Years ago, when we were living in Minneapolis, the city underwent a desperately cold and particularly long winter – even by Minnesota standards. When spring finally arrived, we were yearning for flavors that reminded us of smoky barbecues in the sun and day trips to the lake. That’s when we stumbled upon the idea to make a watermelon shrub and use it to sweeten cocktails or spruce up seltzer. Since then, the fruit’s flavor has always reminded us of happy days.
- ½ small watermelon, chopped into ½-inch cubes (approximately 3 cups)
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 1 cup distilled white vinegar
| Preparation | In a bowl, add watermelon and sugar; gently toss to coat watermelon. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; chill in refrigerator, 6 to 24 hours. (You can also leave the bowl on the counter for a few hours before transferring it to the fridge. The sugar will draw moisture out of the watermelon and melt in the juices, keeping it from spoiling. You should see a light pink liquid pooling in the bottom of the bowl as the process begins.)
Remove watermelon from refrigerator and transfer to a blender. Purée macerated melon until smooth. Using a spoon, coax liquid through a wire strainer to remove any seeds. Measure liquid and then pour it into a glass bottle or jar; add vinegar. (It should be a 3:1 ratio of watermelon liquid to vinegar. Our watermelon liquid measured approximately 3 cups in the end, which is why we used 1 cup of vinegar. You can also experiment with other light-colored vinegars such as rice wine and white balsamic.) Transfer shrub to refrigerator; allow to set, 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
Watermelon-Basil Gin Spritz
We spoke with Derrick Neuner, production manager of Lifted Spirits in Kansas City, about the best spirit to pair with our fruity shrub. His recommendation? Lifted Spirits Bold Gin, which he says has the complexity and boldness to hold its own in stirred cocktails. Mixed with the watermelon shrub and fresh lime juice, the floral gin had us daydreaming of simpler times with family, friends and sunshine.
Serves | 1 |
- 2 oz watermelon shrub
- 1 leaf basil
- 2 oz Lifted Spirits Bold Gin
- ½ oz fresh lime juice
- 5 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- soda water, to top
| Preparation | Muddle watermelon shrub with basil. (If you don’t have a wooden muddler, roll basil between your fingers until it turns dark green, then finely chop and stir into shrub.) Add shrub-basil mixture, gin, lime juice and bitters to a shaker tin with ice; stir to combine. Pour cocktail and ice in a glass; top with soda water and serve.