Cantaloupe & Fennel — Your New Favorite Summer Sip

A fresh cantaloupe drink to cool off with this summer.
A fresh cantaloupe drink to cool off with this summer.

Sometimes you feel like a tipsy drink. Sometimes you don’t.

“Just A Spritz” (Artisan), of which I received a review copy, hits the spot when you crave a festive, fun, and fizzy drink, but one that’s low- or no-alcohol.

The fun little book is by my friend and colleague, James Beard Award-winning food writer Danielle Centoni of Portland, OR.

It includes 57 recipes that range from classic to creative that are sure to sate a thirst.

A spritz is generally composed of a bitter liqueur, sparkling wine, and bubbly water, all over ice for a light, refreshing beverage.

Centoni includes recipes for a classic “Aperol Spritz” and “White Wine Spritzer,” as well as singular sips such as “Respect Your Elders” (made with St.-Germain elderflower liqueur and elderflower tonic), “Cynar-Berry” (a blend of unsweetened cranberry juice and Cynar), and “Figgy Pudding” (made with Bonal Gentiane-Quina Aperitif and fig jam).

There are few things I love more on a very hot day than very cold melon. So I had to give “Cantaloupe & Fennel” a try.

It’s a cinch to make. All you do is muddle fennel seeds together with fresh cantaloupe cubes, then strain into a wine glass filled with ice. If you use a cocktail shaker to muddle everything, you will want to switch to a fine-mesh strainer to strain the juice into the glass rather than rely on the strainer cap at the top of the shaker, which will cause you to end up with fennel seeds in your glass. I added that to the recipe below.

Add a little lime juice and simple syrup to the glass, before topping off with a splash of tonic water. Garnish with cantaloupe balls and a frilly fennel frond to give it real style.

The drink goes down so easily, full of sweet-musky melon taste with just a touch of anise to give it depth. If you’re not a fan of licorice, don’t worry, as the fennel seeds add only a very subtle note of it. The drink is reminiscent of agua fresca but with greater dimension.

It’s quenching as can be, and everything you want in a summer drink — just minus the alcohol.

So fruity-fresh tasting -- and with no alcohol.
So fruity-fresh tasting — and with no alcohol.

Cantaloupe & Fennel

(Serves 1)

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 cup (about 4 ounces) cubed ripe cantaloupe

1/2 ounce fresh lime juice

1/2 ounce simple syrup (see Note)

2 to 3 ounces tonic water, chilled

1 to 3 cantaloupe balls, for garnish

Fennel frond, for garnish

In a mixing glass or cocktail shaker, muddle the fennel seeds to bruise them. Add the cantaloupe and muddle until the fruit is fully mashed. Fill a wineglass three-quarters full with ice. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain the cantaloupe mixture over the ice, pressing on the solids to extract the liquid. Add the lime juice and simple syrup and top with tonic water (use lesser amount for a fruitier flavor, the large amount for more bitter notes.) Gently stir to combine.

Float the cantaloupe balls on top. Garnish with the fennel frond.

Note: Simple syrup consists of just equal parts water and granulated sugar. To make 1/2 ounce for this recipe, stir together 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small microwavable bowl. Heat in microwave for a few seconds until sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool before using.

Adapted from “Just A Spritz” by Danielle Centoni

More Cantaloupe Recipes to Enjoy: Cantaloupe Cake

And: Broiled Cantaloupe with Hand-Stretched Mozzarella Curds and Proscuitto

More Recipes from Danielle Centoni’s Cookbooks: Banh Mi Fried Rice

And: Aebleskiver with Lemon Curd

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