Aguas Frescas

It’s kind of cold outside but I am thinking of summer and everything that is sunny and bright.  On a day when I should be thinking longingly of hot chocolate, I am imagining the rows of big glass jars with ladles filled with a rainbow of colored liquids and ice.  Aguas frescas or fresh waters translated into English. Fresh waters.  Tamarindo, chia, horchata, jaimaica, agua de melon, sandia, lima, limonada, fresa, pina…the list goes on and on.
We didn’t drink Kool-aid, Hawaiian punch or soda.  We drank aguas frescas in the summer and they were all so good and refreshing.  On hot summer days the icy taste of an agua made with cucumbers quenched my thirst like nothing else and I still make that agua whenever I get a chance, along with a variety of others.  Many have medicinal purposes as well as being thirst quenchers.

I know that if you’re an Aztec dancer like I am, there is nothing better to drink after a long five mile parade in the sun than jamaica, that dark red drink made from hibiscus flowers.  It hydrates, keeps the headaches away and gives you just enough energy to get through the next couple of hours of dancing.  Water’s great but jamaica kicks it up a notch.  Stomach troubles?  Then how about some agua de chia, a water made with lemon juice, sugar and the seeds of the chia that most Americans know as the thing on Chia pets.  We soak the seeds, then mix with water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, sugar and ice to make a restorative drink that will help your digestion.

Some of our aguas are made with milk too so go figure.  We still call them aguas.  If grains or nuts are pulverized and mixed in, then it becomes an horchata.  We make aguas of fruit, vegetables, herbs, nuts, flowers, grains, seeds and leaves.  They are all excellent and so much more than the usual trinity of tamarindo, horchata de arroz (most just call it horchata) and jamaica.
Here are a few of my favorite aguas frescas recipes for your enjoyment.  Imagine each sitting and sparkling in a heavy glass jar filled with ice, an old metal ladle and sunshine bouncing off the glass on a brilliant summer day.   Come explore!  On all the aguas, make sure you stir before each serving as the pulp tends to go to the bottom and the drink will lose it’s full flavor.

Buen provecho!

Agua de Tamarindo - Tamarind Water

Agua de tamarindo is my personal all-time favorite and while it requires a little work, it’s worth every squishy minute of it.  The taste is sweet-sour and oh so refreshing.

6-8 tamarind pods
Water to boil tamarindo in
8 cups Water
Sugar to taste (bout 1/2 cup)
Ice

In a saucepan, boil the tamarind pods on a low heat for about 20 minutes.  Take off heat and let steep for about 2 hours.
Here’s the fun part and my grandkids love doing this.  Knead (yeah that’s right knead it like dough) the tamarind pods in the water until all the seeds and pulp separate from the shells.   Kinda squishy work but its lots of fun for the little ones.  Pour the mixture into a strainer and push the pulp through.  I usually strain it again just to make sure I don’t get in little bits of the shells.
Pour off strained mixture into a glass jar or pitcher.  Add cold water to almost fill the jar then add sugar to taste.
Add ice and stir.

Agua de Platano - Banana Water
(thanks to @veronica3000 for the suggestion)

3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
4 cups of water + 1/2 cup water
1 stick of cinnamon
Ice
Sugar to taste

Boil the cinnamon stick in a 1/2 cup of water on medium heat till the water is dark red and smelling of cinnamon (about five minutes).  Set aside and let cool.
In a blender add the mashed bananas and 4 cups of cold water and liquify until completely blended.
Strain the banana mixture into a glass jar or pitcher and stir in the cinnamon infusion, making sure to remove the stick.
Add sugar and ice to taste.
Stir and serve.


Agua de Horchata
– Rice Water

My way of making horchata de arroz takes a little longer (overnight) but the flavor of the cinnamon really gets into the rice and makes for a delicious horchata.  You can find shortcuts, but I prefer this method.

1 cup of white rice
2 sticks of cinnamon
4 cups of water
1/2 cup milk
Tsp of vanilla
Sugar to taste
Powdered cinnamon to taste
Ice

Wash the rice.
Soak the rice refrigerated overnight in 1 cup of milk and the two cinnamon sticks in a covered container.
In a blender, liquify the rice, milk and cinnamon with some of the water until its completely ground and blended.
Strain in a fine sieve.  I usually strain a couple of times, using cheesecloth to line my sieve.

In a large glass jar or pitcher, add the strained mixture, the vanilla, sugar to taste and the rest of the cold water.  Stir well and add ice.

Serve in tall glasses with a dash of powered cinnamon on top.  

Agua de Tuna – Prickly Pear Water

4 red and 4 green tunas (prickly pears), peeled, and chopped
Sugar to taste
1 quart of cold water
Juice of two lemons
Ice

In a blender, blend the 4 green tunas with about a 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water until well blended.  Strain.
In a large glass jar or pitcher mix the chopped red tunas, the rest of the water, juice of the two lemons and stir well.  Stir in blended green tuna mixture and add ice.

Serve into a tall glass, making sure to add a few chunks of the red tuna to each glass.  Part of the fun of some of these aguas is eating the fruit on the bottom of your glass after the drink is all gone.

