It’s hot. This is not news, I know. And yet it was all anyone talked about on this scorcher of a weekend. That and how the last thing anyone wanted to do was stand in front of a stove and…cook something. With heat. The most tempting thing to do in times like these is reach for an icy, cold soft drink. But today I’ve got a tastier, more refreshing alternative: a ridiculously easy-to-make agua fresca.
Aguas frescas are light fruit drinks popular in Mexico and Southern California, sold from street carts and in festivals. They’re made with any variety of fresh fruit—watermelons, strawberry, tamarind to name a few—blended with water and sweetened with just a hint of sugar (thus forgoing the usual 11 teaspoons of fructose corn syrup typically found in a soft drink can. Doesn’t that sound good?) In its highest form, a perfectly made agua fresca tastes like you’re sipping the actual fruit you used to make it. No alterations; just nature in a tall glass. Over ice. Exactly what’s needed on a 95-degree afternoon.
I made my agua fresca with a cantaloupe I had sitting on the counter, but feel free to experiment with any fruit currently in your fridge by using the same fruit-to-water proportions.
Cantaloupe Agua Fresca
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water, plus 4 more cups
1 large cantaloupe melon, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 6 cups)
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of salt
1. Make a simple syrup: over medium heat in a small saucepan, sugar and 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until sugar dissolves completely. Set aside to cool.
2. Working in batches, blend together the diced cantaloupe and 4 cups of water. Strain through a fine strainer or a colander lined with cheese cloth. Allow to strain for 30 minutes.
3. Stir in the lime juice. Stir in the simple syrup to taste. (The more ripe the melon, the less you’ll need.) Add the pinch of salt and stir once more. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
4. Serve over ice and garnish with a lime wedge. Makes 4 to 6 servings.