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G & H Cocktail Club: Watermelon Paloma

Welcome to the G & H Cocktail Club! Every week we bring you an exciting recipe with a story curated by beloved bartender Mike Wolf.

Watermelon Paloma

Take the cover off the grill, break out the blender, and pull out the sunscreen because it’s the last official weekend of summer. September is known as “harvest month,” as the markets are flush with great produce, and the perennial late-summer star known as watermelon is offering a much-needed refreshment at the table. With its floral aroma and unmistakably juicy texture, watermelon conjures summer memories like the smell of barbecue drifting through the neighborhood in July. It’s also incredible in cocktails – especially when tequila is involved. For this week’s recipe, I’d like to offer a twist on the simplest of drinks from the Mexican cocktail canon, the Paloma. 

Traditionally a bare-bones thirst quencher involving a little lime juice, a salted rim, some tequila, and a healthy pouring of grapefruit soda – usually Mexican Squirt or Jarritos Grapefruit – the Paloma invites reinterpretation as there are so many other ingredients to pair with these essential, tequila-friendly flavors. And the cane-sugar sweetened taste of these sodas, while insanely delicious, can easily make your cocktail overly sweet and unbalanced. My Paloma remix combines zero-sugar grapefruit sparkling water with light agave nectar (you can also substitute honey*), which helps give the thin watermelon juice and the ensuing cocktail more body and depth. As mentioned with last week’s garden gimlet, basil thrives in the late summer/early fall window and would be a great addition to this drink. 

If the thought of breaking out that juicer you never use just for the sake of wrangling out a little watermelon juice gives you anxiety (or maybe it’s just me?) one way to easily juice your watermelon is in the blender. Simply cut a few large slices of watermelon, slice the fruit from the rind (which can be pickled to amazing results by the super-sustainable) add a few tablespoons of water, and blend for about five seconds. Strain your watermelon juice through a tea strainer (to remove the seeds) and you’re ready to go. Now all you need to do is rinse out the blender and give this recipe a try!

Watermelon Paloma

• 2 oz. TC Craft Blanco Tequila (or any decent silver tequila)

• 1 oz. Watermelon juice

• .75 oz. Fresh lime juice

• .25 oz. Light agave syrup*

• Basil leaves or mint, for garnish

• Grapefruit sparkling water (La Croix and Bubbly are a few brands that could work here), to top 

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend with 8-10 ounces of ice for about six seconds. Pour into a tall glass with a salted rim and top with grapefruit sparkling water. Garnish with basil or mint.

*If you don’t have agave syrup you can substitute a quick honey syrup made by heating up 1 ounce of water and 1 ounce of honey in the microwave or on a stovetop. Stir the syrup and let it cool slightly before using it.

About Mike Wolf

Writer and cocktail innovator Mike Wolf has made a name for himself crafting thoughtful and equally delicious libations inspired by shifting seasons and southern terroir. From building the bar program at Husk alongside venerable chef Sean Brock, to opening the tiki bar, Chopper, to writing Garden to Glass: Grow Your Drinks from the Ground Up and now a second book, Lost Spring: How We Cocktailed Through Crisis, Wolf has maintained a down-to-earth sensibility rooted in his homegrown garden in Nashville, blooming with upwards of 30 different herbs and vegetables dedicated to very best cocktails. 

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