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A spicy melon cocktail reminiscent of the Mexican street snack. [Photographs: Elana Lepkowski]

On the streets here in Los Angeles, carts filled with stacks of colorful cut fruit are a common sight. Before I moved west over a decade ago, I'd never seen this street-food snack: sliced fruit doused in lime juice and sprinkled heartily with chili powder. Of course, you can easily make this flavorful combination at home.

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The mixture of ripe, supple fruit, tart citrus juice, and spicy chili powder produces a surprisingly complex array of flavors that also works wonderfully in a cocktail. Melons are at their peak right now, and the best way to capture the sweet, slightly floral flavor of a cantaloupe for drinks to come is an easy jar-and-wait infusion. After you've strained the mix, it stays bright and fresh in the fridge for months: you'll be thanking me when all that's at the farmers market is a pile of potatoes.

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To balance the sweetness of the cantaloupe, a gin with a strong hit of juniper is essential, and a London Dry offers just that plus hints of herbs and citrus that are lovely with melon. I like to add a touch of cilantro to emphasize that herbal side: it amps up the savory character of the drink and keeps it from being one-dimensional.

A generous squeeze of lime juice and a big pinch of cayenne transforms the roadside snack into a juicy, fruity, spicy cocktail.

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