Watermelon Season: Agua Fresca

By: Todd Erickson

How do we stay cool in this ridiculous summer heat? Two words; agua fresca. Agua fresca is a Spanish term literally meaning fresh water or cool water. These beverages are very popular in Mexico, and have recently been popping up in taquerias all over the American Southwest.

Agua frescas are non-alcoholic beverages, but can serve as the base of several delicious adult beverages as well. Fresh waters can be made from virtually any fruit that can be juiced, as well as hibiscus, spiced rice milk (known as horchata), and various other cereals and seeds. The reason I’m writing this entry in July is to address the heat as well as the vast amount of summer melons we have in our grocery stores and farmers markets currently.

Watermelon, in my opinion, is the king of summer fruits, and what better way to highlight its delicious, juicy, hydrating benefits, than to turn it into a refreshing summer agua fresca. For my recipe, I start with a very ripe watermelon, an equally ripe canteloupe, a couple lemons, a few limes and some light agave nectar. There are two equally efficient ways of making this recipe, one being the use of a strong blender, like my trusty Vitamix, the other being the use of a juicer. Using a blender, you will need to use a fine mesh strainer to adjust the level of pulp you want in your finished product. I personally don’t care for pulp, so I strain quite thoroughly. If using a juicer, the machine will basically do all of the straining work for you.

As I had mentioned earlier, these agua frescas make the perfect base for adult beverages as well. In this agua fresca, rather than using water to dilute, you can substitute rosé or prosecco for a refreshing afternoon or brunch beverage. The addition of tequila and Cointreau or Grand Marnier make for a memorable watermelon margarita.

As with most all of my recipes, they are to be used more as guidleines, not the law. Mix and match fruits, adjust the sweetness or acidity with citrus and agave, and play with the booze if you take the recipe that far. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy!

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Watermelon, peeled, cut in large cubes 1 ea.

Canteloupe, peeled, seeded, cut in large cubes 1 ea.

Lemons, peeled 3 ea.

Limes, peeled 6 ea.

Agave nectar, light 1/2 cup.

Water, to dilute As needed

Fresh mint leaves, and thin strips of watermelon peel for garnish.

Method:

  • In a blender, add watermelon cubes up to 3/4 full. Add 1 cup of water to help with the initial puree. Puree on high until the watermelon becomes completely liquefied and smooth.
  • Pour liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Reserve 1 cup of liquid in the blender to assist in blending the remaining melons and citrus.
  • Repeat steps 1 and 2 until all citrus and melon has been pureed.
  • Sweeten the agua fresca with agave nectar and dilute to desired strength with water or rosé.
  • Serve agua fresca over ice with lime slices, mint leaves, and a little watermelon rind garnish.

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