Watermelon Basil Margarita
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo (or frankly any day) with a refreshing Watermelon Basil Margarita!
The Watermelon Basil Margarita will be your new cocktail of the year. Though Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day as many erroneously believe (it is actually the celebration of a battle victory against the French in 1862), it has taken on a life of its own as an American celebration to quaff margaritas and enjoy other delightful Mexican dishes.
So if you are looking for a bright, fresh way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and the coming sunshine of summer, this cocktail is perfect for you. Harnessing the sweetness of watermelon, complemented by the herbal tang of basil, and packed full of produce, this cocktail will be sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.
After all, what says summer more than watermelon? Plus, we will review how everyone can enjoy this delightful cocktail – with or without alcohol!
Related: Strawberry Grapefruit Margarita
How to Make a Watermelon Basil Margarita
Cube a fresh watermelon into ¾ inch square pieces. Seedless is easier, but you can use seeded if you strain well.
Related: How to Cut Your Watermelon
Watermelon Basil Margarita
- 6 watermelon cubes
- 6 leaves fresh basil
- 1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 oz simple syrup OR ½ oz agave nectar
- 2 oz blanco tequila OR 2 oz Seedlip Citrus Grove 42*
- 1 pinch table salt granulated
- Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and muddle thoroughly. You can also use a blender to quickly juice and combine the ingredients.
- Add ice (don’t be shy with the amount - you want a lot!), seal the cocktail shaker, and shake for 30 seconds.
- Double strain using a fine-mesh strainer into a margarita or coupe glass (any stemmed or even short glass will do). The double strain ensures the cocktail does not have a smoothie-like texture and is refreshing but not heavy to drink.
- Garnish with a slice of watermelon rind and basil flower.
Simple Syrup Recipe
Bring 1 cup water to a boil. Dissolve in 1 cup granulated sugar. Remove from heat and stir until completely dissolved. Allow it to cool. Store in a glass container in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.
Choose Your Sweetener: Simple Syrup or Agave
Sugar is a key component in most cocktails and getting the flavor and balance right can be tough. For this drink, you will have some natural sweetness from the watermelon. However, you are also adding more volume from the watermelon juice, so we still need some sweetener. You can opt for a simple syrup (1:1 sugar to water, recipe below) or agave nectar.
Tequila is made from the Blue Weber Agave plant. Some folks prefer to use agave nectar (made from the sap of the agave plant) to marry the agave-forward flavors of the spirit and sweetener. Others may prefer agave because it has a much lower glycemic index (GI), or blood sugar impact, as compared to regular cane sugar (sucrose). Agave has a GI of around 27. Whereas cane sugar has a GI of around 65. However, it is important to note that agave is about twice as sweet as cane sugar. It is also higher in calories per serving: one ounce of simple syrup is around 50 calories, compared to 60 calories in ½ ounce of agave nectar. I always choose my sweetener based upon taste, so experiment!
There are also many other sweetener options on the market with varying GI, calorie count, and flavors. You can try using liquid stevia (only a few drops!), monk fruit, or erythritol, or just stick to regular sugar! Just remember not all sweeteners can be measured one-for-one, so be sure to taste as you go.
Sweetness is measured in “Brix” and artificial sweeteners are measured according to their sucrose equivalency, so if you aren’t sure how sweet a sugar substitute is, taste it then look for its sucrose equivalency. For example, stevia is 8 times sweeter than sugar, so you would divide the amount of sugar needed by 8 to get the appropriate amount of stevia.
Watermelon rind is a perfect cocktail garnish as we usually just toss it! Give your rind a second life as a beautiful, bright green garnish. You can also make a quick pickle out of the rind – it’s a southern favorite! Save the basil flowers you snap off the top of your basil plants and repurpose them as a gorgeous garnish. Margarita means “Daisy” in Spanish and adding the flower is a lovely nod to the drink’s name.
This drink is usually served “up” (or without ice) but if you want a really cold cocktail, freeze watermelon cubes and serve them in place of ice cubes. This will keep your drink cold without diluting and then you have tequila-infused watermelon for a little snack at the end!
Related: Fruit + Herb Infused Ice Cubes
Many folks are used to a salt or sugar rim on their margaritas, but this cocktail includes a pinch of granulated table salt (quicker dissolve) in the cocktail in place of the sometimes very messy rim. Salt helps to bring out the sweetness in the watermelon, as well as tone down any astringency. A pinch of salt in a cocktail is the perfect way to take your drink to the next level.
If you do want to rim your glass, get creative by using other spices! A favorite is to use Tajin (a Mexican chile-lime salt) as a rim, as it provides more depth of flavor with the smokey chile and citrus zing from the lime. Using a lime half you already juiced, rub the lime juice on the rim or side of the glass and gently shake the Tajin across so it sticks – pouring directly reduces waste and saves you a plate!
Choosing the Right Tequila for Your Margarita
Not all tequilas are created equally and not every type of tequila is interchangeable. To ensure you have the best-tasting, balanced cocktail, it is important to choose wisely. Let’s review the three main types of tequila:
- Blanco (white) or Plata (silver)
- Unaged tequila, clear in color (though it can be aged in stainless steel tankards for a month or two before bottling)
- Blanco tequila is perfect for clean, crisp tasting margaritas and other fruit-forward cocktails
- Reposado (rested)
- Aged for 2-12 months in oak barrels
- Oak barrels are generally used barrels that once contained whiskey, so some reposado tequilas will have similar flavor notes as whiskey (oak, caramel, vanilla)
- Reposado tequila will yield a rounder, more nuanced cocktail since it imparts richer flavors from the barrels
- Añejo (old)
- Aged for 12-36 months (1-3 years) in oak barrels
- Añejo tequilas are excellent on their own to sip and also work well in whiskey cocktails, especially Old Fashioneds
Now you may see some bottles labeled as Joven or Extra Añejo. Joven tequila is a Blanco tequila with some aged tequila mixed in. Extra Añejo tequila has been aged longer than three years and is perfect as a sipping tequila.
Related: How to Infuse Vodka