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This Melon Cocktail Will Elevate Your Summer Drinking Game

cocktail_column_08.07_slide_annaIllustrated by Anna Sudit.
Ah, the vodka mixer: It's light. It's easy. It got you through many a weekend in college. But, it's not a drink that feels entirely sophisticated or at all inventive. Vodka and OJ, vodka and Coke, vodka and Red Bull: Drank it, downed it, regretted it. Bored.
Reviving this effectively flavorless spirit, of course, relies on finding new potables to mix it with. And, what's fresher — and more refreshing — than melon in the summertime? For a quick-and-easy cocktail perfect for this sipping season, try the Painted Ladies, courtesy of San Francisco's Trick Dog.
The formula here is easy: vodka, cantaloupe soda, lime juice, and a touch of mint. That's it.
The star in this drink is the soda, which is made with five ingredients — six, if you also count time. Because, yes, this will require some waiting, but that's really the hardest part. This recipe is also refreshingly affordable: For the approximately $1 you'll pay for a melon, you can make about six cocktails' worth of soda. That's less than you'd drop for a bottle of Coke. Plus, you know (and can pronounce) every ingredient in this fizzy libation.
Not feeling boozy? This soda is equally refreshing without the liquor. If you're going alcohol-free, though, I suggest adding a touch more seltzer (or water) to cut the sweetness. That's the beauty of this recipe: It's customizable to your taste, so there's really no wrong way to do it. Really, the only mistake you can make here is to not try this drink.
Painted Ladies
2 oz vodka
3/4 oz lime juice
Melon soda (recipe below)
Mint (for garnish)
Add vodka and lime juice to highball glass. Top with soda and add mint for garnish.
Melon Soda
Yield: About 2 cups
1 lb cantaloupe (or similarly textured melon)
5 oz sugar
5 oz honey
Water or seltzer
1. Cut cantaloupe into roughly one-inch pieces.
2. In a large bowl, mix cantaloupe, honey, and sugar. Let sit, refrigerated, for two days.
3. After two days, the sugar will draw juice out of the melon to create a syrup. Give this mixture a good stir to get the residual sugar, and strain out the cantaloupe pieces.
4. *If you're using a SodaStream or similar device, mix 2 parts water with 1 part syrup.
5. *Steep with a handful of mint (to taste) at room temperature. Strain again.
6. *Charge the full mix to create your finished soda.
*Note: If you do not have a SodaStream or siphon, simply mix 2 parts soda or seltzer water with 1 part syrup. Skip the steeping, and muddle mint in your glass.