The pandemic has forced many of us to find creative ways to gather while practicing safe, social distancing. For me and my husband, being locked down with our three teenage boys, two dogs and a backyard pool and cabana construction project was both wonderful and trying.

In the absence of connecting with others, we resorted to FaceTime and Zoom calls with people we held dear. And we drank. Not every night by any means, but there have been plenty. A glass of wine or a drink just seemed to take the edge off cooking yet another meal or made the wait for Grubhub seem less painful.

As we got bolder, we began sharing a night with neighbors and friends around our fire pit and were overjoyed to be invited to others’ backyards for a change of scenery.

As businesses began to open back up, we returned to our beloved restaurants and bars, all too happy to hand the job back over to professionals.

But the ebbs and flows of this pandemic have meant that I still spend way more nights at home than I used to, while simultaneously changing the way I entertain when we are here. We are outdoors more often and with fewer folks, which naturally has made me rethink what I prepare and serve.

Now, I consider myself a “serious” drinker. I have spent the past 15 years trying to learn about different liquors and their history and seeking out recipes that tantalize. I am forever curious and inspired by bar menus, creative bartending and hearing from others about cocktails they love to make. My favorites use fresh, local fruits and herbs and are easily scaled up to serve a crowd.

But this pandemic has also forced me to consider what I can easily scale down, too.

Refreshing recipe

The warm summer nights beg for drinks that both refresh and capitalize on the summer’s bounty. So, when a new friend shared this watermelon cocktail recipe on the golf course, I was immediately inspired and stopped to buy a watermelon and some jalapenos on the way home!

Dee insists all the credit be given to her adult daughter, affectionately called “Munchie.” So here is Munchie’s Watermelon Jalapeno Margarita:

Start with a silver tequila. Take 3-4 jalapenos, cut off the stem and then cut them in quarters. Leave seeds in them. Combine jalapenos and tequila in a glass jar or back in the tequila bottle and set in a cool, dark place or even the refrigerator. Allow to sit for at least one night or up to three days, depending on how spicy you like it.

Meanwhile, prepare the watermelon juice by cutting up a fresh, seedless watermelon in manageable slices/squares. Blend watermelon in a Bullet or blender and pour through a strainer to eliminate pulp. Because watermelons vary in size, pick one depending on how many you are planning to serve. Best news: Once juiced and strained, it will last for a few days in the refrigerator.

On my first attempt, I used a Reposado tequila and only one jalapeno. The Reposado had a strong smoky profile, but without enough jalapeno, the heat was lost. I highly recommend using a Blanco or silver tequila; any brand will do.

My family also really, really loved the pureed watermelon juice alone. It is refreshing and delicious, something I will keep in my summer drink repertoire and consider using with all kinds of other recipes or alone.

And finally, I love that this drink can be made in advance and scaled up to use for parties.

If you are bartending for a much smaller crowd, keep the jalapeno-infused tequila for a while, only use a portion of a watermelon and half a lime to make just one cocktail.

I’m excited to host a crew here once this pandemic allows and toast my friend Dee, my horrible golf game albeit with perks, and of course the return to entertaining friends and neighbors.

Keep an eye out for future columns featuring great recipes and some of the best home bars in our area.

Courtenay C. Corrigan is a Los Altos Hills resident.

Munchie’s Hot Melon Margaritas

(Recipe for a very small celebration)

• 2 ounces jalapeno-infused tequila

• 1 ounce Grand Marnier or Cointreau

• Juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 ounce)

• 2 ounces watermelon juice, pureed and strained

• A touch of simple syrup (optional) 

Pour all ingredients into shaker with ice and serve “up.” This recipe is equally delicious served over ice. You could even add a sugared rim or a fresh sprig of mint.