Bartender Jeremy Kazmier spent summers as a child on his grandfather’s small farm in Apopka, Florida. It wasn’t that big, but there were goats and a field where he and his cousins played baseball and a half-acre garden where everything grew, including watermelons.
His grandfather fetched large buckets of ice water and dropped the melons into them to cool.
“He would take the melons and smash them on this huge table and then we would all sit there on a nice hot summer day eating watermelon and spitting out the seeds,” Kazmier says.
The Watermelon Patch is, at least in part, a tribute to that era. And on watermelon’s ability to embrace the Florida summer and kick it up a notch.
Brittany DiIorio, owner/bar manager for The Neighbors (theneighborsorl.com) – a part lounge, part boutique in the Orlando, Fla. enjoy the creative process of making cocktails since the place opened about eight months ago.
“This cocktail uses a homemade bush made with fresh watermelon juice, sugar and vinegar — plus basil and dill,” DiIorio said of The Summerlin. “I used apple cider vinegar in this. A lot of people think vinegar makes a drink sour, but the fruit — especially a juicy one, like watermelon or pineapple — balances everything out and makes it super delicious.”
Florida bartender Tiffany Santiago created the Camilla, with Italicus Rosolio de Bergamotto, a rose petal liqueur that uses fresh watermelon juice and mint to create something “light and refreshing and sweet — but not too sweet.”
She says it’s a fun batch to batch, too, if you’re planning an afternoon pool party and want something you can pre-mix and put in a cooler.
Fresh ingredients are just as important behind the bar as they are in the kitchen, Kazmier says, and a must for home bartenders too.
“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… With fresh ingredients you get more out of the cocktail. You can taste the clarity.”
And refreshing, summery watermelon, he adds, will go with just about any spirit you want to use.
“If you’re a beachgoer or want to sit outside by the pool, or even in a chair on a covered patio to watch the rain, because that’s the way Florida is summer, the Watermelon Patch is the perfect cocktail,” says Kazmier . † “You feel the summer of Florida.”
The Watermelon Patch
1.5 ounces Flor de Caña rum
1 ounce watermelon-cilantro-rosemary infusion (recipe below)
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce pineapple juice
1/2 ounce Aperol
2 dashes of orange bitters
Tajin (for the rim)
For watermelon infusion
Place the well-strained juice of a small seedless watermelon in a container. Add 1/4 cup ground coriander seeds and 4-6 sprigs of fresh rosemary. Cover and store in the refrigerator for two to three days. Strain well through cheesecloth or coffee filter. Keep refrigerated, use for cocktails as needed.
Rand rocks glass with Tajin and fill with ice. Pour rum, infusion, juices and Aperol into shaker with 1 cup of ice. Shake well. Pour the cocktail over it. Suggested garnish: Lime wedge or small Tajin-dipped watermelon wedge
The Summer Line
1 1/2 ounces Gin Lane Cucumber Watermelon Gin
1 1/2 ounces watermelon basil and dill bush syrup
1/2 ounce Aperol
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce aloe liqueur
Soda water (to replenish)
Dill for garnish
For bush syrup
Ingredients (for 2 liters)
2 cups fresh watermelon juice
1 cup fresh watermelon, diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves
Fresh dill to taste
2 cups cane sugar
1/4 cup honey
Combine all ingredients in a sealable container. Mix well. Store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, stirring a few times while steeping. Sieve before use. “The longer it sits, the more vinegary it will be — but with this amount of juice, it stays very fruity and refreshing,” DiIorio says.
Starting with the lemon and bush, add all ingredients except club soda to the shaker, add ice and shake. Fine strainer in Collins glass.
Top with soda (about 1-2 ounces of soda if using a typical Collins glass, about 10-13 ounces).
Add a small dill garnish.
1 ounce of gin
1 ounce of Italicus Rosolio de Bergamotto
1 ounce watermelon juice
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Squeeze a few mint leaves into the bottom of the cocktail shaker, then add ice and all the other ingredients. Shake well, pour into a compartment glass. Garnish with mint leaf.