Melon Infused Vodka
Cantaloupe Infused Tito's Vodka
You might wonder, why bother to infuse vodka when you can get a plethora of "infused" vodkas straight from the shelf. Well, that Cherry Noir Grey Goose off the shelf has never seen a cherry, for one, and it tastes like nail polish for a nice kicker!
So what exactly is in that bottle of Cherry Noir Grey Goose? Try not to doze off but here's a bit of chemistry; you've got three compounds that make up the artificial cherry flavor; benzaldehyde (primary used as almond flavor), linalool (a floral, citrus flavor) and eugenol (essence of clove). The amounts used of those three compounds would determine whether you get a overly medicine taste (eugenol), a fruity taste (linalool) or a bitter taste (benzaldehyde).
OK, that's all well and good but why do these so called high class vodka's use artificial flavors? Well if they used actual cherries they would have to put an expiration date on it, much like all the unpasteurized craft beer that goes out of date in two months time. They also don't want to go through the time and effort involved in using real cherries and prefer the ease and consistency of using artificial flavors.
Well, enough about cherries, let's get back to melon! Now that we know we're going to use real melons, we're going to need two ripe cantaloupes. When dicing them up, make sure that you're generous and cut deep so none of the bitter rind is left on the slices.
Now, you're left to choose the vodka. Don't go wasting money on Kettle One or any other vodka with a bloated price tag. Instead go for a reasonably cheap, yet decent, vodka like Tito's or Smirnoff... either will do just fine. I also add some sugar. Although there is a reasonable amount in the cantaloupe, it's not really enough to overpower the bitterness of the vodka. This extra dose of sugar will do wonders in letting those fresh, fruity flavors shine through. I add one and a half cups of plain white sugar and then dump in two, one liter bottles of Tito's.
Time to let it sit for three to four days, making sure you give it a good stir every day. What's happening in these magical days is hydrolysis and osmosis. If you can bear some more science, the reactive hydroxyl (-OH) group within the alcohol will interact with the cell wall and membrane which will cause an increase in porosity. With larger holes in addition to the steep concentration gradient, the water within the cantaloupe, along with all the tasty aromatic compounds found there, will diffuse into the surrounding alcohol. The longer you leave it, the greater the chance that the larger molecules will move along with the water. Although some of these compounds are flavorful, you need to be careful as the really large, soluble fiber molecules (pectin) can get into the alcohol and those suckers tend to taste very nasty and bitter. With that being said, don't just leave the cantaloupe in there and forget about it or your batch will be bitter!
After three to four days you should have a liquid with a translucent, yellow hue. You can then filter away the tidbits of melon with a cheese cloth, bottle it up, and leave it to age for a month or longer if you can muster the restraint.
Now for the tasting; do this weekly, testing for improvement. Once you arrive at a week where the flavor has plateaued, you're ready to serve it up. Try it straight up over ice or in a cocktail. Here at the Bullpen Rib House, we mix it with a splash of pineapple juice and a squeeze of fresh lime for our infamous, Melon Madness cocktail.