Aguas Frescas

Aguas Frescas

Beat the summer heat with these refreshing and healthy Mexican fruit drinks.

Soft drinks are a main culprit in the rise of obesity and a major contributor to the plastic waste in our world, so we should be concerned about our intake of these drinks. Some soft drinks in Mexico contain real cane sugar instead of the usual corn syrup. That’s why they taste much better here than elsewhere. And most juices and soft drinks are sold in plastic bottles, which eventually turn up on the side of the road, clogging our water drains, floating in our bay and crowding our landfills. Now, the obvious answer is not to buy bottled juice or soft drinks, therefore reducing sugar intake (along with chemical additives) and plastic waste. Just remember there are approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar in one can of soda and only 10 percent of the plastic bottles in the world are recycled.

If you crave sweet refreshment, it’s never too late to begin making the right choices. Instead of filling your fridge with bottles of soda or fruit-flavored drinks, try making a pitcher of aguas frescas.

Aguas frescas literally means fresh waters, basically they are just that, icy cold water with fresh ingredients for flavor.  They are very popular all over Mexico. These refreshing beverages are typically served from large vitroleros (barrel-shaped glass or plastic containers) in restaurants, storefronts, juice stands, ice cream shops, and riding around on those adult- size tricycles with cargo space in front. These fresh fruit waters are so simple to make and good for you. And if you make them at home you control the amount of sugar and no plastic bottle to throw away.

Some aguas are made from any combination of fruits or herbs, water and sugar, and always served icy cold. Most of them require little sweetener per serving, since most are made with fruit that is naturally sweet. Pick your favorite fruit, grab a blender, some water and a sweetener and it’s easy. Add fresh squeezed lime to cut the sweet a little or add some sour (it’s perfect with cucumber and melon or can be used alone to make a delicious limeade).

Dried hibiscus flowers are commonly used for agua de jamaica, by washing the leaves and then boiling them like a tea, strain, cool, add ice and sweetener. This drink contains calcium, and iron and antioxidants. It’s also delicious mixed half and half with iced tea.

Besides fruit and flowers you can also find agua de horchata (rice water sweetened and spiced, with a touch of evaporated milk) and agua de tamarindo (made from an acid-tasting pulp from the tamarind pod and has a flavor unto itself).

There’s so much to like about them: the different colors are amazing, but all natural and mildly flavored, they’ve got none of the syrupy sweetness of bottled fruit juices, and they refresh the palate a lot like sorbet, providing a perfect balance to the spiciness of Mexican foods. A good one will taste like you managed to liquefy a piece of fruit without altering it one bit, and a great one will make you forget, even temporarily, exactly how hot it really is in paradise!

Making fruit flavored aguas is pretty simple… all you need is fruit, water and sugar.
  1. Pick your favorite fruit or what is in season, peel (if necessary) and cut into chunks.
  2. In a blender, fill half way with fruit.
  3. Add just enough water to cover the fruit.
  4. Blend on high until liquid.
  5. Strain to remove seeds and pulp.
  6. If necessary add more water, sugar to sweeten to taste, and if you like sour add some fresh lime juice.
  7. Chill or add ice and you’re done!

Now if you don’t have a blender simply mash the fruit, mix with water in a container with tightly sealed lid and shake vigorously. Proceed with steps 5, 6 and7.