In this simple and tasty watermelon basil cocktail, watermelon and basil are blended into a puree and combined with vodka, honey, and lime juice for a fresh and herby beverage that tastes like a warm summer's day.
Do you ever find yourself with too much watermelon? I seem to only buy them for get-togethers and then forget to actually cut them up and serve them. Then I end up with more watermelon than I can possibly eat before the quality quickly goes downhill.
I've appreciated seeing smaller watermelons more widely available this summer, especially from local farmers. I feel like I can cut into them at any time and I don't have to save them for a particular occasion. The smaller ones seem to have fewer seeds, too.
But if you find yourself with more watermelon than you can possibly use, try cutting it up and pureeing it in your blender to make popsicles and drinks, like in this watermelon basil cocktail. It's a good way to pair the fruit up with other flavors. I think watermelon can be a bit bland sometimes and benefits from some flavor enhancements.
Here's everything you need for this five ingredient cocktail.
- Watermelon - Fresh watermelon is the star of the show in this cocktail. Any variety of watermelon is fine, though a seedless one will make it easier. If you can, buy yourself a whole watermelon. The precut options in grocery stores are much more expensive compared to the amount of watermelon you get. Pick a watermelon that's uniform in size and that is dark and dull in color. Avoid ones with white spots, that are shiny, or elongated. These are indications of watery, unripe, or less flavorful watermelons. If you have a watermelon with seeds, no problem. Just remove them before pureeing.
- Basil leaves - Fresh basil leaves add the herby notes to the drink. Only fresh basil will work in this drink recipe. Please don't attempt it with dried basil.
- Vodka - I love Bar Hill's vodka which is distilled from raw honey. Not only is it tasty, it's made locally in Vermont. You can use your favorite vodka in this cocktail.
- Lime juice - Fresh lime juice is always best, but if that's not handy (I swear I never have a lime when I need one), a high-quality bottled lime juice, such as Santa Cruz's organic lime juice, is a good choice.
- Honey - Just a touch of honey for some sweetness, as watermelon juice tends not to be overly sweet on its own.
- Sugar - Optional, but I find this cocktail even more enjoyable when the rim is lined with sugar.
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
🧂Substitutions & Variations
- Basil - Instead of basil, this watermelon cocktail would also be good made with fresh mint. Mint and watermelon are a common pairing in summer salads.
- Gin - I've also made this cocktail with gin instead of vodka and think the citrus and herbal notes of most gin work just as well here.
- Honey - If honey isn't handy, try using 1 ounce of simple syrup instead.
- Salt rim - If you prefer less sweetness and want to still line the rim of your glass, use a salt with a large crystal, such as kosher salt.
- Mocktail version - Skip the vodka by replacing it with additional watermelon puree and/or a splash of club soda or ginger beer.
- Frozen basil watermelon cocktail - When pureeing the watermelon and basil in the first step, add the remaining cocktail ingredients to the blender along with a cup of ice. Blend until smooth. Add more ice or more liquid, if needed, to adjust the consistency.
Cut the watermelon into cubes, removing any seeds in the process.
Add the watermelon pieces to a blender or food processor with the basil.
Add 6 ounces of the watermelon puree, along with the vodka and lime juice to the shaker.
Add the honey, and stir well to combine before adding the ice.
Fill the shaker most of the way up with ice.
Shake well for 20 seconds.
If desired, brush the outside rim of a glass with lime juice and roll in a small plate of sugar.
Give the cocktail another shake and strain it into the prepared glass. Garnish with a piece of watermelon and a basil leaf or two.
Hint: This watermelon basil cocktail is best served well chilled. Make sure you shake it well to get it as cold as possible. And if you can pop your glasses into the freezer in advance, that will help to keep the drink cold as you sip.
Blender or food processor - Necessary to create a smooth watermelon basil puree.
Cocktail shaker - This is the easiest way to shake up a cocktail before serving. Alternatively, a large mason jar with a lid will also work.
Martini glass - The glass I like to use to serve this cocktail. Though, you can just use what you have. Check out your local Goodwill if you're looking for cocktail glasses on the cheap. It's what I do.
It may seem odd, but stirring the cocktail ingredients before shaking will help to combine the honey into the liquids. Otherwise, when you add the honey to the ice, it may just stick to the ice and not mix into the drink.
Vodka, gin, and tequila all pair well with watermelon. For this recipe, I suggest vodka, though gin would also be good.
Watermelon pairs well with many flavors, including basil, honey, and lime juice, which is why I used them in this cocktail. Other flavors to try with watermelon are mint, lemon, cucumber, coconut, salty cheeses, and spices like cayenne and chili powder.
Both salt and sugar have the ability to bring out more flavor in watermelon. Add either to the rim of your cocktail glass before serving to help intensify the watermelon flavor in the drink.
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