How To Make Boozy Watermelon Sugar Drank & A Cute Ass Garnish
Cocktail wisdom brought you by the iconic Stef Estep-Gozalo
How-to: Make a simple and delicious end of summer beverage because I refuse to believe it is now September. You can make this drink without any typical bartender tools. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, cutie.
2 oz Watermelon Juice
.75 oz Lemon Juice
2 oz Mezcal (or tequila or vodka)
Soda Water (plain, but I’m also a big fan of using Lemon Sprindrift)
Method:First of all, fresh juice makes ALL the difference when it comes to cocktails. You can totally buy a little bottle of watermelon juice at the store because juicing that yourself is time-consuming and messy, but DO NOT SKIP OUT on juicing lemons yourself. Trust me. If you use premade lemon or lime your cocktails will always come out tasting weird. You deserve the best bb.
This drink works best served in a Collins glass (a tall skinny boi) but any glass or cup or mug is totally fine.
I always recommend getting yourself a jigger because it’s the easiest tool for measurement, but if you don’t have one you can totally just use a measuring cup. This recipe is AH-MA-ZING quadrupled and put into a pitcher (this is what I do to share with my quarantine pod).
A few things before we get going. You always want to start with the cheapest ingredient first, because we all make mistakes and if you end up having to start over, you’re less likely to have to throw out your more expensive ingredients. I’ve been bartending for over seven years and I fuck up all the time, it’s not a big deal. When you measure your liquids, try to pour all the way to the meniscus. It takes practice but you’ll end up with a consistently good cocktail, precise ratios, and a warm sense of accomplishment.
OKAY SO. In your glass, start with your FRESH lemon juice, then watermelon (hydration station baby!), then Aperol, and finally the Mezcal. NOW you add ice. The reason you don’t pour onto ice is because it will dilute the cocktail unevenly, so the flavors will be all out of balance. We don’t want that. Finally, top with seltzer.
The last step is your garnish! I feel like a cocktail is naked without one, and also like, go the extra mile for yourself. Self-Care. It’s my personal and professional opinion that a garnish should have a function beyond pure aesthetic, but you do you boo. If it’s pretty and it makes you happy, go for it. I love the combination of mint and watermelon. Pick a little bunch of mint, and slap it. I hold it in my palm and give a light lil spank with the fingertips of my other hand. The quick hit releases the oils in the mint so it becomes nice and fragrant. Plop that cutie on top and when you lift it up to drink, you’ll get the olfactory effect.
AND YOU’RE DONE!! Super simple, super delicious. Enjoy!
How-To: Make a Cute-Ass Garnish
For our super easy Watermelon Drank, we used a mint sprig and gave it a lil spank. For most botanical garnishes (other than flowers) you want to give it a slight slap or flick it against the back of your hand. Scare the oils out of it. I’m a big fan of using basil blossoms and rosemary, they’re a perfect combo of fragrant and pretty. Experiment and have fun!
For a margarita or anything margarita-esq, you want a salted rim. I prefer to do a half rim over a full, but that’s just because I like that aesthetic and it’s totally up to. Use Kosher salt, it’s thick and will stick to your glass prettier, it’s also not as “salty” as table salt so it’s not gonna eff up the flavor profile of the drink you just made. Also, feel free to experiment with what you put in your salt!! I like adding a little Tajin and chilli to mine, but there are so many flavors out there. Why not play with it?
To salt your rim, pour some salt on a lil plate. Take a wedge of citrus, and rub it along the rim (or half the rim) of your glass. Now place that wet rim in the plate of salt. Boom. You did it.
When it comes to using citrus as a garnish, Wheels and Peels are always better than Wedges. A wheel just looks super cute and sits SO pretty along the side of a glass. It takes a little more precision but not much more effort, and it’s worth it.
To peel citrus, take your time and please GOD do not cut off your finger. Accidents happen and every bartender I know (myself included) has a peeler horror story and the scar to match. Be careful, bb. Don’t try to be a hero
- First thing, get a good peeler. It doesn’t need to be fancy to be good. In fact, I honestly prefer a cheap plastic Y-shaped peeler, or a paring knife. Just be sure that the blade is sharp and that you can get a firm grip.
- Hold your fruit like a softball. Make sure all fingers are accounted for
- Press down (firm but not so much that you’re squishing your citrus) and GENTLY pull the peeler towards you, using your thumb for leverage. You should feel totally in control here.
