Nothing says summer like citrullus lanatus, with its thirst-quenching and crunchy red (or yellow) flesh. It’s well worth celebrating today, which is National Watermelon Day.
The first recorded watermelon harvest is said to have taken place about 5,000 years ago in Egypt and is depicted in Egyptian hieroglyphics on walls of ancient buildings. Watermelon has been a summer staple across the globe ever since.
The vinelike scrambler and trailer plant species comes in two varieties, watermelons and citron melons. The citrons have a hard green flesh and are less sweet, more squashlike. They’re more often pickled or used to make jams. The ruby watermelon is over 91 percent water and comes in at a mere 46 calories per cup.
Here are just a few ways to celebrate the juicy orb in Los Angeles:
Award-winning mixologiest Aaron Polsky will be serving the Warlock of Love cocktail at Harvard & Stone in Thai Town. It's a cool concoction of rum, watermelon, pineapple, aperol, lemon and mint.
He also likes to mix spicy and sweet in his Spicy Seed to Rind Gimlet, a recipe he shared with L.A. Weekly:
Spicy Seed-to-Rind Gimlet (makes 1 cocktail)
2 oz. watermelon rind–infused vodka
1 oz. fresh lime juice
¾ oz. simple syrup
2 dashes tabasco
1 infused watermelon rind, trimmed, for garnish
Combine ingredients in a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a trimmed infused watermelon rind.
Harvard & Stone, 5221 Hollywood Blvd., Thai Town; (747) 231-0699, harvardandstone.com.
The bayou-themed Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood is hoping to lift spirits with its cocktail named Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (inspired by the Smashing Pumpkins album title, no doubt), from lead bartender BC Hoffman, who mixes rosewater with fresh, seedless watermelon juice for the base and shakes with ice:
2 oz. watermelon-rose sorbet
1½ oz. bourbon
1¼ oz. lemon juice
¼ oz Amaro Montenegro
Sassafras Saloon, 1233 N. Vine St., Hollywood; (323) 467-2800, sassafrassaloon.com.
There are seasonal gazpachos all across town, but wine-centric Good Measure in Atwater Village is giving the dish a melon spin. Chef Mike Garber takes the classic Spanish-style gazpacho but omits the traditional cucumber and instead favors fresh watermelon to complement summer’s bounty of tomatoes, with purple basil and almonds. Suggested wine pairing: a Spanish Txacoli dry white.
Good Measure, 3224 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village; (323) 426-9461, goodmeasurela.com.
If you're looking for a cooling salad in an unexpected place, try the watermelon cucumber salad at South City Fried Chicken in the Corporation Food Hall downtown. The crunchy mixture includes lime, mint, cilantro, Thai basil and coconut and is topped with chopped macadamia nuts.
South City Fried Chicken, 724 S. Spring St., downtown; (213) 278-0008, southcityfriedchicken.com.
The ultimate thirst-quencher in Los Angeles that we can truly call our own is an icy agua fresca, and we all have our favorites. You can’t go wrong with a good farmers market fresca or a cup from your local Northgate Gonzalez Market, with locations throughout L.A.
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I recently enjoyed a tall watermelon fresca at Border Grill downtown, finishing it off in one gulp, in between munching on the ice and getting it all over my shirt. It’s a cooling stop if you’re in the Financial District and takes the heat off anything.
Border Grill, 445 S. Figueroa, in the Union Bank Plaza, downtown; (213) 486-5171; bordergrill.com. Also available at the LAX location in the Tom Bradley Terminal.
The Spoon by H watermelon smoothie might hit the spot better than anything else, as dramatic as it is frostily refreshing. It’s less of a smoothie and more of a dessert: house-made watermelon ice, speckled with cacao nips and topped with melon balls and sweet red popping pearls that could double as caviar. It’s not too sweet, but watch out for a brain freeze if you wolf it down too fast. The shaved ice and matcha green tea ice cream shake also are worth a try.
Spoon by H, 7158 Beverly Blvd., Beverly Grove; (323) 930-0789, spoonbyh.com.