“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” Henry James
Even with my heart hardened against summer in general, I have to admit James was onto something. Summer afternoon. The words conjure up feelings of deep golden sunlight, pleasant listlessness, and the magic of possibilitythat this time of year holds. It brings to mind infinite reveries, drowsy memories from the past; lying under shady trees gazing at harsh blue, cloudless skies. Idle afternoons reading in bed, the windows thrown open, trying to catch a breeze. Drying off after a day of swimming in the plastic kiddie pool my parents set out for the kids at the daycare. We’d snack on the fruit my dad would always have cut up and chilled for us. Sticky with melon juice dripping down our arms, we’d dry off on the hot cement in the driveway.
I’ll admit, while watermelon is not my favorite summer fruit by a long shot, there is something about it that epitomizes the season. It always brings to mind childhood summers. The appeal of chilled melon on a hot afternoon has been calling me lately. While typically I’d reach for some ice water to cool off (or chilled wine), lately I’ve been craving juicy watermelon. I could eat it all day—which is strange for me. I’ll eat it, but rarely ever seek it out. I usually crave honeydew melon or figs this time of year. Simon loves watermelon, I’d go as far to say it’s his fruit spirit animal. Our cat duke has a strange obsession with it as well. The moment we slice into one he comes running for his piece.
When Simon brought home the perfect specimen the other day, my instinct was that I want to drink, not eat it. I envisioned a tall glass of ice cold watermelon lemonade sweetened, perhaps with just a bit with some herbal simple syrup. I Love the combination of fruit and herbs. But I figured why stop there? I’d argue that most summer afternoons call for spiked, refreshing drinks especially at the end of a long hot week.
I do appreciate the innate laziness that the heat of summer lends its afternoons. There is always that point, later in the day, when the sun begins its journey eastward. The air is thick with heat here in The Valley, everything is awash in that warm afternoon glow, the trees outside are roused occasionally by a hot breeze. Every movement, every action seems to slow down. My mind wanders and I find it hard to muster the energy to do much of anything. Except enjoye a drink of course.
I made a huge batch of watermelon lemonade infused with a jalapeño basil simple syrup. I find that the watermelon is usually sweet enough on its own for my tastes, but you can add as much or as little syrup as you’d like. From there you can enjoy it as is, add a splash of sparkling water, or add a few ingredients to make a summery margarita. This would also pair great with rum, vodka, or even bourbon. It’s very versatile. I’d love to know what you enjoy drinking on hot summer afternoons, and what fond memories come to mind about the season in general. Leave a comment below!
Watermelon Lemonade Margaritas
For the Watermelon Lemonade
Makes about 9 cups
- 8 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 to 1 cup Jalapeño Basil simple syrup, recipe follows
For the Margaritas
- Crushed ice
- Lemon for rimming the glass
- Chile lime salt (Trader Joes makes a great one)
- 5oz. watermelon lemonade
- 1.5oz tequila
- .5oz triple sec
- Watermelon, basil, and lemon for garnish
To make the simple syrup, combine 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup water, ½ jalapeño, and ½ cup basil leaves over low heat. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes until syrup is infused with flavor. Set aside to cool.
Combine watermelon chunks and lemon juice in a blender and blend well. You can strain it at this point but that makes more work and I don’t think it’s necessary.
Taste test and then add in about ¼ cup of your cooled simple syrup. Add as much as you’d like, I did about ½ cup total. I don’t like overly sweet drinks.
To make the margaritas rim a glass with lemon juice and chili lime salt. Fill glass with crushed ice.
In a cocktail mixer combine more ice, watermelon juice, tequila, and triple sec. Shake well and strain into glass. Garnish with watermelon chunks, basil, and a lemon slice.
This is also a great recipe to make in a pitcher and double, quadruple, etc. Just don’t add ice to the pitcher. Rather, refrigerate margarita mixture and then pour into prepared glasses when ready to serve.