In less than a month, another Labor Day weekend will unfold and summer will become a mere beach-tinged memory. It’s normal, then, to spend these last few bittersweet weeks clinging to the foods that conjure lazy afternoons atop picnic blankets. Cue fresh watermelon. Biting into the juicy pink fruit might be the consumption ritual of choice, but it’s just as delightful in (seed-free) drink form, like at Nightingale 9, in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn.
Among the culinary-minded cocktails at this modern Vietnamese restaurant — now in roomier digs down the street — is the simply named Pisco. The namesake grape brandy plays a starring role, as does the watermelon that chef/owner Rob Newton melds with kaffir lime, black pepper, rice wine vinegar and sugar to create a tangy shrub base. Rounding out the drink are lemon juice, summery Aperol and, for a decidedly Southeast Asian flourish, coconut sugar and a Thai basil garnish.
“We wanted to play around with a shrub and seasonal fruit. Watermelon was the obvious choice because of its popularity here — and in Vietnam,” says Newton.
While Nightingale 9’s watermelon and tomato salad laced with crab paste vinaigrette and strewn with fried shallots is a natural companion to the tipple, Newton also recommends pairing it with the heartier smoked pork sausage and rice cakes. The watermelon’s natural sweetness elicits a refreshing tingle.
329 Smith St., Brooklyn