Elevating your Aquas Fresca's

Aqua Fresca's are a familiar and welcome sight at farmers' markets, and street fairs around Mexico and other places with Latin American communities and are now becoming trendy in many cities, people are also incorporating these fresh fruit drinks to create the perfect summer cocktails adding rum, vodka, tequila and wine.

Here are some recipes for classic and inspired agua fresca flavors, but the basic concept of fruit + water + sweetener + ice is easy to play with on your own.

Horchata Water


8 cups of hot water 1/2 cup white sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 cup long grain rice 1/2can of condense milk 1 can of evaporated milk 1 table spoon of vanilla Ice cubes, for serving

Directions Pour sugar, cinnamon, and rice into hot water; stir until sugar dissolves. Cover, and let stand at room temperature for at least 3 hours, but preferably overnight. Stir in milk, then puree with a hand blender or in batches in a standing blender until the rice resembles fine sand. Strain through several layers of cheesecloth, or through a very fine strainer. Serve over ice.

*** Add Rum to turn your dink into a delicious summer cocktail ****

Coconut Horchata

There are versions of horchata that use plain milk (whole or skim), coconut milk, or even sweetened condensed milk. Feel free to use what you’d like, although if using coconut or condensed milk, sweeten the horchata to taste.

Ingredients 1 cup uncooked white rice 1 cup almonds 1 cup sweetened flaked coconut 3 cups boiling water 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 5 cups cold water, or more as needed 5 cups ice

Directions 1. Place rice, almonds, and coconut flakes into a food processor. Process until ground to the consistency of sand. Pour rice mixture into a bowl and stir in the boiling water. Cover and rest for 6 hours or overnight. 2. Strain rice mixture through a sieve twice, discarding the ground rice, almonds, and coconut. Stir in the coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk. Stir in the cold water and serve over ice.

Agua de Cucumber and Lemongrass

Ah, my heart be still! This is a beautiful flavor and elegance in a glass. I love the color and freshness of these flavors together. You’ll be doing this in two parts: Lemongrass simple syrup and pureed cucumbers.

Lemongrass Simple Syrup 3/4 cup sugar 3/4 cup water 4 pieces of lemongrass, smashed and chopped

I use a wooden rolling pin to beat and smash the lemongrass. Bring the water and sugar to a boil and then add the pieces of lemongrass. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Strain and discard the lemongrass.

For the Drink: 4 cups of chopped English cucumbers (skin on) with 2-4 cups of water to blend 8-10 cups of water 1/4–1/2 cup fresh lime, to taste pinch of salt

Puree the fruit and water in batches and then strain to remove any seeds or pulp. You can use a fine sieve or cheesecloth and you’ll want to get as much solids out of the liquid. Add the simple syrup to the strained liquid and then dilute with 8 to 10 cups of water. At this point you can adjust the sugar and water levels to your liking. Serve over plenty of ice and enjoy immediately

Aqua de Jamaica – Hibiscus Ice Tea

When I'm in need of a refreshing stunner of a drink on a hot afternoon, I turn to this Jamaica Flower Iced Tea recipe.

One of the first things you notice as you start browsing local markets in places like Merida or Mexico City is that many of the stalls are punctuated with big, baskets overflowing with the dried maroon petals of the Jamaica flower (also known as hibiscus) You can usually find it near the loose teas, or nestled in with bulk herbs and spices in natural food stores. I usually get mine from a “Mexican Store” For those of you who have more limited options in your communities you can always buy it on line.

Dried Jamaica flowers create one of the most beautiful and delicious infusions you can imagine. In restaurants, people can't help but crane their necks as trays filled with icy tall glasses of Agua de Jamaica make their way towards lucky recipients. In the case of the Jamaica flower, the flavor is as engaging as the visual. Well-chilled and served over ice, the jewel-like ruby red juice brims with the tangy sweetness of the dried petals and sugar - add a kiss of lime and you have the perfect late afternoon refresher.

Making this iced tea is easy, easy, easy. It is a must for your next BBQ or pool party - people are always delighted when they get to try anything made with Jamaica flowers. Once you find a source for dried petals you are halfway there. Creating the actual tea doesn't take more than ten minutes of active cooking time, after that you are just waiting for the tea to cool.

I am sold on the taste alone, but it is also believed (in many cultures) that Jamaica/hibiscus packs a bounty of healthful properties. It is rich in vitamin C, and has been widely used as an herbal method of controlling high blood pressure, tempering fevers, alleviating digestive problems, as well as improving circulatory disorders. So enjoy it on this front as well.

Other ideas:

Use the petals to infuse granitas, sherbets and sorbets. I've also used the petals to flavor margaritas and mix it with Red Wine and fruits to create the perfect Sangria! Popsicles! I also want to try making it into a jelly at some point.

4 cups water 1/2 cup dried Jamaica flowers 1/2 cup sugar (I used natural cane sugar this time around) Another 3 cups of cold water More sugar to taste 1 lime, thinly sliced

If you prefer, you can sweeten with any natural sweetener of your choice including honey in place of granulated sugar).

First off, pick out a pot that won't stain. Hibiscus has the potential to stain just about anything it comes in contact with including your countertop, cookware, wooden spoons, favorite jeans, etc. So keep this in mind.

Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil. Remove water from heat and add the dried flowers and sugar. Place a lid over the pot and steep for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice along the way to break down the sugar granules.

Pour the infusion through a strainer into a pitcher or jug (this is usually where something gets stained). You are going to want to add about 3 more cups of cold water to the pitcher. Taste and adjust based on your personal preference. You can add a bit more sugar if you think you need it, or more water if you feel like the Jamaica is too overpowering. This is usually just about right for my taste. I don't like the sugar to overpower the refreshing natural tartness of the Jamaica flower.

Cool completely and serve with plenty of ice in glasses garnished with a slice of lime.

Serves 8

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