Real talk: aguas frescas are amazing and I’m admitting to a mild obsession. My love of the agua fresca really took off in Thailand of all places, where you can find tropical fruit “shakes” nearly anywhere for the high price of about 30 baht or $1. When I first saw “shake” on the menu I ordered with trepidation, the image of a creamy watermelon smoothie giving me pause. To my delight the shake that arrived was simply watermelon blended with ice and a bit of simple syrup, and with one sip I was hooked. Watermelon shakes followed, at least one per day for the next two weeks, interspersed with young coconuts because Thailand, people!
Having spent 80% of my life within 3 hours of the border with Mexico, I can’t help but think of a fresh, slightly sweet fruit water as anything other than an agua fresca no matter which continent serves it up. In Mexico we found the most common aguas frescas to be watermelon (sandía), pineapple (piña), hibiscus (jamaica), and a creamy rice-milk sort of beverage called horchata. And no, that’s not just a Vampire Weekend song, friends. These cold beverages with mystical live-giving properties may not be quite as inexpensive in Texas as they are in Thailand, but they are ubiquitous and refreshing in the sweltering 95+ degree heat of May.
So guys, what I’m trying to say is that when you’re drained from 2 hours of roller derby drills and you stop for a breakfast taco or two at El Chilito you also have to get an agua fresca de sandía. And then you have to realize that you can make some at home with all the leftover watermelon in the fridge from your blastalicious July 4th spectacular. Do it.
This recipe is from Whole Foods and it’s close to perfect. I cut the amount of water in half and doubled the lime juice since my delightful pink drink is sticking around in the ‘fridge for a day or two.
Watermelon Agua Fresca
- 8 cups watermelon, cut into 2-inch pieces (approximately 6 lbs.)
- 1 cup cold water, divided
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Ice cubes
- Lime slices and mint leaves for garnish (optional)
Cut the watermelon flesh from the rind. In a blender or food processor, process half the watermelon pieces with 1/2 cup of water until smooth. Pour through a strainer into a pitcher. Repeat the process with the remaining melon and water. You should end up with about 8 cups of juice. Stir in the lime juice and honey. Pour into ice-filled glasses and garnish with lime slices and mint.
Someday I’ll work out how to make horchata. Until then, enjoy Vampire Weekend and find a sidewalk to walk on.