Summer watermelon drink in glasses with lemon and mint

Summer watermelon drink in glasses with lemon and mint on blue background

As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, it was fortuitous that I ran across an interesting article about the unofficial state drink of Texas. After all, the Lone Star State is about as independent as they come, having once been a republic on its own. After a two-year fight with Mexico, Texas declared itself a republic in 1836. Until becoming a state in 1845, Texas was a separate country.

The state drink is called Texas Branch Water. And, oddly enough, features mineral water from … Mexico. Now, I can remember a time in the not-so-distant past when visitors to Mexico were warned of the dire consequences of consuming water in that country. Thus, I was amused (and curious) when several years ago Topo Chico started popping up in the grocery. I remember thinking "who would buy water from Mexico?" Turns out, quite a few folks.

Bottled since 1895 at the source in Monterey, Mexico, Topo Chico is a worldwide favorite mineral water – ranked in popularity near such faves as Evian and Perrier. With sales exceeding $80 million last year Topo Chico is bound to keep growing as the brand was acquired by Coca-Cola in 2017 (an interesting twist of fate, since the original owners of Topo were the first Mexican bottlers of Coke back in the 1920s).

But … back to the cocktail. Using Topo Chico is imperative, but you can choose your own favorite tequila.

Texas Branch Water

1-½ oz. blanco tequila

½ oz. lime juice

6 oz. Topo Chico

--

Simply add the first two ingredients in a tall glass with ice, top with the mineral water. Garnish with a lime.

You might be saying at this point that this sounds suspiciously like a margarita. True, but far less sweet (in fact, there is no sweetener at all). It’s a bracing yet refreshing libation that relies on the mineral content of the water to enhance the flavor. Some folks have dared to add a dollop of Cointreau to sweeten the concoction up a bit. I have it on good authority that these are not Texans.

OK … maybe you want something with a bit of patriotic color for your holiday. I’ve got you covered, but fair warning. This one is nowhere near as simple as Texas Branch Water. There are more ingredients and you need to layer each addition by pouring it over the back of a spoon (to get the resulting colorful layers and not just a purple mixture).

Red, White + Boozy

½ oz. simple syrup

Red, white, blue sprinkles

¾ oz. blue Curaçao

¾ oz. fresh watermelon juice

1 oz. coconut vodka

¼ oz. cream of coconut

--

Pour a thin layer of syrup on a shallow dish. Roll the rim of a cocktail glass in the syrup; then roll in a dish of sprinkles to coat the rim.

Add the blue Curaçao to the glass and fill with crushed ice.

Using the back of a spoon, carefully add in the watermelon juice.

In a separate glass add the vodka and coconut cream; stir to combine.

Again, using the spoon carefully pour the mixture into the serving glass.

Garnish with a blueberry or two and a raspberry.

This recipe was demonstrated by Bravo bartender Tom Sandoval on You Tube. I’d never heard of the guy, but I give him credit – he is a master at careful layering using the spoon back.

What if you wanted to entertain a group of folks, say to watch fireworks or enjoy a 4th of July barbecue? What if a few of your guests don’t imbibe? And what if you don’t want to spend the entire party crafting individual drinks with and without alcohol? How about the ultimate summer party drink?

Watermelon Punch

First, make up a batch of raspberry lemonade. Ha! Just kidding. Buy a couple of bottles of Simply Raspberry Lemonade. This stuff is delicious and this is a holiday after all. Then …

1 15 lb. watermelon

7 cups of raspberry lemonade

--

If you want to get fancy, you can use the watermelon itself as your punch bowl. This will involve standing the watermelon on end after creating a flat bottom on the melon with a sharp knife. Then slice off the top and scoop out all the interior red stuff. You should probably start this process the day before your party.

Place all the scooped out watermelon in a blender, working in batches. Strain the resulting pulp, again in batches, through a sieve. Your goal is to wind up with about 7 cups of juice.

Add the juice and lemonade together in a large container and chill until serving time.

Once your guests arrive, pour the chilled mixture into your watermelon bowl (or punch bowl). Have a nice bottle of vodka, also chilled, close by. Guests simply take a glass, add vodka or not, and pour in the watermelon concoction. A garnish of lemon slices looks nice too.

Above all, celebrate our country, and independence, with pride and patriotism. Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie would expect nothing less.