watermelon margarita popsicles with strawberries + basil salt

recipe + photo by Jayme Henderson


I have very fond childhood memories of hot, summer afternoons spent at my grandmother’s house in Florida. My sister and I would run through the sprinkler in the front yard, as it made its slow arc across the grass. We’d take breaks from sprinkler-dashing to sip homemade lemonade and eat watermelon, lightly speckled with sea salt. 

If you haven’t tried adding a dash of salt on sliced, ripe watermelon, make it one of your summer goals. I captured that same, delightful pairing of salty and sweet with this recipe for a watermelon margarita, in popsicle form. Taking the extra time to make the basil salt for this recipe is completely worth it. Sprinkle just a pinch over one of these slightly boozy, frozen treats, and you’ve got a flavor pairing that captures summer’s most celebrated flavors.

Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

13 ounces watermelon juice (approximately 1/4 of a medium watermelon)
3 ounces tequila
1 ounce Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
4 ounces fresh lime juice
2-3 strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
Basil salt, for garnish (recipe below)

1. Make simple syrup. In a small saucepan, combine water with sugar. Bring to a simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool, 20-30 minutes. Reserve 4 ounces for popsicles (and store remaining syrup in refrigerator for up to 1 month).
2. Peel and slice 1/4 of a medium watermelon into small pieces and process with a juicer, following manufacturer’s instructions, or in a blender. Pass blended fruit juice through a fine-mesh strainer or chinois for an even smoother consistency, if desired. 
3. In a large bowl, combine watermelon juice, tequila, Cointreau, lime juice, and 4 ounces simple syrup. Whisk until well combined.
4. Fill each popsicle mold with a few thinly sliced strawberries and fill with watermelon mixture.
5. Add popsicle sticks and freeze overnight until solid.
6. Serve popsicles with a dusting of basil salt and enjoy.

Makes 10 popsicles.

basil salt

This makes a perfect garnish on the popsicles but use any leftover basil salt over grilled fish, sliced watermelon, or a caprese salad.

1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 225°F.
2. In a food processor, pulse basil leaves and salt a few times, until basil leaves are broken into small bits.
3. Spread basil mixture onto a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, tossing at least once, halfway through baking time.
4. Remove pan from oven, once basil pieces have dried. Transfer back to a food processor and pulse again to blend into a fine powder. Store in a tightly sealed container.

Makes approximately 1/2 cup.

recipe notes: Because these popsicles have just the right amount of alcohol in them, they won’t be rock-hard frozen. Once you take them out of the freezer, enjoy them soon after. 

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