It’s July, and the watermelon is ripe and juicy. This month’s Cocktail Hour, the “I Carried a Watermelon,” turns our favorite summer fruit into a boozy granita, which will keep everyone cool on a hot day. The best part about this cocktail is that you can prepare it in advance and freeze it in the hollowed out rind for your guests to serve themselves.
Brought to Sicily by the Arabs, the frozen dessert was flavored with various fruits and rose water. The key to making granita is stirring or scraping the ice formation while it is freezing, which helps make it fluffy like snow. Watermelon granita is the perfect way to use up the fruit if you find yourself with a large watermelon. You can make this cocktail a a couple of ways. The first is to make the granita nonalcoholic and then top a shot of whiskey and ginger beer. The second, which is the way I made it, is to incorporate the whiskey into the granita.
If you recognize the title of our cocktail, that’s because it is a quote from the movie Dirty Dancing. Frances “Baby” Houseman is visiting a summer resort in the Catskills with her family. There, she meets Johnny Castle and upon their first meeting, the only words Baby can get out is, “I carried a watermelon.” Baby is dumbfounded by herself for saying something so dumb, but what girl hasn’t said something ridiculous in front of a hot guy?
Dirty Dancing is a coming of age tale in which Baby grows up too fast. However, it seems the plot, set in 1963, is more relevant today, than when it premiered in 1987. The movie is full of great choreography backed by a phenomenal soundtrack. Yet, the only reason Baby dances with Johnny is because of an illegal procedure his partner Penny sought out.
I repeatedly watched this movie over and over growing up, and it has had a lasting impact on me. I even saw Dirty Dancing the musical on stage. The 35th anniversary edition recently came out and I picked up a copy. Rewatching one of your favorite movies hits a little differently the older you get. Although the heavy scenes dig in deep, there’s nothing like a boozy cocktail to drink along with them.
“I Carried a Watermelon” is boozy— any bourbon of your choice will do, but I chose Frey Ranch. Make a batch for your own viewing party of Dirty Dancing or your next backyard shindig and you will be dirty dancing in no time. At the very least, you will have something tasty to forget about the troubles in the world for a little bit.
I Carried a Watermelon
- 8 cups Watermelon Juice
- 1 ½ to 2 cups Bourbon
- 2 Limes juiced
- ½ cup Sugar
- Ginger Beer
- Lime and Mint for Garnish
- Large Mesh Strainer
- 9×13 Pan
- Ladle or Serving Spoon
- Copper Mug
- Scrape all the pink flesh from a watermelon into a blender.
- Blend until smooth, then strain liquid into the 9×13 pan.
- Mix in lime juice, bourbon, and sugar until dissolved.
- Freeze overnight, but stir and scrape ice formation every 30 to 60 minutes for the first few hours.
- In a copper mug, fill with the watermelon granita, top with ginger beer, and garnish with a lime wedge and mint leaf.
- Enjoy responsibly.