In Mexico, healthful fruit-based aguas are preferred to sugary sodas. Every class at La Cocina begins with one of these unique drinks, served in thick blue-rimmed glasses. Serve your aguas over ice in short tumblers. Note that except for the Lime Agua Fresca, the sweetener is always optional—be sure to taste before adding.
Any fruit can be made into a delicious agua fresca: mango, papaya, pineapple, guava, or pink grapefruit. For best flavor, use fresh-squeezed juices. Freeze aguas frescas in ice cube trays and use instead of plain ice cubes for a burst of color and flavor that won’t dilute your drink. Add chopped mint or experiment with basil or lavender. Garnish with sliced fruit, flowers or cucumber sticks. Some flavor ideas to get you started are cranberry-lime, lemon with grenadine syrup, mango-lime, peach and berry, and strawberry with balsamic vinegar.
Cucumber Mint Agua Fresca
Makes 8 cups
This refreshingly different beverage is sure to become a favorite. Jesús sometimes purees a bit of fresh fennel with the cucumbers. Garnish, if you like, with a cucumber stick or a few mint leaves.
2 large cucumbers (about 1 ½ pounds), peeled and cut into large pieces
4 cups fresh unfiltered apple juice
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup mint leaves
6 tablespoons agave syrup (optional)
In a blender, puree the first 4 ingredients until smooth. Taste and add some or all of the syrup if you prefer a sweeter flavor.
Lime Agua Fresca
Makes 6 cups
This recipe offers a twist on a traditional favorite. Try it using fresh lemon juice and mint, or a combination of lime and orange. Garnish with a citrus slice in a contrasting color and a sprig of cilantro.
5 cups water
¾ cup lime juice
½ cup agave syrup, or to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro (optional)
Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend well. Taste and add more syrup, if needed.
Watermelon Agua Fresca
Makes 8 cups
Bright pink and naturally sweet, watermelon (sandia) agua fresca is hands-down the favorite in Mexico. The raspberries are an unusual addition. Garnish with a sprig of purple basil or a lavender flower.
1 ½ pounds seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 ½ cups frozen raspberries
1 cup fresh unfiltered apple juice
3 tablespoons agave syrup (optional)
In a food processor, puree the first 3 ingredients until smooth (you may need to do this in batches). Taste and add some or all of the syrup if you prefer a sweeter flavor.
Apple Agua Fresca
Makes 6 cups
This agua fresca has a bright, refreshing flavor. Garnish with thin slices of apple. For a less pulpy drink, peel the apples.
3 medium green apples, peels on, cored and chopped
2 cups water
1 cup apple juice
Juice of 3 limes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons agave syrup (optional)
In a blender, puree the first 5 ingredients until smooth. Taste and add some or all of the syrup if you prefer a sweeter flavor.
Paletas are Mexican popsicles—simply frozen fruit juice on a stick. Make yours from any of the agua fresca recipes here or puree fresh fruit with a little water, pour into molds, and freeze. Sweetener is optional. Use a single fruit or combine juices to create something new and intriguing. Try some of the exotic fruit juices sold in Asian and Latin markets. A squeeze of lime accentuates the sweetness of ripe fruit. Flavor as you would any agua fresca, with fresh mint or other herbs. Molds and sticks for paletas can be purchased at cookware stores.