The base of this cocktail is the summer melon pictured above. I actually bought this little guy based solely on a photo I saw online. One great thing about living in a major city like Los Angeles is the sheer number of delivery services available to us. Did you guys see the Booze News where I mentioned you can get booze delivered by underwear models? Yeah, that’s a thing here. But not everything is pointless like that. We have so many farmer’s markets in all corners of the city that one would just assume that on every given day you could drive or bike or walk over to one of them, get your produce for the week and carry on. Somehow that just wasn’t working out for me. Work, unfortunately, was becoming a 7 day a week affair and breaking to get fresh, local produce was suddenly becoming a far away dream.
In the past, we’ve used a few of the CSA delivery services. Which, for the most part are awesome and ensures we get fresh, local produce thrown at us every week. The problem was: it wasn’t always what we wanted to work with, or quantities were just wrong. For example, how the hell does one lemon suffice for a whole week? Answer: it doesn’t.
About a month ago we tried out a new service that combined both CSA boxes, single produce items and dairy and pantry staples. Pretty much like a virtual farmer’s market. With free delivery. That melon sat on the page, looking delicious and so more appealing than a regular cantaloupe (even if it was just, well, a cantaloupe). So I impulse bought it. In fact, I impulsively added a whole bunch of stuff into my cart. And then I saw the price. And then I slowly decided what to put back. I mean, part of being able to pick exactly what you want is also so that you’re not wasting food; I absolutely hate throwing anything uneaten in the trash.
This post is in no way sponsored by this delivery service, which if you’re interested you can check out Good Eggs yourself. They have no idea how much time and effort they are saving me. I’m just admitting to you all how sometimes in life I like to throw money at my problems to try and make them go away. Eating local and seasonal seems like a reasonable cause to throw money at. That cilantro up there also came from them.
OK, so let’s get to the cocktail.
There are a few components to this that are make ahead. You know how I love my projects! It’s probably why I can’t make it out to the farmer’s market. The first is that the melon gets steeped in gin for a few days; it’s so worth it. Next, cilantro gets chopped up and mixed into a simple syrup. Then everything is combined with some Dolin Blanc, lime juice and cayenne pepper. This whole concoction was really based on the fruit cart vendors I see all over Los Angeles. Another food item I used to impulsively buy until I learned just how simple it was to make at home.
For the Melon-Infused Gin:
1 cup London Dry gin, such as Ford’s
1 cup chopped skinned and seeded cantaloupe (about 1/2 melon)
Combine gin and cantaloupe in an airtight container; cantaloupe should be completely covered with gin. Let stand at room temperature for 3 days. Strain into a clean bottle. Refrigerate up to 6 months.
For the Cilantro Simple Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup finely minced cilantro leaves and stems
Combine water with sugar in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Add cilantro and let stand for 1 hour. Strain out cilantro. Cool before using. Simple syrup will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
For the Cocktail:
2 ounces Melon-Infused Gin
3/4 ounce Cilantro Simple Syrup
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice from 1 lime
1/2 ounce Dolin Blanc vermouth
Pinch cayenne pepper, plus more for garnish
Melon slice, for garnish
Combine melon-infused gin, cilantro simple syrup, lime, vermouth, and pinch cayenne pepper in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake until well chilled, about 25 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a melon slice sprinkled with additional cayenne and serve immediately.
A strong juniper palate, along with the herbal and citrus hints found in a London Dry gin style work really well to balance the sweetness of a melon like cantaloupe. Adding the element of grassy cilantro into the mix here gives the whole drink a touch more savoriness. A generous squeeze of lime juice and a big pinch of cayenne transforms the base into a juicy, fruity, spicy cocktail.