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Friday, August 7, 2020

Birthing a Watermelon Cocktail

One of my dearest friends has a milestone birthday this weekend.  Friends are flying in from all over the country to help her celebrate at a swanky estate she’s rented in Carmel Valley.   I’ve offered to cook one of the dinners and in consultation with the birthday girl, a Vietnamese menu was chosen (several of us were in Vietnam recently with Wine Knows).   To kick off the evening I decided to concoct a Vietnam-inspired cocktail to honor her.  

Red is a sacred color in the Vietnamese culture---their symbol of luck, happiness, celebration, and love (it’s no surprise why the flag of Vietnam is red).  Hence, when creating a recipe for the aperitif, summer's luscious watermelon immediately came to mind. The birthday girl loves Aperol, so I decided to incorporate this vibrant orange-red aperitif into the cocktail to intensify the watermelon color.  She also adores bubbly drinks as well as Rosé, thus I elected to combine both in the form of a sparkling Rosé.

Ginger and lemongrass are classical flavors found in Vietnamese cooking.  To get these flavors well incorporated, I decided to infuse vodka with ginger and lemon grass. Concerned about the drink's alcohol content (especially in the heat of summer), I chose to offset it by adding some sparkling water to the drink.

Here’s the aperitif which I named “Carolini” in honor of the birthday girl, Carolina.  

  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced ginger (more for decoration)
  • 3 stalks of crushed lemongrass---white part only (use tops for decoration)
  • 1 cup of good quality vodka
  • 5 cups of ripe, seeded watermelon
  • 1 cup of Aperol
  • 1/2  bottle of sparkling Rosé


1.  One week in advance, place ginger and lemongrass in a clean glass jar.  Pour over vodka.  Seal and store for a week.   Strain before using.

2.  Place watermelon in a food processor until it is liquefied.  Strain and discard any solids.

3.  Make sure all ingredients are well chilled on the day of serving. 

4.  A few hours prior to serving pour all (with the exception of the Rosé and water) into a large pitcher.

5.  Just prior to serving, add the bottle of sparkling Rose and stir.

6.  Decorate with shaved ginger, or a stalk of lemon grass, and/or mint with a slice of watermelon  (serve in either a martini glass or high-ball glass filled with ice).

7.  Party!

(Serves 10 thirsty women.)

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