- Congrats, you now have a peel and hopefully all of your fingers!! Now you have a few options of what to do. Fold the peel lightly, hot dog style, with the outside facing the drink and the rind towards you. Pinch the ends of the peel and and quickly squeeze to express the oil onto your drink. Now you can
- Slide the peel along the side of your glass as is
- Trim the sides of the peel for a more polished lewk inside the glass OR with a lil slit to stand it on the rim
- Rolled and placed between the glass and your ice cube, making a lil spiral or rose.
How-To: Shake it, Baby, Yeah
Okay, so let’s say you’re more in the mood for a margarita. If you’ve got citrus in a cocktail, you generally wanna shake that bad boy up. Here’s what you need to know to get the most out of your shake with minimal effort.
- Get a Boston Shaker (Also known as 2-piece shaker). They’re relatively inexpensive and absolutely necessary. A Cobbler shaker looks cute and will work for a shaken martini if that’s your vibe, but for everything else, it’s not the move. Trust me.
- Shake tin on tin. Sometimes at a bar you’ll see the bartender pour into a big glass and then slam the tin on top. We really only do that if we’re making a whole row of shots or something cheap. The glass on tin method creates more heat, resulting in more dilution, so you get MORE of a drink but the quality is MEH. Tin on tin creates more FRICTION with less heat and an even temperature distribution. Friction is key here. Also I’m about to get super nerdy up in here, fair warning.
- The goal in shaking a cocktail is AERATION. Not dilution, and not to chill it. Of course you want a cool refreshing cocktail but if that was the goal, you’d just put ice cubes in the glass and call it a day. Dilution is important, but we also dilute by stirring, so that’s not the main point of a shake either. The reason we shake is to push oxygen through the liquid molecules, emulsifying and integrating the ingredients, and giving the drink it’s texture. Simply put, you get a smooth-ass drink with a nice nice foam layer on the top. A citrus drink should always have a lil bit of fluff. There should be A LOT of fluff if your drink has egg whites or cream in it.
- Ice, Ice, Baby. Depending on what ingredients you have in your drink, you might want to do a double shake. A “dry” shake will have no ice, and the second shake will have ice. This is necessary in drinks with egg white or cream, where you really want to get everything incorporated before any dilution happens. The kind of ice you use is important too!! Behind most nice bars, we’re using Kool Draft Ice, which is the industry standard. But imma let you in on a secret, the BEST drinks are made with handcut shaker cubes. We’re gonna get a little nerdy again: one big-ass chunk of ice will more effectively push oxygen through your liquids than a lot of small pieces of ice (which also dilute faster). So if you’re looking to really step up your game here, trust me and use a shaker cube. Silicone “old fashioned” sized molds work perfectly (hand-cutting ice can be a real pain in the ass but if you’ve got the time, knife skill, and freezer space: go for it.)
- There is no single “Master Shake” Technique. There are a lot of different methods out there, so just know that the one that feels good to you is probably JUST FINE. My shake has changed MANY times over my too many years of bartending. I’ve done flare shakes, the Japanese Hard Shake, and a “I need to shake this as hard as I possibly can for as long as I can and I don’t care how stupid I look” kind of shake. Don’t worry too much about looking cool or shaking fast. That stuff will come with practice. Just make sure your shakers are sealed tight, that you have a good grip (start with two hands and once you get more confidence and finger strength, try a one-hand shake), don’t shake directly towards anyone, and shake HARD. Push that ice through the liquid as hard as you can for 12 seconds and then stop! More than that and you’ll over-dilute your drink.
- Once you’re done shaking, your tins will be sealed TIGHT. The standard way to break that seal is to pinch the small tin and slightly twist it up, at an angle. It’ll make a small and cute “click” sound. This can be difficult to do if you haven’t developed the finger strength (bartending will force you to use muscles you never knew you had). The other method is a little more Coyote Ugly dive-bar but I love it even though it’s no longer considered the “right” way to do it. Basically, you wanna hit the side of the tin as hard as you can to break the seal then very quickly grip it so it doesn’t go flying off. It’ll make a loud-ass sound, which is actually super satisfying.
- Now strain!! If you’re using a juice with a thicker consistency (like a puree) or you’ve muddled some fruit in there, you’ll want to double strain. Sometimes I’m lazy and I just dump everything from the tin into a big glass and call it done (this works best for a punch or a margarita) but if you want something with great texture, double strain for sure.
- Sip and enjoy babycakes! Don’t forget to garnish your masterpiece.