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Watermelon margarita from Rita Cantina

Rita Cantina’s Watermelon Margarita (Photo courtesy of Rita Cantina)

According to the data tracking organization, CGA, the mighty margarita tops the charts as the most popular cocktail in the United States for 2023. But is the margarita ever not the bell of the bar’s ball? When made well, the fresh, citrusy flavor combined with earthy tequila and a little bit of sweetness is the most crushable of seasonal coolers.

Add naturally sweet and refreshing summer watermelon to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a ‘rita for heavy repeat.

It’s one of bartender Adam Miller’s favorites to make when he’s behind the stick at Rita Cantina in Springs. The secret? Fresh watermelon juice. We’re about to hit watermelon season (yay!), when local farm stands will be pregnant with the girth of the gorgeous green-on-the-outside juicy fruit. No need for a special juicer here; a work-a-day blender will do just fine.

Pickled watermelon rind makes piquant garnish on your watermelon margarita and a great addition to a charcuterie board. (Photo courtesy of

According to the Watermelon Board in Winter Springs, FL, to pick a fresh watermelon expect it to be heavy — they’re made up of 92 percent water, after all! Look at the bottom where it nestled on the ground growing; it should have a creamy yellow spot from the vantage point of its ripening seat. Finally, give it a little knock. If it’s ripe and ready, it should sound a bit hollow and muffled.

To juice the flesh, simply cut up your watermelon, slicing it away from the rind and cutting into inch or so sized chunks (ditch the seeds if you didn’t buy seedless), plunk into your blender or food processor (an immersion blender and a bowl works fine, too) and puree until liquified. Store in a sealed container in your refrigerator up to three or four days.

Pro tip: Don’t ditch the rind! Make a delicious alternative cocktail garnish (or toss into salad — they’re good there, too!) by pickling them, just be sure to wash the rind, rinsing and patting dry as you would any other fruit whose outer layer you plan to consume. That sweet-earthy-sour combo is dynamite in this drink!

Rita Cantina’s Watermelon Margarita

Prep Time 12 minutes
Serves 1 cocktail


  • 2 oz blanco tequila
  • 1 oz fresh watermelon juice
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1 wedge lime or pickled watermelon rind

For the simple syrup

  • 1 cup cane sugar
  • 1 cup water

For the pickled watermelon rind:

  • 2 1/2 cups watermelon rind, trimmed and cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup apple cider or white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 5 pink peppercorns
  • 1 tsp allspice berries


  • Combine the tequila, watermelon juice, lime juice and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.
  • Shake well for about 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Strain over fresh ice in a double old-fashioned or double rocks glass.
  • Garnish with the lime wedge. Enjoy!

For the simple syrup:

  • In a small sauce pot, combine the sugar and water over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, making sure the sugar dissolved completely, simmering until the liquid starts to thicken a bit, about 10 minutes.
  • Allow to cool. Store in an air-tight jar or container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

For the pickled watermelon rind:

  • Using a vegetable peeler, gently peel off the outer watermelon layer and discard.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine water, vinegar, sugar, kosher salt, peppercorns and allspice over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and add the melon rind, using a slotted ladle so the hot liquid doesn't splash out on you. Allow to come back to a boil and turn off the heat.
  • Cool and store entire contents, liquid and rind, in a sealable, air-tight jar in the refrigerator for up to a month.