by Susan Benton | June 29, 2018

The Spread: 30A On the Rocks

Sip the season’s bounty, fresh from the fields of the Sunshine State

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A seasonal sunset cocktail made with tomato-and-watermelon-infused water and locally distilled vodka. Photographt by Jack Gardener

Southern summers call for parties on the front porch, and on 30A, we locals live on ours. Cool Gulf breezes, fresh-caught seafood straight from the docks, iced cocktails and lively conversation are the elements that create the perfect soiree.

For those Floridians who haven’t experienced that moment when the sun dips below the horizon on gorgeous Grayton Beach, then mix up the next best thing: a seasonal sunset cocktail made with tomato-and-watermelon-infused water and locally distilled vodka.

In nearby Crestview, Aaron Barnes and Camden Ford have taken their passion for spirits to another level by founding Timber Creek Distillery in 2014 on Barnes’s family farm. The award-winning craft distillery makes rum, brandy, vodka and its definition of Florida whiskey.

“Our vision is to take the best local fruits and grains from the Panhandle and turn them into the finest spirits,” says Ford.

SUNSET ON 30A

Serves 2
  • 3 ounces vodka
  • 4 ounces tomato-watermelon water
  • 2 ounces jalapeno simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Soda water
  • Watermelon wedge and seeded jalapeno slice for garnish
  • Tomato-Watermelon Water
  • 3 cups roughly chopped large red heirloom tomatoes, approximately
    1 ½ pounds
  • 6 cups roughly chopped seedless watermelon
  • 1 teaspoon salt

PREPARATION: Juice tomatoes and watermelon in a juicer. The liquid should be free from pulp. Discard the pulp and pour juice into a pitcher. Add salt and stir to combine.

Jalapeno simple syrup

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 jalapeno, sliced and seeded

PREPARATION: In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat water and jalapeno until boiling. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Strain and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

For the cocktail

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add vodka, watermelon-tomato water, jalapeno simple syrup and lime juice. Shake for about 20 seconds. Pour mixture into an Old Fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Top with a splash of soda. Garnish with jalapeno slice and watermelon wedge.

Note: For added flavor, dip a lime wedge into spiced cocktail salt and rub the edge of the glass with it.

Try Susan Benton’s recipe for FLORIDA TOMATO AND WATERMELON SALAD WITH FRESH MOZZARELLA