A Toast To Summer

Watermelon ... The Perfect Fruit For The Perfect Summer Cocktail

by Brad Wynn // July - August - September 2022

When summer rolls into North Carolina, it brings with it heat, humidity, thunderstorms, and an abundance from our state’s many great farms and farmers who grow and process some of the nation’s best produce. Fortunately for us, these farms provide us with the tools to do battle with the heat and humidity. These tools are fruits, herbs, and vegetables, many of which can be incorporated into cooling ciders and beers. Now most of you know I normally focus on beer … but what many of you may not know is that I really like cocktails too. And these bounties are perfect for creating the perfect summer cocktail.

Seasonal fruit such as strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, lemons, limes, and many others are common staples in bars across North Carolina. With a little persuasion – i.e. blenders, food processors, or your hands (don’t judge me) – these fresh fruits can be deliciously transformed into simple syrups, jams, and purées which mix well into summer cocktails.

One of my personal favorite fruits for summer cocktails is the humble watermelon. A great place to buy this seasonal staple is at area farmers markets, and they are generally available late June through August. Watermelon tastes great warm straight from the market or chilled in the fridge – but if you’re going to use it in a drink, then you need to purée it. The processing method is simple, and while you’ll probably use it all in whatever drink you concoct, any remaining juice will last a day or two when refrigerated. Watermelon juice is super healthy (watermelon is a good source of fiber and vitamins; is a source of protein and carbohydrates, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous; contains enzymes, organic acids, and natural sugars; and has no fat or cholesterol, and limited sodium content) and is delicious as is or as a great base for refreshing non-alcoholic drinks and soda waters. However, I’m not here to talk about those ... instead, I’m here to share how to turn this beautiful purée into a satisfying summer splurge.

To make the juice, simply cut the watermelons into chunks and blend until you get a smooth purée. I like to pass the purée through a fine sieve to remove some of the pulp, but you don’t have to.

Pack a highball glass with ice. Add two ounces of your favorite vodka, followed by two ounces of the watermelon juice. To balance the drink out, add one ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice. Fresh juice makes a world of difference in cocktails, as it tastes so much fresher. Top off with one ounce of simple syrup (for instance, rosemary) for a little added depth. (Rosemary simple syrup is equal parts sugar and hot water to melt the sugar, so it more evenly mixes into the drink. Throw in a couple of rosemary sprigs while it’s still hot for added flavor.) Finally, toss in a few chunks of watermelon, and now you’ve created a very well-balanced, easy-to-drink, delicious cocktail that will surely help you beat the heat this summer.

For those of you who aren’t necessarily watermelon fans but still crave a fruity, refreshingly delicious summer cocktail to stay cool on a sweltering evening, give this concoction a try. Take three large basil leaves and lightly muddle them with a splash of lime juice in a pint glass. Add two ounces of lime juice, two ounces of simple syrup (flavor of your choice), and two ounces of your favorite vodka. Pack the glass with ice, roll with a shaker, and pour all the combined ingredients back into your glass, top with soda water, and be prepared to be refreshed.

Brad Wynn

General manager, brewmaster, and part owner of Norse Brewing Company (opening this fall). For more information, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.