At Mizuna in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, bar whiz Austin Carson reimagines soup in cocktail form and vice versa, serving everything from habanero oil-drizzled strawberry margaritas to this refreshing gazpacho spiked with watermelon tequila. For you, it presents a novel way to transition from passed hors d’oeuvres to sit-down courses—and a sly way to solve the perpetual dinner party pairing conundrum.
For the Smoked-Watermelon Tequila:
1-2 small, seedless watermelons
Tequila, to cover
For the Key Lime Aioli:
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons high-quality agave syrup
Zest of 3 Key limes (reserve the juice for serving)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper
For the Soup:
4 cups diced smoked watermelon
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
¼ onion, minced
⅓ cup lightly packed basil and mint
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon Key lime aioli
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper
3 ounces smoked-watermelon tequila
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1. Make the smoked-watermelon tequila: A day in advance, quarter 1 to 2 seedless watermelons (depending on size). Preheat a charcoal or wood-fired grill to medium-low heat. Place the watermelon quarters, rind-sides down, on the grill. Cover and cook for 7 minutes.
2. Slice the rind away from the fruit. Cut the watermelon into chunks and refrigerate to use in the soup, then cut the rind into strips, place in a good-size glass jar (along with the zest of 1 Key lime if you’d like) and add enough 80-proof (or higher) tequila to submerge. Cover the jar and infuse overnight. Strain through a coffee filter the following day.
3. Make the key-lime aioli: In a bowl, mix all the ingredients to combine. Refrigerate until ready for use.
4. Make the soup: In a blender, combine the watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, basil, mint, vinegar and aioli with a drizzle of olive oil, as well as salt and pepper to taste.
5. Blend thoroughly, adding the tequila and lime juice for the last 15 seconds. Note that the amount of tequila can be increased depending on the experience you’re after; add in small increments and taste as you go for balance. (Any leftover tequila can be used for watermelon margaritas.) Pass through a fine-mesh sieve. Cover and refrigerate for 1½ to 2 hours.
6. To serve, divide between small bowls with another drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a small squeeze of Key lime juice, as well as any other garnishes you’d like.