Horchata de Nuez – Walnut Horchata

1  can condensed milk
1 cup of cold water + more cold water
1 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1 tsp powdered cinnamon
Sugar to taste
Ice

In a blender, add the chopped walnuts, about 1/4 cup of sugar, the powered cinnamon, condensed milk and the cup of water.  Blend well until all the nuts are completely pulverized.  Strain using a fine sieve.

Pour walnut mixture into a glass jar or pitcher, add in more cold water if needed.  Add sugar to taste and ice.

Stir well and serve.


Agua de Avena – Oatmeal (yes that’s right, oatmeal) Water

1 cup regular oatmeal, none of that Quaker instant stuff.  Just oats.
1 1/2 quarts of cold water
1 1/2 tsps of vanilla extract
1/2 can evaporated milk
2 cloves
2 sticks of cinnamon
Sugar to taste
Ice, lots of ice.

In a large sauce pan, add half of the water, the oatmeal, cloves, and cinnamon sticks.  Bring to a boil, then lower heart and let simmer about five minutes, stirring constantly to keep from boiling over.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Strain through a sieve into a large glass jar or pitcher.   Add the milk and the rest of the water, sugar to taste and plenty of ice.  Stir well.

Make sure this agua is served very, very cold.


Agua de Jamaica – Hibiscus Flower Water

2 cups dried jamaica flowers
Sugar to taste
Ice
10 cups of water

Bring the dried flowers to a boil in about four cups of water, then simmer on low heat for ten minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.
Strain out the water from the cooked flowers into a large glass jar or pitcher, pouring the rest of the water over the strained flowers to get the rest of the flavor out of them.
Add sugar to taste and plenty of ice.  Stir well and serve in a tall glass.


Agua de Chia – Chia Seed Water

1 cup chia seeds (you can find these in the Mexican spices section of your supermarket, usually in a little pouch)
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Sugar to taste
2 quarts of water
Ice

Soak the chia seeds in two cups of water for 2-3 hours until they are soft and gooey. Chia seeds have a lot of gooey almost gelatinous goop on them when they are soaked.  That’s part of the fun. Think Boba in a very tiny form.

In a large glass jar or pitcher add the 2 quarts of water, the lemon juice and the now spongy, wet chia seeds.  Stir well and add sugar to taste and plenty of ice.  Before serving make sure to stir it well so that the chia seeds are floating throughout the whole jar.


Agua de Pepino – Cucumber Water

6 cups of water
2 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
Juice of two lemons
Sugar to taste
Ice

In a blender, add the chopped cucumbers and 2 cups of the water.  Blend until smooth, the strain out in a fine sieve.

In a large glass jar or pitcher add the lemon juice, strained cucumber mixture, sugar to taste and ice.  Stir well and serve in a tall glass.


Agua de Sandia – Watermelon Water

1/2 a ripe watermelon, peeled, chopped and de-seeded ( I cheat and buy seedless now)
8 cups of water
Sugar to taste (you won’t need much)
Ice
More chopped watermelon

In a blender, add the chopped watermelon and 2 cups of the water.  Blend well and strain.

In a large glass jar add the watermelon mixture, sugar, the rest of the water and ice.  Add more chopped watermelon to the jar.  Stir well and serve, making sure you ladle in a few chunks of watermelon in each glass.


Agua de Fresa – Strawberry Water

2 lbs of strawberries, hulled, cleaned and chopped
2 quarts of water
Sugar to taste
Ice
1 cup fresh halved strawberries

In a blender, add the 2 lbs of chopped strawberries and enough water to get them to blend easily.  Blend until very smooth. Strain out and pour into a large glass jar, adding the rest of the water, sugar to taste, halved strawberries and ice.  Stir well and serve.

Fresa de Leche – Strawberry Milk Drink

2 lbs of strawberries, hulled, cleaned and chopped
2 quarts of water
Sugar to taste
Ice
1 cup fresh halved strawberries
1 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a blender, add the 2 lbs of chopped strawberries and enough water to get them to blend easily.  Blend until very smooth. Strain out and pour into a large glass jar, adding the rest of the water, sugar to taste, evaporated milk, vanilla, halved strawberries and ice.  Stir well and serve.  This should be served very, very cold.

Agua de Limon y Menta – Lemon and Mint Water

2 quarts of water
Juice of 3 lemons
1/8 cup fresh mint, chopped
Sprigs of mint
Sugar
2 cones of Piloncillo
Ice

Dissolve the cones of piloncillo in about a cup of water in a saucepan.  Let cool.

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the mint with a few tablespoons of sugar.

In a large glass jar, add the water, lemon juice, crushed mint, dissolved piloncillo and ice.  Stir well.  Add more sugar to taste if needed.  Serve in tall glasses garnished with a sprig of mint.


Agua de Lima – Lime Water

The peel of 5 limes, washed very well and chopped
Juice of two fresh limes
2 quarts of water
Sugar to taste
Ice

In a blender, add the lime peels and lime juice along with a cup of water and blend till smooth.  Strain into a large glass jar and add the rest of the water, ice and sugar to taste.
Stir well before serving.

There are many, many more aguas and I know I’m forgetting a ton.  Maybe in another post I’ll add the others.  I’d sure welcome any of your favorites to add to my collection.

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