Last night I met up with my girlfriends for our first book club in two months. Busy schedules had kept us from meeting last month, so I was so looking forward to a fun, relaxing night.
Our book this month was Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. The novel follows three generations of a Greek family, detailing their new life in American, their quest for the American dream and one family member’s struggle with gender identity.
I did not read the book this month, unfortunately too many things were on my plate and I never even opened the cover. I had tried to read this book years ago and was never able to get through the first few chapters. I think that may be why I kept pushing it off. My friends who finished the book really enjoyed it and we were able to have some thought provoking conversation, mainly on the topic of gender identity.
I usually like to theme my menu contribution to our book, so I was thinking some sort of Greek dish. I had purchased a large watermelon last week, and need to use it up quickly. My first thought was a watermelon and feta salad, which would be a great Greek side dish. But the more I thought about it, I knew we needed to relax after a busy month. Exit feta, enter vodka.
I’ve been seeing recipes for Agua Frescas all over the place this summer and knew I could easily turn it into a cocktail. Translating to “fresh waters,” an agua fresca is basically a fruit drink or ade. Very popular in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, you can usually find them being served fresh on the street.
Since my watermelon wasn’t very ripe, I added a good amount of honey to the syrup. You could easily reduce the amount of sweetener, or omit it all together. If you don’t want to include any added sweetener, just steep the lime zest and mint in plain water to release their essence and proceed as normal.
Just a little warning, the juice was so good I barely noticed the vodka in my drink. Go slowly!
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint plus more sprigs for garnish (one store bought package was enough)
- 2 limes: 1 for the recipe, and 1 cut into wedges for garnish
- 9 cups cubed seedless watermelon
- Using a vegetable peeler, zest one lime by peeling the skin in long strips. Be careful to only remove the green skin and not the white pith.
- In a small saucepan, mix the water and honey on medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the honey. Once the syrup comes to a slow boil, remove from heat and set aside.
- Add the lime zest and chopped mint to the honey syrup and allow it steep for 15-30 minutes, while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Juice the zested lime and set aside (should produce about 1/4 cup of juice).
- Working in batches, puree the watermelon in a food processor or blender.
- Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl or pitcher. Reserve the pulp.
- Strain the honey syrup and add that to the watermelon juice along with the lime juice.
- Repeat this process with the remaining pulp and mint/lime zest from the syrup. Puree, strain and add this juice to the rest of the watermelon juice. (Now you can discard any remaining pulp.)
- Chill your juice and vodka until ready to serve. Make sure to stir the juice well before serving since watermelon juice tends to separate.
- To serve, fill your glass with ice and add your desired amount of vodka.
- Fill the rest of the glass with your watermelon juice and garnish with a sprig of mint and a lime wedge.
This recipe makes 1 1/2 quarts. It was the perfect amount for our group of 6 people.