Lately I've been accumulating lots of bits and ends from my cooking: a leftover knob of ginger here, a bundle of beet and carrot tops there, and a mound of watermelon rinds left over from my first gorging session of the watermelon season. While the beet and carrot tops will eventually find their way into a stock or maybe a pesto, the inch of ginger and the watermelon rinds inspired this fizzy cocktail.
You know how it goes: you buy ginger for a recipe, and use an inch or two, and then don't have any plans for the rest. I started sticking these knobs in the freezer, and once my current heap became a full cup, an infusion was in order. Sure, there are lots of ginger liqueurs and spirits on the market, but they're often laden with sugar and never feel quite like you're getting the full impact of fresh ginger. Adding the root to infuse a spirit yourself gives you that blast of gingery heat and vivid flavor, plus you get to customize just how spicy it gets.
For a crisp, clear ginger note, this drink calls for infusing that ginger in vodka. It's beyond simple: you just combine the booze and the ginger in an airtight container and let it sit until it's as spicy as you want it. You'll want to start checking on it around day five; if you like your beverages a bit more fiery, keep it brewing for a few more days. (I like the pep it has on day eight, but it's your spirit, so do whatever you think tastes good!)
I've been obsessed with pickled watermelon rinds every since a Southern friend introduced them to me, and now I make a point of serving watermelon cubes or slices and hoarding the peels for my pickles. While you can buy pickled watermelon rind in specialty stores, I prefer making them from my own melon scraps so I can control the balance of sweet, sour, and spicy.
Once your ginger vodka is ready, its fresh pop gets rounded out with a dollop of dry vermouth, which adds a delicate floral and herbal flavor. Prosecco adds bubbles and a touch of fruity sweetness, prepping your mouth for a contrasting bite of pickled watermelon rind, skewered on a cocktail pick for the garnish. A few drops of the sweet and spicy brine will slip into the cocktail, giving the drink a lively kick. And don't worry: the recipe includes plenty of extra watermelon pickles so you can snack on a few in between sips.