Fresh cut watermelon, a bottle vodka, and a bottle of bitters behind a glass

Watermelon Afternoon

I’ve recently become very interested in classic cocktails and how they are made. To become familiar with the techniques involved in creating classic cocktails, I read Dale DeGroff’s The Craft of the Cocktail. Generally speaking, classic cocktails use fresh ingredients—not pre-made mixes and syrups. Over the past few months, I’ve been building up my liquor cabinet to include the essentials and waiting for the right moment to test my new cocktail knowledge.

That moment came when I saw a sale on watermelons at my local market—4 for $5. What was I going to do with all these watermelons? Make cocktails! Using the techniques I’ve learned from Dale, I used the watermelon as the fresh ingredient in a cocktail.

Fresh cut watermelon, a bottle vodka, and a bottle of bitters behind a glass

Scott’s Watermelon Cocktail

I started out by using just watermelon, vodka, and sugar. The first batch was okay, but it was missing something. For the next batch, I added Angostura bitters and quickly realized this was the missing ingredient. I’ve seen similar drinks made, but they were blended and did not use bitters; it was more of a slushy/frozen cocktail. My version is more classic.

So here’s the full recipe:

Watermelon Cocktail

  • 1 thick slice of watermelon cut into one inch pieces
  • 2 sugar cubes (2 tsp.)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 shots vodka (2–3 oz.)
  • crushed ice and cubed ice
  • 1 small slice of watermelon for garnish

Place watermelon, sugar cubes, and crushed ice in a shaker. Muddle these ingredients together until sugar cubes are dissolved and watermelon is fully crushed. Add bitters, vodka and ice cubes. Shake until outside of shaker begins to frost. Strain well over cubed ice, attempting to keep as much of the watermelon pulp out of the drink as possible, and add a slice of watermelon for garnish.

This drink is a perfect summertime beverage—refreshing, light, and with just the right amount of sweetness. A possible improvement to this drink could be the addition of something sour, like fresh lime. I had no limes on hand, but may try this next time. Adding a splash of soda water may also prove interesting. Experimentation is what crafting of cocktails is all about. Enjoy!

Scott lives in Denver and spends his time drinking the local beer as often as he can.