Watermelon-Basil Sweet Tea


Homemade watermelon syrup gives this sweet tea a summery freshness.

Southern Living Watermelon-Basil Sweet Tea in a pitcher to serve with other drinks beside

Victor Protasio, Food Stylist: Ruth Blackburn, Prop Stylist: Shell Royster

Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 40 mins

Summer is synonymous with watermelon. Refreshing and thirst quenching, it’s the perfect sweet addition to any summer drink, especially when you turn it into a versatile Watermelon Simple Syrup.

While watermelon cocktails are an obvious way to put the syrup to use, it also makes a great sweetener in non-alcoholic drinks, like this sweet tea. Even if you’re a tea purist, we think you’ll enjoy the fruity notes watermelon can add to one of the South’s favorite drinks.

To enhance the tea’s floral flavor we also added fresh and fragrant basil, but you can use fresh mint for a more traditional flavor combination, if you like.


  • 2 family-size tea bags

  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves (from 1 [0.5 oz.] pkg.)

  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda

  • 5 1/2 cups water, divided

  • 3/4 cup Watermelon Simple Syrup, plus more if needed

  • Basil sprigs

  • Watermelon slices


  1. Place tea bags, basil leaves, and baking soda in a large glass jar or pitcher.

  2. Bring 4 cups of the water to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan over high; immediately pour over tea bags and basil, making sure bags and leaves are submerged. Steep for 15 minutes. Remove basil and bags, gently squeezing them using kitchen tongs; discard bags and basil.

  3. Stir in Watermelon Simple Syrup and remaining 1 1/2 cups water; add more simple syrup to taste, if desired.

  4. Chill, uncovered, until cold, about 1 to 2 hours. Serve over ice; garnish each serving with basil sprigs and watermelon slices. Store, covered, in refrigerator up to 2 days.

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