Make Ahead

Watermelon-Habanero Lemonade Thrills

July 18, 2014
2 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

Cosi used to have a watermelon-habanero lemonade that was crisp, refreshing, and perfect for cooling off on a summer day. When they stopped carrying it, I figured it couldn't be that hard to recreate the drink on my own, and in fact I liked this version even more. Make sure to leave the habanero in large pieces without seeds so that you can easily remove it later. The last thing you want is someone accidentally swallowing a habanero seed. —Chris Van Houten

Test Kitchen Notes

Sweet, tangy, refreshing, and HOT, this lemonade is a great pick-me-up in the middle of the work day. Personally, I enjoyed the level of heat the whole habanero adds to the lemonade, but if you prefer a milder flavor, I suggest only adding half of the pepper. This would also make for a great summer cocktail with the addition of vodka or tequila! —Sophie Jones

What You'll Need
  • 10 lemons, washed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups fresh watermelon juice
  • 2-3 cups water, separated
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 habanero pepper, halved and seeded
  • cubed watermelon and sliced lemon, for garnish
  1. Halve the lemons lengthwise and slice to about 1/4-inch thin, so you have thin half-moons of lemon slices.
  2. Mash together the lemon slices, sugar, and salt until the sugar dissolves and the juice thickens.
  3. Strain as much liquid from the lemon slice mixture as you can (use a spoon to help separate the juice from the solids in the strainer).
  4. Add the watermelon juice and 2 cups of the water to the lemon juice mixture in pitcher. Taste and add more water as necessary until you are pleased with your lemonade base.
  5. Add the habanero pepper. Refrigerate overnight. Remove the habanero when the lemonade reaches your desired heat level (I'm wary of overpowering the lemonade flavor, so I take it out after about 24 hours). Add chunks of fresh cut watermelon and sliced lemons to the pitcher before serving.
  6. This is a forgiving recipe. If you want to intensify the heat, leave the habanero in the lemonade longer. If you prefer a more subtle heat, remove it sooner or just use half of the pepper. If you accidentally leave it in too long, dilute with more lemonade. To up the sweetness, add more watermelon or sugar. To make a boozy version, add vodka or tequila. If you can't find watermelon juice, you can instead replace the juice with water and add 1/4 of a watermelon, cubed, to infuse into the lemonade.
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7 Reviews

Melissa May 14, 2019
This is such a yummy drink! We increased the watermelon to lemon ratio as we wanted the drink to be more watermelon-y than lemonade. We didn't find the habaneros too spicy at all; in fact, they added a nice sweetness to the drink and a soft, slight heat finish.
Chris V. August 17, 2019
I'm so glad you enjoyed!
Tarra June 29, 2016
Slicing the lemons into thin half moons and mashing them with the sugar sounds like a "doing it the hard way" kind of a thing. Does this produce a different taste than just juicing the lemons?
Rachel June 30, 2016
It definitely produces a prettier effect with the lemon slices suspended throughout the drink, and you also release some of the oils in the lemon peel that wouldn't make it in the drink without macerating and mashing them up a bit. Even if you do skip that step and juice them, I think it'd still be a pretty fantastic end product. :)
Chris V. August 17, 2019
You can definitely just use good old lemon juice. But I love the complexity added by mashing sugar with the different parts of the lemon.
lauren February 19, 2015
I use to lovr this drink at cosi. I would stop at 30 street station and get one every day on my way to work.
Chris V. July 7, 2015
Me too, but at the Cosi on Michigan Avenue in Chicago every time I passed through downtown!