Forget glasses or a punch bowl, the best way to serve a big-batch drink at summer parties is through a watermelon keg. It's a simple project that adds seasonal flair to the festivities. Watermelon kegs can hold any type of punch you like, whether it's family-friendly or spiked with liquor. It can also be filled with water or lemonade to give either a refreshing melon flavor.
Since the "keg" is a perishable fruit and you're cutting it open, you'll want to prepare it no more than one day in advance, just to be safe. It should be stored in the refrigerator (preferably draped in plastic wrap) to preserve freshness. If you don't have space in the fridge, plan on prepping this a few hours before the party, then keep it as cool as possible.
Making a watermelon keg is not difficult and it's actually a fun project. It will go more smoothly if you gather everything you need in advance.
What You Need
- Tapper or spigot
- Long, sharp knife
- Small paring knife or corer
- Long spoon or ice cream scoop
- Large bowls; one for reserving watermelon and one for scraps
- Cutting board or tray to catch drips
Choosing the Tapper
There are a variety of tapper styles that will work for a watermelon keg, from stainless steel to black or white plastic spigots. These are simple in design with a lever and spigot on the outside for dispensing liquid and a shaft of a few inches that runs to the interior of the vessel. Most contain locking nuts that you can use to secure the tap to the melon from the inside. This isn't always needed, but can be helpful.
Local beer brewing stores may have the tapper you need or they're readily available online. You can even find ones that are specifically marketed as watermelon keg tappers. A simple water dispenser faucet works as well. These are usually sold as crock faucets or to replace broken water cooler faucets, but people use them to dispense liquid from all sorts of containers.
When you get your tapper, be sure to inspect it for damage before the party. The last thing you want is a broken tapper when your watermelon's already cut and ready to go!
Shave the Bottom
Watermelons don't typically stand up on end, so that's the first step in creating a watermelon keg.
- Wash the melon under running water to remove any dirt and debris.
- Decide which end of the melon will be the top.
- Lay the melon flat on a cutting board.
- Shave thin pieces of the rind off the bottom of the melon. Try not to cut into the fruit's flesh as that will compromise its freshness and may lead to leaking.
- Stand your melon up and test for stability. Shave off a little more if needed.
Cut a Hole in the Top
Next up is creating access to the inside of the melon. It is going to be hollowed out, so you need to cut a large hole in the top in order to get the flesh out and add your beverage of choice.
- Set the watermelon up on the flat bottom.
- Using a sharp knife, cut a circle at least two inches from the top of the melon. If needed, draw a circle with a marker to help guide your knife.
- You only want to make one cut all the way around so it comes out in one piece. Cutting a perfect circle with a flat knife is not easy. Don't worry about getting it perfect as the watermelon pattern will hide small knife cuts.
- Do your best to angle the knife slightly in toward the center of the melon so there's a ledge for the top that you remove to rest on later. This piece will become the lid and prevent bugs and debris from getting into your punch.
Scoop Out the Watermelon
Scooping the flesh out of the watermelon takes the most time and it can get a little juicy. Have plenty of towels handy and a large bowl ready. There's a lot of flesh inside the average watermelon and you want to save it to use later.
- Using a spoon or ice cream scoop, start scooping out the melon flesh and place it in the bowl. Be sure to get all the loose flesh and seeds that could clog up the tapper.
- Depending on the size of your melon, you may need a longer spoon the deeper you dig.
- Scrape out the insides as you go, leaving the hard red flesh just inside the rind.
- Leave about two or three inches of flesh at the bottom of the melon to act as the base of your keg. Your tapper will be inserted right above that base.
Mark and Cut the Tapper Hole
At this point, you want to decide which side of the melon will be the face. When growing, melons rest on the ground, so one side will look a little ragged. You want the face to have the least imperfections because this is where you'll tap the melon.
- Choose the spot for the tapper. This should be just above the base you established inside the watermelon.
- Place the shaft of your tapper against the watermelon and press firmly to make an indent.
- Using a sharp paring knife or corer, cut just on the inside of the circular indent. Don't go outside the line because you want a tight fit for the tap.
- Ensure that your hole goes through the entire melon. Remove any debris from inside.
Insert the Tapper
The easiest part of this whole project is inserting the tapper:
- With the hole cut, simply insert the tapper. It should be nice and snug and take a little force. If you have to, give it a few twists.
- Look inside to remove any debris that might clog the shaft. Attach the locking nut on the inside if desired.
- You'll now want to test it for leaks. To do so, pour water into the melon through the top hole just deep enough so the shaft is covered. Open the faucet on the outside and watch for drips.
- If you have any leaking, the hole may be too big. A quick fix is to wrap the shaft with duct tape without covering the threads for the nut. Insert the tapper and test again.
Your watermelon keg is done! Place the lid on top and store it in the coolest place possible until it's party time.
Mix Up Your Drink
The fun part of a watermelon keg is mixing up the drink that will go inside. Plan on at least one gallon of your beverage of choice. It's a good idea to make extra, especially if you have a large watermelon.
You can fill the watermelon with any drink you like. Something as simple as water or lemonade is fun and the fruit will infuse its flavor into the liquid as it sits. Fruit punches—both alcoholic and not—are great options, too. Just be sure that the recipe you choose doesn't include solid ingredients that can clog your spigot; smoothies and blended drinks may be too thick as well.
Make Watermelon Juice
A natural choice is to make use of all that watermelon you scooped out. You'll just need to turn the chunky flesh into juice, but that's very easy:
- Working in batches, fill a blender about three-quarters of the way with watermelon.
- Blend until smooth.
- Pour the pureed watermelon into a fine-mesh sieve over top of a large bowl to strain out the pulp and seeds. You may need to stir it around to release all of the juice.
The juice (or puree, if you want to keep some of that) can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. You can also freeze any excess in ice cube trays—remove them once frozen and store in a plastic freezer bag.
Make a Watermelon Juice Blend
With the juice, you can then blend it with another fruit juice, lemonade, or water. Start with equal parts of your chosen ingredients, stirring them in a large pitcher. Taste it, then adjust as needed. Adding a little simple syrup is an easy way to sweeten it up.
Make a Big-Batch Watermelon Cocktail
Create your own custom spiked watermelon punch. It can be as easy as adding your liquor of choice to a blend of watermelon juice and water.
Try tequila, rum, or vodka, pouring about 1/2 to 1 part for every 2 parts of the watermelon blend (don't overdo it and make the punch too strong for guests to enjoy). You can also add accent liquors like triple sec to create a watermelon margarita or squeeze in some lemon or lime juice for a fresh accent.
Enjoy Your Watermelon Keg
Keep the punch well-chilled and plan on filling your watermelon keg as the party gets started. The keg should have about six hours of life in it once filled, which is plenty for the average party.
To display your watermelon keg, place it on the edge of a table so guests can place glasses under the tap. Another option is to elevate the keg by placing it on a cake stand or inverted bowl. Just make sure it's steady and stable.
Have glasses near the keg and an ice bucket as well as any garnishes (in a covered dish if outside). Guests can help themselves and you can enjoy the party!
To clean up, simply remove the tapper and throw away the watermelon. The tapper can be reused and you can even use the same idea to create a pumpkin keg for autumn parties.