Chef Graham Elliot Puts a Modern Spin on Summer Classics with Mike’s Hard Lemonade

Do American classics really need to be reinvented? Probably not, but who wouldn’t want to try a new recipe from a MasterChef judge?

Graham Elliot has partnered with Mike’s Hard Lemonade to create a few new recipes that are Reinvented American Classics. Each are paired with one or more drinks from Mike’s Flavors of America summer pack.

Mike's Flavors of America
Mike’s Flavors of America Party Pack

The recipe that caught my eye was Graham’s ‘Grilled Chicken with Watermelon Salsa‘, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Chicken has always been a staple for my summer barbecues and I just so happened to be having one last week to celebrate my birthday. Many of my friends are what you might call foodies, so they can be pretty hard to impress. But since it was my birthday celebration, I figured why not try Graham’s take on the American Classic and see what friend’s thought.

Spoiler Alert: It was a major success! Everything complimented one another, especially the Mike’s Hard Apple Ale, which I made sure everyone had their very own can in front of them.

Mike's Hard Apple Ale Flavors of America Party Pack

Mike's Hard Apple Ale Flavors of America Party Pack

Mike's Hard Apple Ale Flavors of America Party Pack

“This dish is perfect to serve to company. Mike’s Hard Apple Ale brings out the smoky char of the grilled chicken and complements both the bright pop of the watermelon and saltiness of the salsa. The result? Summertime magic.” — Graham Elliot

I did have to tweak a few of the ingredients myself due to a food allergy I have. Sorry, MasterChef! Don’t worry, it was just two spices!

You can find the original recipe for Graham’s Grilled Chicken with Watermelon Salsa over on TastingTable.


For the Chicken:

  • 1 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac (optional; see note)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 whole chickens (about 2½ to 3 pounds each), backbones removed

For the Watermelon Salsa:

  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 cups diced watermelon
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 medium cucumber, diced
  • ½ cup chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed if desired
  • ½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  1. Make the chicken: In a spice grinder, grind the paprika, sumac, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, poppy seeds and crushed red pepper flakes. Pulse until finely ground and set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine the yogurt, garlic, herbs, honey, lemon zest and spice mix. Season with salt and purée until smooth.
  3. Lay the chicken in a glass or ceramic dish large enough to hold them in a single layer, or place each one in a large resealable plastic bag. Cover them with the yogurt marinade, turning them to coat thoroughly, and chill for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.
  4. Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling so that the heat is medium high.
  5. Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting the excess drip back into the dish or plastic bag.
  6. Place the chicken, skin-side up on the grill, and cook, covered, until cooked through and lightly charred, 30 to 40 minutes. Using tongs, flip the chicken over. Continue to cook, covered, until the skin is crisp and lightly charred, another 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, make the watermelon salsa: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, olive oil and honey.
  8. Add the watermelon, onions, cucumber, olives, jalapeño, parsley, cilantro, mint, lime juice and zest. Season with salt and gently toss.
  9. Top the chicken with the watermelon salsa and serve.

Graham Elliot’s GrahamBurger

Another personal favorite recipe of mine from Graham Elliot is the GrahamBurger he made specially for his partnership with Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Mike’s Flavors of America. He throws out the American cheese and introduces some brie into the mix. “Mike’s Hard Lemonade giving that beautiful effervescence, that acidity, that cuts threw the brie, the richness of the burger,” says Elliot

This post was graciously sponsored by Mike’s Hard Lemonade. All opinions are my own.