For many people, watermelon is the essential summer food. Its clean, crisp refreshing flavor has universal appeal, especially in the warmer months.
Awareness of watermelon as a beverage ingredient has spiked over the last several years—arguably in part because of Beyonce’s well-publicized investment in WTRMLN WTR, a maker of bottled cold-pressed watermelon juice. The Beyonce factor aside, restaurant operators and mixologists have discovered how the natural sweetness, distinctive color and delicious flavor of watermelon make it an attractive addition to beverage lineups. Datassential found watermelon drinks trending up on menus, growing 34% over the last four years.
In the non-alcohol beverage category, watermelon as a flavor has soared 43% in the last two years, according to Technomic’s 2017Flavor report. Watermelon-flavored iced tea rose on menus 67% year-over-year, and water flavored with watermelon is especially popular, appearing on menus 150% more year-over-year. Technomic also found that 33% of consumers would consider ordering watermelon water if it were offered at a foodservice location.
Joey Torkelson, Beverage Mixologist and Applications Manager for Kerry Brands, suggests the reason for watermelon’s popularity could be chalked up to consumers’ longing for relaxing days of summer, and watermelon is perfect for that craving. “We want to bring back that feeling of summer and warmth,” she says, “And who doesn’t love watermelon on a hot sunny day?”
Watermelon is a classic ingredient in agua fresca, a blend of water, pureed fruit, sugar and a touch of citrus—the perfect summertime sipper. The version served at Native Foods Café locations combines agave, mint and organic watermelon that is heated, then chilled.
Lemonade, cocktails and more
Watermelon also pairs well with lemonade, a duo Disneyland parlayed into its Krylorian Kooler LTO last summer at the Cosmic Canteen in Anaheim. Named after the pink-skinned aliens from Guardians of the Galaxy, it was rimmed with Tajin, a mix of chili powder, dehydrated lime and salt. Up the road, the Highlight Room in Hollywood pours an $18 spiked version made with vodka, cold-pressed watermelon and lemon juices and mint.
Boozy lemonade isn’t the only place where watermelon can add a subtle, distinctive splash of flavor. Cocktails that spotlight the pink melon abound in the summer and are finding a spot on many year-round menus.
The aforementioned agua fresca is popping up on alcohol beverage menus and is getting popular fast, Torkelson says. “Watermelon agua fresca is just taking off—the hint of lime with the fruit forward, with seltzer added on top—it’s great for kids, but parents can add a shot of Tito’s vodka to it, too.”
Watermelon margaritas are staples on many drink menus, as well; the fruit also yields a fruity and pink mojito. In San Diego, the Westgate Hotel’s Plaza Bar features the Chamoy, a smoky mix of Ancho Reyes liqueur, watermelon, grenadine, lemon juice and soda.
Watermelon plays well with other spirits as well, something that becomes apparent every Aug. 3—National Watermelon Day—when restaurants and bars challenge mixologists’ creativity. Last summer, Ocean Prime in Philadelphia developed the Watermelon Elyx, featuring Absolut Elyx, Uncle Val’s gin, basil simple syrup, watermelon puree, lime juice and ginger bitters. The Waterloo at The Cambridge, also in Philadelphia, presented the Waterloo cocktail, a mashup of gin, Campari, lemon juice and fresh watermelon. Nationwide, Bonefish Grill locations served $5 Fresh Watermelon Martinis that combined hand-muddled watermelon, cucumber-infused vodka, fresh sour mix and a frozen watermelon cube garnish. At STK Orlando, The Secret Affair cocktail mixes muddled red chilis, watermelon, vodka, lime juice and simple syrup.
With its refreshing, distinctive and versatile character, drinks built around watermelon are a natural addition to any beverage menu.
This post is sponsored by Island Oasis