Spring came early in Austin. Our flowers are blooming, the sun in shining, and although still intermingled with of a few nippy days here and there, that Texas heat is beginning to creep in. It feels like agua fresca weather.
Aguas frescas are around year-round, but they’re especially apt to battling warm weather. Literally “fresh waters,” they are simply water and sugar (or some other form of sweetener) mixed with fresh pureed fruit or infused with other flavors.
Common on a menu of aguas frescas are watermelon, canteloupe, mango, lemonade, jamaica (pronounced ha-my-cah, not like the island, and made from brewed hibiscus flowers) and horchata, a spiced rice milk. You’ll find different varieties in different areas and according to whatever is fresh and available.
You can find bottles of concentrate for jamaica, horchata and tamarindo (made from tamarind pods) in specialty or Latino markets. Beware that while usually very tasty and convenient, these often have lots of sugar and contain preservatives. If you’d like to give them a try, I’d recommend finding a local joint that makes them fresh—taquerías and Mexican spots are good bets.
It’s also really simple to make your own, which allows you to tweak how much sweet you’re going for and customize your own flavors. One of the best glasses of jamaica I’ve ever had was served to me by Laura at Miel Luna Maya and sweetened with their own honey. I’d often try to get mine just right without any sweetener at all, which takes a bit of practice and makes less in the end, since you don’t add as much water.
Typically, the ratios for making aguas frescas are about one part fresh juiced fruit to two parts water, with sweetener to taste. The process is super simple:
Step 1: Puree your fruit
Step 2: Blend with sugar and water
Step 3: Strain out the pulp
Step 4: Serve cold or over ice
You can even skip the straining if you don’t mind pulp, which kicks up the nutritional value and fiber content of your agua. It also doesn’t hurt to let your pitcher sit for a bit to really get the flavors infused before you pour.
Aguas frescas are a great way to stay hydrated when the sun starts heating things up. Try making them out of any combination of fresh fruits you like and adding lemon, lime or fresh herbs. They look and taste great served with lots of fresh fruit on top.
Ready to give it a try? Get started now with today’s recipe for Pineapple Cucumber Agua Fresca, a combination I love from Taquería Arrandinas in Austin.
Originally published for PK4 Media.