After a cloudy and cool end to August, we are back to Summer for the first day of September. Yesterday, the rains rolled through from Hurricane Ida and as the skies clouded over and the temperature dropped you could feel that hint of Autumn just around the corner. That makes me happy. Sweaters, falling leaves, pumpkin spice all the things and the promise of the holidays to come. So, I really wanted to lean into that and do a fall cocktail to kick off the month. However, the sun came back from its vacation and staked its claim on these last couple of weeks of Summer. The good news is I picked up a beautiful round, ripe watermelon at the farmer’s market that is staring at me from the kitchen, so I am full prepared to transition and celebrate this Summer of our mild content as we stand and make the Smoky Worm.

This is another amazing creation from Cocktail Time‘s, Kevin Kos. He’s the fella who created the Doughnut Old-Fashioned that we have just been raving about for the last week or two. It was a drink so good that we actually have it batched in our fridge right now. So when I saw this one’s unique presentation I wanted to give it a shot and when one of our favorite vendors had fresh watermelon, I knew it was time. So, let’s get to work.

Just like the Chocolate Doughnut Old-Fashioned this one is going to require a blender and some time, so make sure you have both on had before you start. Grab your fresh watermelon and slice out about 1/3 of a cup and remove the seeds, this is important because if you leave them they will bring a weird bitter flavor. I used this lovely sweet heirloom variety that turned out to be chock full o’ seeds, so that part was tedious, but worth it. Toss that into your blender cup and top that with 2 ounces of Irish Whiskey, I went with Proper Twelve; 1 1/3 ounce of mezcal, I chose Del Maguey Vida; 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lemon juice and 3 1/3 teaspoons of sugar. Pop the top on and blend well. When smooth, pour into a container and let sit overnight in the refrigerator to settle. After 12 hours or more, take a moment to marvel at the remarkably pink color of this concoction, because we are about to get rid of that. Slowly pour the mixture through a sieve to get out the bigger pieces and then through a cheesecloth lined sieve to strain out smaller particles. You will need to do this more than once to get a nice clear liquid. So strain till you feel happy, or at least mildly contented. Mine took two passes through the pourover till the mixture was clear and mildly golden. Feel free to give the leftovers a taste as well because it is basically alcoholic watermelon slush and, well, yum. So, that’s your cocktail, done. You can bottle it and save it in the fridge for up to a month. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, there is an extra bit of magic that comes when you serve it. 

Even though it has been in the fridge, we need to chill this one down to make a proper cocktail and Mr. Kos likes to be fancy about it using a technique called “throwing the drink”. Basically, you put the ice in one tin, pop in your strainer and then pour the drink back and forth between the empty tin and the ice filled one. This sounds fairly simple, but in the hands of someone who has practiced this many times the pour can be very long and fluid, which makes for a beautiful presentation. So, grab your tins and pop in 3 ounces of the Smoky Worm mix into one and fill the other with ice and your strainer. I have not practiced for many years, so I keep my pours nice and compact to the beat of Heart’s “Magic Man” as I practice my alchemy. You do you, but if you haven’t spent a lot of time practicing with water, I wouldn’t risk the cocktail. When it is well chilled, probably 4-6 pours, let the drink rest in the ice free tin while you prepare the glass. Place a piece of ice that has soaked in soy sauce in the bottom of a chilled coupe and slowly pour the cocktail over the top. Garnish with not a damned thing and serve.

That is wonderfully disconcerting. It is smoky, which I love, and it has a distinct watermelon flavor. That is probably what throws me off. Looking at this one it does not appear remotely fruity, but there it is. The Irish whiskey really adds to the bottom of this one, but I think the masterstroke is that tiny amount of soy sauce that clings to the surface of the ice cube. It creates this subtly salty underflavor that accentuates the acidity and brings the watermelon forward. I tried it both ways and the soy sauce is a thing. Did I say umami, yet? Cause, oh my umami. I really like this drink. It opens mildly acidic, flowing through smoky melon into this salted smooth mouthfeel finish. Truly remarkable. Good thing I made plenty, so we will have it this week.

Like I said with our last Kos cocktail, I generally avoid things with a lot of prep, since I want to keep things accessible, but this one is really no trouble to make and it is so worth the extra effort. It’s like most anything else, at some point you kind of want to stretch your wings and do something a little fancier. One thing I have learned with these is to go ahead and make larger quantities so you have them batched in your fridge. It is nice to come home in the afternoon and just pour up a cocktail without having to get out the gear and make a mess. So, I guess you can look at this type of drink as a “pay me now or pay me later” when it comes to the effort. Sure, it takes more time upfront, but if you go ahead and make plenty then you can enjoy the fruits of your labor for up to a month afterwards. Pretty sure that there was a grasshopper and some ants that had something to say about that, but honestly, that message was lost on me many moons ago.  Stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.