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Fiery Cantaloupe & Habanero Agua Fresca

I know things have been pretty drink-heavy around here, what with all the fruity margaritas, classic gin and tonics, and homemade limoncello gracing these pages. What can I say, summer’s bounty makes me want to muddle and steep and drink all the things.

And this drink is no exception: it’s like sipping on a glass of liquid summertime, despite the fact that it looks more like Harry Potter’s favorite pumpkin juice. But trust me, this fiery agua fresca is light and invigorating and way more summery than the photo might imply. I should have put it on a sundress background instead of that distressed wood (what is it they say about hindsight again?)

I for one am holding on to summer, desperately clinging to the last of the fruit and fresh herbs and evening light (which is admittedly hard to enjoy with all this dang humidity). I’m definitely not one of those bloggers who dives head first in to a vat of pumpkin come September. Nope, that stuff will have to wait until at least October, I say.

Spicy Habanero Cantaloupe Agua Fresca

This stunning orange libation may be non alcoholic, but that’s not to say it’s for the faint of heart: the fiery kick will knock you off your feet almost as quick as if it were spiked. I will note, however, that Taylor didn’t waste any time adding a shot of tequila to his glass (a double kick, if you will).

So get yon arse to the farmer’s market and load your totes with fragrant ripe melons and the last few pecks of summer’s peppers (the best kind, in my opinion… their heat intensified by the late summer sun.) They won’t be around much longer.

Fiery Habañero Cantaloupe Agua Fresca

I found the balance of sweet and spicy to be just perfect. You taste the pepper, feel it just a smidge at the back of your tongue, but the cooling prowess of the cantaloupe and lime is enough to still leave you feeling refreshed. You can certainly adjust to taste, using whatever quantity of habanero sugar syrup tastes the best to you. I would not suggest substituting a less spicy pepper in this case, as you’d need to add far more sugar syrup than necessary to even taste it. That’s why habaneros, with their concentrated heat, are perfect here. Trust me.

Just, um, wash your hands really well after handling the little devils. Or better yet, wear gloves. I speak from experience on this one.

Spicy Habanero Cantaloupe Agua Fresca

As for the leftover habanero syrup, well… I’m sure you’ll find a good use for it.

Fiery Cantaloupe Agua Fresca

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 habanero pepper, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh cantaloupe (about 1/2 a melon)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (from about 2 limes)

Directions:

  1. To prepare sugar syrup, combine sugar with 1 cup filtered water in a saucepan set over medium heat. Add habanero pieces and bring to a boil. Let bubble for 1 full minute then remove from heat; cover and set aside until cooled to lukewarm (about 20 mintues, or you can also make the syrup ahead of time if you want, just refrigerate until ready to use). Before using, pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove pepper pieces.
  2. Place chunks of melon in a blender along with 3 cups of filtered water and lime juice. Blend until smooth. Optional: if a smoother texture is desired, strain blended melon through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth.
  3. Stir in cooled sugar syrup to taste, 1/4 cup at a time. I found about 1 cup of syrup was the perfect amount of sweetness and heat, but depending on the heat of your pepper you may want more or less. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
All images and text © Lindsay Landis /

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