Not Your Father’s Gin Cocktail – A Watermelon Cocktail For All Seasons

by Pamela

gin cocktail, watermelon cocktail, watermelon juice, watermelon syrup

Somtimes all it takes is a photograph to give you inspiration. This little picture of the Guayabera cocktail from Hollywood hotspot Sadie, was like an earwig. Once I saw it…I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I had to make something like it. Unlike the guayabera (which is made with tequila) my version is a gin cocktail. But mine does have the rest of the ingredients, including watermelon juice that I used to make fresh watermelon syrup. Seriously….watermelon syrup!

Yes, I said watermelon syrup. I know you can buy the bright pink stuff in a bottle, but how many times would I actually use it? I’ve got 2 bottles of some kind of syrup that I’ve had for more than a year that I’ve barely used and I didn’t need another one taking up space. Besides, making watermelon syrup from real watermelons (specifically watermelon juice) is really easy and a lot healthier for you too. Hey, if you’re going to drink and put your liver through all of that, you should at least try to make the rest of the ingredients as beneficial to your health as possible, right? Yes, I try to justify my dirty little habit by making a healthy cocktail once in a while.

Rather than using a gin that already has some herbal and flower notes prominent in it, like Hendrick’s, I wanted to infuse some other botanicals into the gin. I didn’t use vodka in this because I wanted this cocktail to have some different character to it and not just about the watermelon juice or the herbs flavoring it. I wanted the alcohol to have more of a personality. So like they did at Sadie, I infused the gin with lemongrass and basil (they infused tequila for the guayabera). So this gin cocktail has some herbal flavor to it, but it’s not the traditional juniper flavor. You could probably serve this gin cocktail to a non gin drinker and they would like it.

It’s pretty much a toss up if this should be called a gin cocktail or a watermelon cocktail. I suppose what you call it lies with what kind of a thinker you are: are you a glass half full or half empty type thinker. Not that either title (gin cocktail or watermelon cocktail) is a negative…it’s just a matter of perspective. (I probably shouldn’t be drinking the cocktail when I’m writing the post.)

Fresh watermelon syrup for a gin cocktail

I can honestly say, having made a watermelon cocktail or two that this one is decidedly different. Since the watermelon juice has been turned into a syrup, the watermelon flavor is a bit more subtle. The color is also not the bright red that you would associate with the usual watermelon cocktail…it’s a little more pink. By using freshly made watermelon syrup, the cocktail also tastes more like real watermelon and less like a Jolly Rancher candy.

If you like the flavors of herbs and fresh fruit, in a cocktail, I think you’re going to be a big fan of this gin cocktail. A great side benefit of this drink is that you’ll have some of the fantastic watermelon syrup left to drizzle over pancakes, make a fresh watermelon soda or if you made a big enough batch of it, you could make an outstanding watermelon granita.

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Recipe: Gin Cocktail – Watermelon Cocktail


For the Cocktail

  • 1 1/2 Ounces Infused Gin
  • 1 1/2 Ounces Watermelon Syrup
  • 1/2 Ounce Lime Juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • Dash of Cayenne Pepper

For the Infused Gin

  • 1 Cup Gin
  • 2 Lemongrass Stalks (bottom 4″ only)
  • 1 Sprig Fresh Basil (no more than 4 leaves)

For the Watermelon Syrup

  • 7 Pounds of Watermelon
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar


For the Cocktail

  1. Mix the sugar and cayenne together on a small, flat plate and set aside.
  2. Add the gin, watermelon syrup and lime juice to a cocktail shaker.
  3. Add ice and stir.
  4. Wet the rim of your serving glass with a wedge of lime and rim the edge with the sugar mixture.
  5. Add cubes or crushed ice to the glass.
  6. Pour the mixed cocktail into the glass.
  7. Garnish with a sprig of basil and wedge of lime. Could also garnish with a wedge of watermelon.
  8. Serve.

Infused Gin

  1. Pour the gin into a sealable glass container.
  2. Peel off the woody outside couple of layers of the lemongrass.
  3. Cut off the very bottom of the lemongrass stalk.
  4. Bruise the lemongrass stalks (I used 2 small one’s, but you could use 1 large one if you like) with the butt end of your knife by just banging on the lemongrass.
  5. Chop the lemongrass into small pieces and add to the gin.
  6. Bruise the basil by crumpling it in your hand and toss that into the gin.
  7. Cover the gin and shake.
  8. Set jar aside for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Then strain the gin.

Watermelon Syrup

  1. Cut the rind off the watermelon, then cut the remaining melon into chunks.
  2. Toss the chunks into the food processor and puree it.
  3. Dump the puree into a large heavy pot.
  4. Heat until boiling, then reduce the heat and bring it to a simmer.
  5. Continue to cook the juice until there’s about 3 cups left in the pot. Stir the juice occasionally so that it doesn’t stick and burn. You should see that the consistency has gotten a little bit thicker (it won’t be thick like caramel…just slightly thicker.)
  6. Remove the juice from the heat.
  7. Pour juice through a fine mesh strainer to remove the pulp.
  8. Chill the syrup in covered container.
  9. Once chilled, strain the syrup again through a double layer of cheesecloth lined strainer.
  10. Taste the syrup to see if it has the level of sweetness you desire. If it does, move on to making the cocktail. If it doesn’t, put the syrup back into the refrigerator and make a simple syrup using the tablespoon of sugar and water.
  11. I just added the sugar and water to a small, microwave safe bowl and heated it until the sugar melted.
  12. Chill the simple syrup down, then gradually add enough of it to get the level of sweetness in the watermelon syrup that you like.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time:

Number of servings (yield): 1

Culinary tradition: USA (General)

Notes: The 7 pounds of watermelon yielded 3/4 cup of watermelon syrup. Yes, that’s a HUGE difference.

Recipe by Pamela Braun.[/print_this]

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