Summer is here! (Well, almost!) Watermelon is a flavor request I get a lot for beverage programs and drink development. It's such a signature summertime flavor and is hard to resist.
Watermelon is one of those seasonal ingredients that can be amazingly sweet and juicy, but it can also be flavorless and mealy if not properly taken care of. It can also vary in sweetness when it's coming off season. And, the freshness can also just disappear after even a few hours of juicing it. So, what to do?
I recommend a "Fresh Blending" technique - combinging fresh ingredients with a shelf-stable or IQF puree (i.e. Monin or Perfect Puree) or syrup. It's great to get the visuals and flavor of the fresh fruit, but I find that it often needs a flavor boost to stand up in a cocktail, particularly those fruits that can change in flavor hours after juicing or fruits that have milder flavors (like watermelon, blueberries, dragonfruit, etc.)
Our events arm, Rattle & Rum incorporates a lot of fresh ingredients into festival menus. We have one drink we continue to use because of its popularity and it's the the one we always run out of first. (At one festival, we had to batch thousands of these.) When we first made this drink, we used 100% fresh watermelon juice. It was extremely labor-intensive, but tasted amazing. It required so much labor and clean-up and the juice was only good for one day, so we had to come up with some other options and solutions.
We tried mixing both a watermelon puree (MONIN) and fresh watermelon juice and it worked out really well. Not only did it taste great, but it lasted longer and cut down on our prep time. (A win-win all the way!)
Watermelon a la minute
If you want to make watermelon drinks or cocktails "to order" where muddling is involved, you need to have a consistent way of measuring that quantity. I've seen quite a few recipes that just call for "4 chunks of watermelon" - what is a chunk? I recommend keeping a half watermelon in the fridge or at the bar and when it's time to make a watermelon cocktail, the bartender uses a baller. Recipe should call for a specific number of watermelon balls. You can ball watermelon in advance for one shift, but I wouldn't keep them longer than that. It starts to deteriorate in flavor pretty quickly.
Watermelon Aqua Fresca
8 parts watermelon juice
8 parts Monin Watermelon puree
16 parts water
1 part lime juice
Optional: Add lime wheels and watermelon balls as garnish, as desired