My family lived in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico for a summer when I was 4 years old, while my parents helped build a church. We’d take trips down the street from our little apartment to the produce market, where the vendors would have aguas frescas (Spanish for “fresh waters”) made with their sweet, tropical fruit. I like to pretend I actually remember this, but it’s more of a romanticized pseudo-memory that’s from my mom talking about it.
In more recent history, I’ve indulged in similar drinks at the Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica, 0031 Boutique Hotel in Brazil, and Topolobampo in Chicago. Incidentally, I had pineapple and mint in all three places. Aguas frescas are basically just fruit pureed with water, sweetener, and perhaps another flavor or two. They’re sweet, refreshing, and exactly what you want on a summer day. Aguas frescas are great for entertaining because you can make them ahead and have them ready in the fridge. They look beautiful in a large drink dispenser or served as a signature cocktail with a shot of your favorite liquor and a mini umbrella.
I love to add herbs to drinks whenever I can, especially now when my balcony herb garden is thriving. I’ve included three different recipes below, but you can mix and match fruits and flavors as you get the hang of it. Juicier fruits, like melons, don’t need as much added water. Lime adds a nice acidity to balance the sweetness (which I really amped up in the pineapple version). You add water to make them more along the lines of a juice than a smoothie. I prefer to leave my aguas frescas unfiltered, but you are welcome to strain them for a “cleaner” looking drink. And if you’re not sure how to cut up a whole pineapple, you can see my tutorial here. Each recipe makes about 2 servings.