The mythical drunken watermelon is the unicorn of tippling American youth. It endures, I think, not because it's particularly effective, but because tippling young adults (and we hope they are over 21) love a DIY project that requires knives, sneakiness and wishful thinking.
The outline of this project is thus: You get a watermelon and a bottle of vodka (it's always vodka, for some reason), cut a bottle-mouth-sized plug out of the watermelon's rind, then jam the open bottle into the fruit. Since watermelon has a spongelike texture, the bottle's contents will be soaked up by the fruit.
Let me say here and now: It was clearly not a STEM major who came up with the drunken watermelon. The process doesn't work well, for obvious reasons: The flesh of the watermelon is a sponge that’s already full. Vodka won't shoulder its way into space that's already occupied. What you really get is a small segment of watermelon that's intensely alcoholic, a lot of regular watermelon, and a bunch of annoyed, ant-covered partygoers jabbing at the melon with sporks, trying to find the boozy part.
So I propose a new drunken watermelon, one that preserves that exquisite crispness of the melon and doesn't ignore the reality of fruit anatomy.
The primary fix here is to open up the melon and use a melon-baller to scoop out a bunch of the fruit. You then infuse the melon balls in a boozy marinade for a few hours, where – their water-retaining cells now leaking – they will exchange some of their juice for the liquid they're sitting in. When it's ready to serve, you return the infused melon balls to the empty hull and pour the completed punch into it. If you have the refrigerator or freezer space, keep both the melon balls and the watermelon rind in the freezer for a few hours before you want to serve the punch. That way, when you move the whole thing outdoors, the fruit and rind will keep the punch cold.
- - -
Allan is a Hyattsville, Maryland, writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter: @Carrie_the_Red.
Summer Watermelon Punch
If you're taking this to a picnic or cookout, the least-messy transport idea is to carry the infused melon balls inside the melon and transport the rest of the punch in bottles. Pour it into the empty watermelon shell once you have the hull set in its serving spot.
1 large ripe watermelon, plus extra watermelon for juicing (enough to make 7 cups of fresh watermelon juice and 40 to 60 melon balls)
3 cups dry gin
1 cup green Chartreuse
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup fresh lime juice (from about 5 limes)
12 ounces tonic water
Lime wheels, for garnish
Ice cubes (optional)
Cut open the watermelon at the top, making it large enough so you'll be able to scoop out the melon inside and use the empty watermelon shell as a high-walled punch bowl. Scrape any red flesh left in the lid into a large bowl and reserve the “lid.”
Use the small end of the melon baller to scoop out 40 to 60 watermelon balls; place these in a separate bowl. Scrape out the rest of the fruit and add it to the large bowl (with flesh from the lid). If you have space in your freezer, put the “lid” back on the watermelon hull and store the whole hull in the freezer or refrigerator.
Working in batches, puree the watermelon flesh in a blender and blend to the consistency of a thick slush, then use a fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth to strain out any solids, reserving the juice as you go. Continue until you have 7 cups of juice. Reserve any leftover fruit for another use (or use it to make more melon balls).
Combine 2 cups of the watermelon juice, 1 cup of the gin, 1/2 cup of the green Chartreuse and the 1/4 cup of sugar in a deep bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves, then pour the mixture over the melon balls. Freeze or refrigerate for 3 or 4 hours, until well chilled.
Remove the melon hull and the melon balls from the freezer. Ladle the melon balls back into the melon hull, reserving the leftover infusing liquid.
Position the chilled watermelon hull with melon balls where you intend to serve the punch.
Pour the remaining 5 cups of watermelon juice, 2 cups of gin, 1/2 cup of Chartreuse, 1 cup of lime juice and the reserved infusing liquid from the melon balls into the chilled melon hull, stirring to incorporate. Top with the tonic water and stir gently.
Drop the lime wheels inside, so they float on the surface. If the watermelon hull or melon balls don't seem cold enough, add some ice cubes, as needed.
Serve in punch cups. Store extra punch in the refrigerator to top off the melon throughout the party.
Variation: Soaking the melon balls in the juice and spirits gives them a depth of flavor that contrasts with the final punch. But if you're in a hurry or want to streamline the recipe, skip that step. Simply carve out the melon balls, reserve them and make the punch as described.
Per serving: 170 calories, 0 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 15 g sugar
Yield: 20 (4-ounce) servings.