Capture Summer in a Spicy Cantaloupe Cocktail


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

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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.


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.


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.