Love fresh fruit in the summer? Here’s a drink designed to take advantage of all the farmer’s market has to offer. We’ve partnered with David and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson of 12 Bottle Bar to mix up some delicious aguas frescas.
Here’s the thing. We love originality. We love to customize. We love to make things our own. And we love agua fresca.
Agua fresca is Spanish for “fresh water” and that moniker alone makes us want to drink it. In fact, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a bright, zingy sipper composed of three perfectly balanced notes — water, sugar, and your choice of fruits, flowers, spices, seeds, and cereal grains. Go into a local bodega or taqueria, and you’re likely to see a festive line up of aguas frescas in multi-gallon, filled-to-the-brim crocks ready to be easily ladled out.
Which gets to why we love these flavorful refreshers so much. Aguas frescas are ideal warm-weather drinks. They are customizable; it’s up to you to create the combination of flavors that you want — extra fruity or super tart, spiced or citrusy, simple or complex. Perfect for spring and summer entertaining, they work equally well with or without alcohol, easily pleasing the entire crowd. Traditional flavors include hibiscus, otherwise known as jamaica, tamarind, and various tropical fruits. We started with just one recipe, but it’s easy to get carried away with aguas frescas, so we ended up with three.
How to Pair Flavors
A trip to the farmer’s market offered strawberries just coming into season, so strawberry-basil-lime was a no-brainer. Going down the tropical path, we opted for pineapple with cilantro and apple. And, because we love hibiscus for its color, tartness, and mixability, we went the traditional route as well, adding Mexican piloncillo, a molasses-like solid sugar that you can dissolve in water, to make a rich simple syrup.
As we said, you can go boozy or alcohol-free with these sippers. With each recipe, we’ve made suggestions of alcohol pairings that we find work exceptionally well. However, you can substitute whatever you prefer, just keep in mind the flavors in the drink and the flavors in the spirit. We used sparkling wine with the hibiscus, creating a sort of Mexican spritz, a spritz being a traditional Italian summer drink with Prosecco and Aperol or other bitter liqueur. For the pineapple, amber rum was a match made in alcohol heaven. The strawberry was the really fun one to pair with because it was so malleable. We immediately reached for the genever, a Dutch precursor of gin that has a lot in common with malted whiskey. Strawberries and genever just work together. Likewise for strawberries and mezcal or tequila, which makes for an almost margarita-like drink. In any case, have fun with it. For proportions, go with one to two ounces of spirit per four ounces of agua fresca. If you are using sparkling wine or beer, it’s more like half and half.
We wouldn’t be surprised if the agua fresca becomes your go-to entertaining drink. It’s not only customizable to whatever fruits and veggies are in season, but you can theme it too. Having a tiki party? Go with pineapple, coconut and cinnamon. Doing a BBQ? Try blackberry. The juiciness of the berries is great with BBQ sauce. Think of aguas frescas as a canvas on which you can paint your own masterpiece.
Hosting this summer? Get more recipes and tips perfect for your backyard party!