I realize that truly legitimate chefs and recipe writers test their recipes many times – but I rarely have time or resources to do so. I, of course, don’t consider myself a legitimate chef or recipe writer; I am but a humble food blogger trying to get her words, and her food, out there. So it is.
But this weekend, in pursuit of the perfect method to make Drunken Watermelon for a Memorial Day party, I rigged up a taste testing with four different alcohol mixtures, two styles of cutting the watermelon, and
lured invited two of my friends to come over and help us decide which was the perfect recipe for Drunken Watermelon.
I’ll tell you, I felt like I was working in a test kitchen at Southern Living! (Side note: that used to be a dream job of mine.) I filled three casserole dishes and one pie plate with watermelon slices and alcohol, waited a few hours, and then dug in to see what each mixture could deliver. There were some obvious winners, and one very obvious loser, and lots of fun along the way.
I began with a large watermelon, quartered, and then each quarter was sliced. Two of the quarters I then cut down into bite-sized chunks. The other two I left in slices to determine which was the optimum way to consume said watermelon.
My first concoction was a mojito blend. I figured if mojitos are good, and sometimes mixed with fruit flavors (like my favorite, the Georgia mojito, which is mixed with peach at Colley Cantina), then mixing the drink recipe with watermelon chunks had to yield a good result. I used an airplane bottle of coconut rum, some fresh lime juice, fresh mint leaves that I minced up, and a spoonful of sugar. I muddled the mint, lime slices, and sugar in a bowl before sprinkling over the watermelon, and then I poured on the rum, tossing the watermelon pieces to coat.
This was the 2nd place winner in our taste testing. It needed more sugar, definitely. The lime was a little too overpowering. But the blend of fresh mint, lime juice, sweet sugar, and beachy coconut rum made for a delicious drunken watermelon concoction.
Our second try was champagne-soaked watermelon. I had the idea that sparkling wine would go great with watermelon, as it does with strawberries. It didn’t go great. It was okay; not bad, but not great either. There was something lacking; maybe sugar? Maybe more flavor (like peach schnapps)? It was a bit of a dud.
But not as much of a dud as our third try, which was watermelon soaked in Grand Marnier and fresh lime juice. I love margaritas with Grand Marnier – they’re strong, have a nice round complexity to the flavor, and bring a hint of orange. But with watermelon? Oh no. It tasted medicinal, and I think that’s thanks to the cognac in Grand Marnier. In my mind, I had conflated Triple Sec (or Cointreau) with Grand Marnier. But Grand Marnier is a blend of cognac and orange liqueur, whereas Triple Sec (or Cointreau) is just an orange liqueur. Sadly, this plate of watermelon was sampled and then quickly dismissed.
Our final attempt, however, was the winner. Sliced watermelon with mixed berries (that needed to be used before they got any, shall we say, riper), sprinkled with a little bit of sugar, and then doused with Dissarono (any amaretto liqueur will do). This one smelled amazing, which is a good sign. But when we started snacking on it, it was the clear winner. Sweet with the always-pleasant taste of almond, the berries and watermelon still shone through under the alcohol instead of having their flavors stolen away by the taste of the liquor (which was a problem with the mojito mixture).
At the end of our taste testing, only a strawberry and a blueberry were left in the amaretto plate. All four ladies agreed that the amaretto was the clear winner, followed by the mojito at a close second. The champagne watermelon was okay, but not outstanding. And the Grand Marnier was best left to margaritas.
And so the advice of cooks like Nadia G and Julia Child reigns supreme: be fearless in the kitchen, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and enjoy the fruits (ha!) of your labor!