It’s summertime, and finding ways to stay cool can be challenging. There are some refreshing and energizing drinks that will keep you cool while avoiding the high temperatures.
Agua Frescas (fresh or flavored water) are huge in the Southwest, Mexico, and Central America. Kinds of Agua Frescas include tamarind, hibiscus, horchata (rice), and different kinds of fruit, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, even cucumber and mint. Being a chef and knowing that sugar doesn’t dissolve well unless the water is warm, I wanted to instruct you to use simple syrup. During research for these recipes, I came across “infused” simple syrups. Basil, and Ginger infused simple syrups are the ones that caught my eye. I tested the ginger, and wow…can I say again use this in the Watermelon Agua Fresca. Exceptional.
Here’s some variation recipes to get you started. Experiment and see what you can come up with. The point is to obtain the flavor and color of the fruit without making a slushie or smoothie.
Here are the tools you’ll need for these recipes.
- Mixing spoon/whisk
- Measuring cups
Agua De Fruta
- 1/2 watermelon, peeled and seeds taken out (use seedless for less work)
- 6 cups water
- 1/2 cup sweetener (if using stevia, use less), or
- 1/2 cup ginger infused simple syrup
- Juice of 1 lime
Peel watermelon and discard seeds, if necessary. Blend 1 cup fruit to 2 cups water at a time. Strain mixture and pour into pitcher. Add sweetener, mix, chill and serve garnished with mint.
- 1 lb Tamarind pods or 1/2 block of *tamarind pulp
- Sweetener to your liking, or simple syrup
- 2-3 quarts water
Bring the water to a boil, place the tamarind pods and the sugar in the mixture. (if using simple syrup, omit this step). Remove from heat and let soak for 4-6 hours, or even overnight.
Remove the seed pod coverings, and with your hands mash up all that pulp. Get rid of the seeds, and then strain the rest of the pulp. Straining can be a two step process; Strain once, then again, with a coffee filter (you can use muslin) in your strainer. This removes the excess sediment if you want a clearer beverage.
Taste, add more sweetener if needed. Chill. Serve cold over ice, with spicy Tofu Chili Tacos, and rice and beans.
- 1 cup Hibiscus flowers
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup simple syrup
Rinse and drain the hibiscus flowers in a colander. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan. Add the hibiscus. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the flowers release their color.
Remove from heat. Let stand for 2-3 hours, then drain. Strain out the hibiscus, add simple syrup to the water, mix. Serve chilled to thirsty guests.
For further reading, here’s a great article about Agua Frescas from the LA Times.
Jamaica (Hibiscus) can be found next to the tamarind in the bulk food section of grocers like Pro’s Ranch Market, or Food City. If you don’t have a mexican grocer in your area, you can order Jamaica online.