Aguas Frescas

by Matt on February 23, 2009

aguas-frescas-blog

Can I pleeeeeeeeeease meet the man or woman who invented Agua Fresca? I’ve got a hug, a kiss, a handshake and a future newborn that I’d like to name after them. I’m serious.

Ok, so perhaps I’ll never meet the person who decided to add fresh chunks of fruit to water and ice. I realize this drink has been made for generations, served in restaurants and on the streets throughout Mexico. And in case you haven’t tried an Agua Fresca it’s perhaps the perfect drink. It’s the antithesis of the cloyingly sweet, syrupy fruit drink. It’s light and refreshing with just enough sweetness to keep you interested. And I happen to think they just taste better as the ice has melted in the glass and diluted the drink just a wee bit more. You’ll see them in taquerias all over the place, usually in big glass jars with that unmistakable gorgeous pink or green color, depending on the variety served up that day.

We’ve been running around East Los Angeles quite a bit lately and our taco and mole journeys inspired us to come up with a few aguas frescas ourselves. The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any fruit you have on hand, adjusting the sweetness and intensity to your liking. Remember that it’s not supposed to be a powerful, fruity drink but a refreshing, thirst-quenching sip. I can’t wait for summer to roll around as I think they’ll be perfect with the sweet and smoky flavors of barbecued meats and summer salads. I love the contrast that aguas frescas bring to a meal.

Pineapple Ginger Agua Fresca
It’s so interesting to me how pineapple and ginger become light and delicate without losing their flare when diluted with plenty of ice and water. This is a gorgeous drink and perhaps my favorite. These drinks are made in two parts: simple syrup and then blended fruit.

Ginger Simple Syrup
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 pieces of fresh ginger cut into coins

Bring water and sugar to a boil and then add the pieces of ginger. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain and discard the ginger.

For the Drink:
4 cups fresh pineapple with 2-4 cups of water to blend
8-10 cups of water

Puree the fruit and water in batches and then strain to remove any seeds or pulp. You can use a fine sieve or cheesecloth and you’ll want to get as much solids out of the liquid. Add the simple syrup to the strained liquid and then dilute with 8 to 10 cups of water. At this point you can adjust the sugar and water levels to your liking. Serve over plenty of ice and enjoy immediately.

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Cucumber Lemongrass Agua Fresca
Ah, my heart be still! This is a beautiful flavor and elegance in a glass. I love the color and freshness of these flavors together. Again, you’ll be doing this in two parts: a lemongrass simple syrup and pureed cucumbers.

Lemongrass Simple Syrup
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
4 pieces of lemongrass, smashed and chopped

I use a wooden rolling pin to beat and smash the lemongrass. Bring the water and sugar to a boil and then add the pieces of lemongrass. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain and discard the lemongrass.

For the Drink:
4 cups of chopped english cucumbers (skin on) with 2-4 cups of water to blend
8-10 cups of water
1/4–1/2 cup fresh lime, to taste
pinch of salt

Puree the fruit and water in batches and then strain to remove any seeds or pulp. You can use a fine sieve or cheesecloth and you’ll want to get as much solids out of the liquid. Add the simple syrup to the strained liquid and then dilute with 8 to 10 cups of water. At this point you can adjust the sugar and water levels to your liking. Serve over plenty of ice and enjoy immediately.

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Strawberry Thyme Agua Fresca
I love strawberry anything and the thyme gives it an herby note that adds character. It’s delicious.

Thyme Simple Syrup
1/2 cup loosely packed thyme sprigs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 water

Bring the water and sugar to a boil and then add the thyme. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain and remove the thyme.

For the Drink:
4 cups of fresh or frozen strawberries with 2-4 cups of water to blend
8-10 cups of water

Puree the fruit and water in batches and then strain to remove any seeds or pulp. You can use a fine sieve or cheesecloth and you’ll want to get as much solids out of the liquid. Add the simple syrup to the strained liquid and then dilute with 8 to 10 cups of water. At this point you can adjust the sugar and water levels to your liking. Serve over plenty of ice and enjoy immediately.