Melon And Port Is The Simple Vintage Dessert To Impress Your Dinner Guests

Whether you're looking to serve a fresh dish alongside a pre-dinner aperitivo or are looking for a flavorful refreshment to present as dessert, melon and port might be exactly the dish you have been searching for. This punchy recipe has been around for centuries for good reason, and the boozy combination is the ideal companion for summer dinner parties and backyard barbecues.

With different recipes and presentations to choose from, the pairing of melon and port can be adjusted for any event you're hosting, and the variations of this easy-to-prepare coupling can keep guests satisfied. Not only will you be able to offer an aesthetically pleasing dish, but the simple mix can be put together quickly so you'll have more time to enjoy the party's festivities — and the timeless treat — for yourself. After the first bite, you may be wondering how something so delicious could be the invention of 18th-century monastics.

The evolution of melon and port

Spanish popes and monks in the 18th century first started slicing melon grown in the courtyards of their churches and collected from in and around the central regions of Italy, and while the gourd is sweet enough on its own, the ascetics discovered that these fleshy orbs were better when split in half, hollowed, and filled with port to drink. 

Though the origins of serving fortified wine from carved-out melons have been attributed to clergymen, Italians prompted a resurgence of this treat in the 1980s. Thankfully, the combination of port and melon transcended the walls of the church and reached the mouths of plebians across the globe, and variations of melon and port have accompanied cheese plates and have stood alone as a spotlighted dessert dish. While smaller melons can be similarly sliced and filled with port, chefs around the world have taken the recipe to new heights with cubed and diced fruit, caramel-enhanced sauces, and mixed cocktails borrowing the same flavors of the juicy, punchy combination.

Serving port and melon at home

When served with port, the melon's sweetness is highlighted, and the combination of the two ingredients makes for a simple, refreshing treat that doesn't take much to prepare and master. Ideally, choose a Charentais melon to cut, though cantaloupe can also be used. Larger melons are best sliced, diced, or balled instead of filling a halved gourd with booze. While ruby port is most commonly paired with the melon, cognac or brandy can be swapped as a substitute. 

Depending on the desired taste of your dish, flaky salt can balance out any overpowering sweetness, dark chocolate can bring a bittersweet depth to the dish, and mint leaves can be a refreshing garnish to finalize the presentation. Experiment with adding strips of crystallized ginger or ground black pepper to build unique tasting notes in the dish, or use the port to make a dressing with olive oil and lemon juice for guests to garnish bowls of cut melon as they so choose. 

If you find that this combination of flavors goes down well with the attendees at your event, a similar flavor profile can be made into cocktail form, with melon, vodka, dry white port, and tawny port shaken with ice and served strained into a cold glass. Consider yourself warned: Your dinner parties may never be the same.