Soaking watermelon in some sort of alcohol is hardly a new strategy. I’ve traditionally favoured vodka or tequila — both of which are perfectly serviceable — as pretty much any single liquor can serve as a watermelon’s bathwater. But why stop at one when you could build a complete cocktail? That’s why we’re making Negroni melons.
Watermelon is porous, vaguely sweet, and watery, which makes it a perfect vehicle for alcohol. It holds on to the booze while providing just enough sugar and — in its own way — dilution, creating a nice little cocktail moment in each bite.
Why did I choose the Negroni for my cocktail melon? It’s no secret I’m an absolute fool for Campari, but I also appreciate how easily they scale. All you need is equal parts of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth — just enough to cover however much watermelon you have. For example, a cup of each is enough to completely submerge half of a small melon; if that’s not enough, add another half cup of each ingredient until you get there.
Beyond ease, I also appreciate the complexity the Negroni brings to the party. The silky, kind of syrupy cocktail permeates the sweet flesh of the melon, infusing it with burnt citrus, herbs and lots of gin. (Each little bite is basically a tiny shot.) It’s still summery on the whole, but better suited to a humid outdoor cocktail hour rather than an afternoon pool party — though I’m not above serving it at the latter. To make a Negroni melon, you will need:
- Sweet vermouth
Chop your melon into cubes or wedges — whichever you prefer. I find cubes are easier to soak in bowls and plastic soup containers, but wedges fit quite nicely in baking pans. In a separate bowl, combine equal parts of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth — start with a cup of each. Pour the resulting massive Negroni over the melon, and repeat as needed until all of the fruit is submerged. Cover the melon and refrigerate overnight, then garnish with some sort of citrus zest (lemon or orange is best) and flakey salt just before serving. Once all the melon has been consumed, serve any leftover Negroni over ice. It would be a shame to waste all of that Campari.