ORLANDO, Fla. — We asked three of Orlando's craft mixology pros to give us a summer sipper for beach, pool and backyard barbecue.
Brittany DiIorio, owner/bar manager for The Neighbors at East End Market, says her watermelon cocktail, the Summerlin, uses a housemade shrub made with fresh watermelon juice, sugar, vinegar, basil and dill.
"I (also) used apple cider vinegar in this one," she says. A lot of people imagine that vinegar will make a drink sour, but the fruit — especially a juicy one, like watermelon or pineapple — balances everything and makes it super yummy."
At The Matador, the seasonal cocktail menu allows the mixing pros to spread their wings.
"Having seasonal ingredients just gets your brain flowing," says bartender Tiffany Santiago. "It's fun being able to play."
Her offering, the Camilla, features Italicus Rosolio de Bergamotto, a rose petal liqueur that with fresh watermelon juice and mint creates something "light and refreshing and sweet — but not too sweet."
She says it's a nice one for batching as well, if you're planning an afternoon pool party and want something you can premix and place in a cooler.
Fresh ingredients are as important behind the bar as in the kitchen, says Lil' Indies bartender Jeremy Kazmier, creator of The Watermelon Patch. Getting the details right can really up the game for home bartenders as well.
"Paying attention to a cocktail means paying attention to everything," he notes. "That means the glass it goes into, the ice you use, the garnish You get more out of the cocktail using fresh ingredients. You can taste the brightness."
And refreshing, summery watermelon, he adds, goes with just about any spirit you'd want to use.
The Watermelon Patch
Tajin (for the rim)
1.5 ounces of Flor de Caña rum
1 ounce of a watermelon-coriander-rosemary infusion (see recipe)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
2 dashes orange bitters
1/2 ounce Aperol
For watermelon infusion: Place the well-strained juice of one small, seedless watermelon into a container. Add 1/4 cup crushed coriander seeds and 4-6 sprigs fresh rosemary. Cover and store in fridge 2-3 days. Strain well through cheesecloth or coffee filter. Keep refrigerated. Use as needed for cocktails.
To make the cocktail: Rim rocks glass with Tajin, and fill with ice. Pour rum, infusion, juices, bitters and Aperol into shaker with 1 cup ice. Shake well. Pour cocktail over top. Suggested garnish: lime wheel or small, Tajin-dipped watermelon wedge.
— Created by Jeremy Kazmier
1 ounce gin
1 ounce Italicus Rosolio de Bergamotto
1 ounce watermelon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Muddle a few mint leaves in base of cocktail shaker, then add ice and all other ingredients. Shake well, strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with mint leaf.
— Created by Tiffany Santiago, The Matador
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 ounces watermelon-basil-dill shrub syrup (see recipe)
1 1/2 ounces Gin Lane Cucumber Watermelon Gin
1/2 ounce Aperol
1/4 ounce aloe liqueur
Soda water (for top off)
Dill for garnish
For shrub syrup (makes 2 quarts):
2 cups fresh watermelon juice
1 cup fresh watermelon, cubed
1 cup apple cider vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves
Fresh dill to taste
2 cups cane sugar
1/4 cup honey
To make shrub syrup: Combine all ingredients in sealable container. Mix well. Store in fridge 2-3 days, agitating a few times during the steep. Strain before using. "The longer it sits, the more vinegar-forward it will be — but with this amount of juice, it will stay very fruity and refreshing," says DiIorio.
To make cocktail: Starting with the lemon and shrub, add all ingredients except soda water to shaker, add ice and shake. Fine-strain into Collins glass. Add ice. Top with soda (1-2 ounces of soda if using a typical Collins glass, roughly 10-13 ounces). Add small dill garnish.
— Created by Brittany DiIorio, The Neighbors