and one of my fondest childhood memories involves chilling a melon in the brisk running water of a creek and later sharing it with friends and family with nothing but a fork and a salt shaker.
You won't find watermelon called for in many classic cocktail books. The watermelon martini grew in popularity at the turn of this century. I will never forget my first watermelon martini (made with equal parts citrus vodka and watermelon juice and a teaspoon of simple syrup) in a patio garden bar in Manhattan in 2000.
Watermelon is practically the essence of summer itself, so take a hot, hazy happy hour to the next level by serving a watermelon punch in a carved out watermelon.
- Whether you have chosen an oblong or round melon, put it on its side on a baking sheet (with edges) on a heavy towel to absorb any juice that escapes while cutting.
- Cut a thin slice off the bottom to provide a stable base -- be careful not to cut too deeply into the rind or you'll have a leak in your bowl later.
- Cut out a large hole in the top third of the melon. For ease, measure and draw a line with a non toxic water soluble marker. If you would like to cut a melon into a basket shape, draw about a 2 inch handle from the middle center of one side to the other and carve out the slices on each side.
- With a melon-ball cutter or spoon, scoop out the red flesh, taking care not to puncture the rind.
- If you would like to use some melon as ice in your punch, freeze about 10 of your melon balls.
- Mash the rest of the scooped out melon through a sieve and refrigerate the juice. You may also blend and strain, but this also sometimes changes the texture slightly with additional aeration of blending. If you do blend, remove all seeds from the melon first.
- With a sharp paring knife, cut the edges of the watermelon bowl into zig zag points or scalloped waves. You may also smooth the edge with a vegetable peeler.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Best if carved the same day you're going to use it.
Watermelon pairs really well with gin, tequila, white rum and vodka (especially citrus flavored) so pick your preference for the base of your punch. Start with 2 parts watermelon juice to 1 part spirit, but feel free to add more if you like a stronger spirit flavor. Perhaps add in 1/4-part simple syrup, triple sec, or melon liqueur for additional flavor and sweetness. Once you find the mix that you like, refrigerate until ready. After you pour the punch into the punch bowl, decorate with frozen melon balls or perhaps ice cubes frozen with pieces of mint in them.
And don't forget when the party's over, don't throw out that punch bowl: Save the rind for watermelon pickles!