Aguas Frescas, which translate literally as "fresh waters," are iced drinks made from infusions of water and herbs, grains, fruits, or vegetables. They're perfect for this time of year because they practically beg to be sipped outside and they're very easily scaled up to make a refreshing pitcher drink. If you've been to a taqueria here in the US, you've likely seen one or more large plastic jugs of these colorful drinks lining the restaurant's counter. Common fruit and vegetable versions, which include cantaloupe, cucumber, and lime, utilize the flavor of fresh fruit by blending it with water and often straining out the pulp. The result is basically everything you've ever wanted fruit juice to be: a refreshing, not-too-sweet drink that actually tastes like fruit.
Here are three variations to mix up at home. Although they stand alone as delicious, alcohol-free drinks, most wouldn't suffer from a shot of rum or tequila either.
Hibiscus Agua Fresca with Chia
Variations on hibiscus tea, a vibrant magenta colored infusion of dried hibiscus flowers, are consumed literally all over the world. Known as Agua de Flor de Jamaica or "hibiscus agua fresca" in the Americas, the drink is super-tart and the color is seriously stunning.
The flavor is often compared to cranberry juice, but I find the lemon-like sourness of hibiscus a bit more appealing to my tastes. Chia seeds, although just now at the height of trendiness in the US, are a traditional add-in to aguas frescas. The seeds sit a bit in the drink before serving, which allows them to soften slightly and thicken the agua fresca. The final result reminds me a bit of bubble tea and it's just as fun to drink.
Toasted Coconut Horchata
I was a little skeptical about all the hype around horchata. But this changed immediately after I made it for myself. The result of soaking and blending finely milled white rice in water, then straining it until smooth is totally dreamy. It's genuinely creamy, rich, and flavorful. Plus, it's made from ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry. Traditional versions of horchata are often flavored with a whole cinnamon stick. Here I used toasted coconut flakes, an ingredient that I can't get enough of lately, to add body and another element of flavor. Even without any dairy, this drink's creaminess makes it a perfect match for spicy foods.
Strawberry and Cantaloupe Agua Fresca with Thyme
Strawberry and cantaloupe are two fruits that are traditional in aguas frescas. Here they're combined for a cooling blender drink that you'll be wanting to make all summer. The addition of a quick thyme simple syrup makes the strawberry-and-melon combo surprisingly complex and really thirst-quenching. I opted not to strain this version of agua fresca because it blends up very smooth, but it's up to you if you want to strain the final result. If the mixture separates a bit in the fridge, just give it a quick shake and you'll be on your way to refreshment.