For those of us who grew up in Baltimore, cantaloupe brings back memories of the a-rabs walking down the street with their horse-drawn carts bellowing in that wonderful sing-song cadence to come out for fruit.
Going out with my mother to buy fruit (and to water and pet the horse) was always a treat, especially knowing that we'd come home with a cantaloupe. My mother liked it plain with a little salt "to bring out the sweetness," and it was my introduction to the beautiful interplay between sweet and savory. These days I get my melons from the farmers' markets around town, and while I don't get a serenaded by the people in their food stalls, I do get a much more flavorful cantaloupe.
That flavor shines in this delicious drink that sings of the last days of summer. It's musky and fruity with a thyme-infused-honey kick to get your taste buds ready for the more herbaceous fall to come. The sparkling wine is there to give it lift and a little bite, while the citrus juices keep the drink summery. Be sure to pour the sparkling wine first, then the cantaloupe puree. It will bubble over more easily the other way around. You can use seltzer instead of sparkling wine for the abstinent version.
Cantaloupe and thyme honey sparkler
Makes multiple drinks, depending on the glass size.
For cantaloupe puree:
3 pounds cantaloupe, peeled and cut into medium sized chunks
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup thyme-infused honey
1 pinch of salt
Sparkling wine (you can also use champagne or prosecco)
For thyme-infused honey:
1 cup honey
1 bunch (20 sprigs) thyme
To make the honey infusion, combine honey and thyme in a small pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let the thyme steep in the honey for 20 minutes. Strain the honey. Use immediately.
Then place the cantaloupe, lime juice, lemon juice, infused honey and salt into a blender. Blend until smooth. Strain if your blender did not completely liquefy the ingredients.
To make the drink, mix 1 part sparkling wine with 2 parts puree.
Tip: Use the cantaloupe puree to make a great granita. Put the puree into a shallow container and place into the freezer. Stir every 30 minutes until the slush starts to harden. With a metal fork or knife, scrape the frozen slush into a light and airy snow that should be served in a cold bowl and eaten immediately