It’s begun to sizzle and we’re starting to feel a trickle of salty sweat pooling in the nest of our lower backs. It sounds risqué, but it’s just plain hot and sticky, and all we can think of is: Cabana boy!!! Where’s my cocktail?
During the summer, watermelon and cucumbers are some of the coolest and most quenching of snacks. I usually keep big bowl chilling in the fridge, eating them plain, or adding salt, lime juice, and dried chile powder to the cucumbers. The combination is a great salad base, too – try them with a light lemon-lime-cilantro vinaigrette and cubes of seared haloumi.
And, naturally, the temptation to turn the duo into a cocktail proved irresistible. This refresher starts with muddled cilantro, mint, jalapeño, and sugar for a vibrant, herbal base with a sharp prick of heat. Watermelon and cucumber are pureed with ice into a slushy-like juice, and finally, fiery, floral pisco is stirred in. One sip and you’ll beat the heat.
Note: If you prefer a cocktail with less heat, scrape out and discard the seeds and ribs from the pepper.
I always like a hit of salt to balance out sweetness; if using cucumber spears as garnish, lightly season them prior to serving.
Pisco is a potent grape brandy popular in Perú and Chile. I love it for its fiery burn and floral notes, but, this cocktail can also be made with your choice of spirit. I recommend tequila blanco, light rum, Hendrick’s gin, or vodka. Or, leave the booze out altogether and enjoy this as a summery smoothie.
¼ cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
¼ cup packed fresh mint leaves, plus leaves for garnish
½ jalapeño pepper, chopped, plus rings for garnish
3 tablespoons granulated or raw cane sugar
2 cups (½-inch) dice watermelon (about 12 ounces)
¼ English cucumber, cut into ½-inch dice, remainder cut into spears for garnish
3 to 4 ounces pisco
Crushed ice, to taste
– Chill 2 (12-ounce) glasses by filling them with ice water and swirling them around for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and discard the ice water and dry the glasses.
– Muddle the cilantro, mint, jalapeño, sugar, and pinch of salt in a shaker (use either a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon). The leaves should only be bruised, not completely smashed. Divide the mixture between the two glasses.
– In a blender, pulse the watermelon, cucumber, and pisco until completely puréed. Add crushed ice and pulse once again to combine. Divide mixture between glasses and stir to gently combine. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, mint leaves, cucumber spears, and/or jalapeño rings. Serve immediately.