Pick your favorite fruit or color and chances are there is a refreshing agua fresca to match. Pink, yellow, orange, red, white -- a rainbow of glass jugs filled with sweet, icy, thirst-quenching beverages. And they are easy to make.
Stay away from those seemingly handy instant agua fresca envelopes: They are far too sweet, plagued with artificial ingredients, and as making fresh fruit water is no more complex than your average Hulk-green kale juice, completely unnecessary.
These recipes call for simple syrup as a way to make sweetening the beverage evenly easier, without crunchy sugar sediments. I use Zulka brand sugar exclusively in my recipes, a certified non-GMO sugar from Mexico, with a slight golden tone to it, as it is not as stripped of its natural molasses as an American white sugar. A simple syrup made with this sugar will have a beautiful light amber tone. (A simple syrup is as easy to make as the name implies: bring one part water and one part sugar to a boil in a saucepan. Stir for three minutes; the longer you leave it on the heat, the thicker it will become.)
1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice 1 cup simple syrup 8 cup cold water
2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice 1/2 simple syrup 1 1/2 cups cold water
The importance of a sturdy citrus press for these two cannot be stated enough. Buy one that is large enough to easily accommodate large limes or orange quarters. Just press, measure and mix. No need to strain.
Tuna / Prickly pear:
10 red prickly pears 1 lime 1/3 - 1/2 cup simple syrup 8 cups water
A note on working with prickly pears: even with mayor visible thorns removed, prickly pears may still have nearly invisible thorns attached. It is best to hold them from the top and the bottom, where thorns are not usually present.
Peel the prickly pears, place in a blender and puree until very smooth. The puree may be passed through a large sieve strainer to remove the seeds. Add the juice of one lime, 8 cups water, and sweeten to taste, keeping in mind that they are naturally very sweet. Jamaica / hibiscus:
2 cups dried hibiscus flowers 6 cups water 3/4 cup sugar
Rinse the flowers with cold water. Remove any excess moisture, and place in a saucepan with the 6 cups of water, bring to boil and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, adding the sugar in the last two minutes to dissolve. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing lightly with a spoon to extract the liquid. Allow to cool completely. For a variation, add two or three thin slices of fresh ginger while simmering.
Agua de Mango
4 large ripe mangoes (approximately 2 cups of puree) 8 cups cold water 1/4 cup simple syrup
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Peel and roughly chop the mangoes. Place in a blender and puree until smooth, adding enough water to keep the blades moving. As the sweetness of mangoes varies greatly, taste the puree before adding any of the syrup. Sweeten to taste and add water. Use this recipe as a general guideline to create other refreshing and colorful fruit aguas frescas, such as pineapple and strawberry.
Serve any of these beverages over a tall glass of ice, and replace the water with soda water for a fizzy drink. Might as well replace some of that soda water with tequila while you are at it. The vitamins in the fruit still make this a health drink.
As proprietor of Muñeca Mexicana handcrafted food, Minerva Orduno Rincon makes everything from mole poblano to goat milk caramel to spiced (not spicy) cocoa. Find her at a farmers market near you.