We all know summer is a time for fruity cocktails – strawberry daiquiris, pineapple rum, and sweet peach shooters are everywhere.
Watermelons might be the most quintessential summer fruit here in the USA – but what about the other melons? Here’s a quick melon roundup for cocktail inspiration this summer.
First things first – the iconic watermelon. Its whimsical size and flashy green stripes open up to a bright, sweet, refreshing pulp. These melons are grown in backyards all over the world – their popularity hasn’t wavered for years. Watermelon is juicier and crisper than other melons, and its large size makes it perfect for gatherings.
Watermelon has many cultivars, but cucamelon, also know as Mouse Melon, is definitely the most adorable. At about the same size as a grape, these little melons taste like citrusy sour cucumber.
In Japan, some farms grow their watermelons inside metal cages, forcing the fruit to grow square instead of oval. This makes them easier to transport, store, and slice, but the labor involved makes them significantly more expensive.
Another melon we’re all familiar with is the cantaloupe. Cantaloupe has sweet, custardy, orange flesh and taste like mild stonefruit. One reason cantaloupe gets a bad rap is that it often finds its way into cheap, out-of-season fruit salads. Like all fruit, it’s best when it’s in season and fresh.
You can tell a melon is ripe and ready to eat by the way it looks, smells, and feels. The rind should have a uniform color or pattern, without pale or green areas at the stem or the bottom. When you smell the bottom of ripe melon, you’ll notice a subtle, fresh sweetness. It should also feel heavy for its size – pick the heavier one!
European cantaloupe has green skin with white stripes, while North American cantaloupe has brown, ribbed skin. Japanese Yubari King cantaloupes are carefully grown in greenhouses and prized for their extra-sweet juice – they sell for $20,000!
Cantaloupe’s rich flavor works well with savory pairings – try it with mezcal or black pepper.
Charentias melons are a small french heirloom melon prized for their sweet flavor and sublime aroma. Known by some as “a better version on a cantaloupe,” Charentias are incorporated into cuisine and mixology with ease – think of it like a cantaloupe with more musky, sherry-vanilla flavor. If you’re using Charentia in a drink, let it be the star of the show.
Honeydew melons – the mild green ones – have a subtle sweetness and delicate honey & cucumber flavor. Use honeydew as a substitute for lychee or cucumber in a pinch, but be generous with it! This subtle melon can easily be upstaged by other ingredients.
Canary melons are a close relative of honeydew and they have bright – you guessed it – canary yellow skin. They have tangy, pear-like green flesh. Use canary melons with coconut for a lowkey colada, or treat them like you would a honeydew.
If you’re looking for lots of sweetness, you need a Honey Globe – another cultivar of honeydew. They’re expensive because they’re always in high demand in their native land of Southeast Asia. Honey Globes contain up to 20% sugar and taste like sweet tropical honey.
In the 1970s, scientists developed a cantaloupe-honeydew hybrid called the Galia melon. Galias have the exterior of cantaloupe and the interior of honeydew. Their flavor is more tropical than you’d expect, and they have a mild spiciness. Galias have strong aromatics, which means they pair well with herbal gins and amaros.
Casaba melons, named after the Turkish city Casaba, have thick orange skin and creamy green flesh. Across the Middle East, casaba is a popular ingredient in cold drinks, sorbets, and smoothies. They have a very mild flavor, similar to a cucumber. Try casaba with ginger, yogurt, mint, and lime for a super refreshing flavor combo.
Just like we pickle cucumbers in the US, many melons get pickled on the Asian continent. Try pickling watermelon rind to use as a crispy garnish or make spicy pickled cantaloupe for a mezcal margarita.
Using Melon in Drinks
To incorporate a melon into your next drink, the simplest thing to do is to muddle a few chunks in the bottom of your shaker before adding the rest of the ingredients and shaking. The high water content of melons gives you plenty of juice with this method.
Always add a dash of salt to melon cocktails – salt really helps amplify the delicate flavors of melons, and it brings out more sweetness.
For a pitcher full of sweet, fresh melon juice put melon chunks in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Strain out the pulp and you have juice that’s great on its own or in a cocktail.
Use all parts of the melon! Some melons, like honeydew, have edible seeds. Use seeds fresh or roasted as a garnish or snack. The rinds of melons can be incorporated into garnish art or used to infuse liquor with melon flavor.
No matter what melon speaks to you, these quirky fruits are a welcome addition to any menu or recipe.