Hot summer days are here! We’re lucky to have so much beautiful Mexican culture and culinary blessings in Southern California. One of my favorite summertime drinks are the many varieties of agua frescas that folks make year-round here. Agua fresca translates to “cool waters” in Spanish. At its simplest, it is made with seasonal fruit(s), sugar, water, and ice. Hydrating, non-alcoholic, and so incredibly delicious. To learn more about agua frescas, check out Mexico in My Kitchen for a much better explanation than I can give you. There are many great recipes out there from Latinx chefs and recipe bloggers.
My little Desi-Mex version here is for a very refreshing and citrusy, melon agua fresca fragrant with cardamom and mint. This recipe has a pretty big yield (a little less than two quarts). I was working with a sizable melon and really feelin’ on the lime. So feel free to halve the recipe (pun totally intended).
Orange-flesh Honeydew Lime Agua Fresca with Cardamom and Mint
- 6.5 cups Orange-flesh Honeydew Melon, seeded and cubed (about 1125 g or 2.5 lbs of cut fruit)
- 3 limes, juiced
- 4 cups water
- 6 green cardamom pods, shells removed and seeds ground (about 1 tsp ground), plus a little more if using for garnish
- 8-9 mint leaves
- Agave syrup, to taste
- Lime slices, mint leaves, and ground cardamom, for garnish (optional)
- Puree the melon, lime juice, water, ground cardamom, and mint until completely smooth. Depending on the size and power of your blender, you may need to work in batches.
- Pour the blender contents through a mesh strainer or sieve, into a container. You may need to repeat to achieve desired consistency.
- Taste for sweetness, and stir in the agave syrup, as needed. If the fruit is super sweet, you may need not much or any at all.
- Refrigerate the agua fresca in a closed container for at least 1 hour before serving. This way it will be perfectly chilled when serving.
- Serve over ice, and garnish with a sprinkle of ground cardamom, lime slices and mint leaves (if using).
TIPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Melon. I used an Orange-flesh Honeydew Melon, because that’s just what I had. So don’t worry about finding one just to make this recipe. In fact, I was slightly shocked when I opened it, because I was expecting it to be green. So I just subbed in the melon I had, with everything else the same, and it worked out great. The orange-flesh variety tastes somewhere between a cantaloupe and a green-flesh honeydew melon. So I think either of those would work just fine.
- Cardamom. I prefer grinding the seeds myself from the whole pods for more potent flavor. But, you can also use 1 teaspoon ground cardamom to make things easier. If grinding yourself, you can use a mortar and pestle to smash the pods, remove the shells, and hand-grind the seeds. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use a rolling pin or a heavy pan. And while you don’t need the sprinkle of ground cardamom to garnish at the end, it really does add a lovely scent to your glass. Also, my favorite kind is Diaspora Co’s super fragrant Baraka Cardamom. So worth the money, and lasts well with proper storage. Don’t have cardamom? A pinch of nutmeg could be nice. Or add in a couple of pieces of star anise to infuse after you blend and strain the rest of the ingredients, i.e., don’t blend the star anise!
- Sweetener. I have cane sugar intolerance, so I used agave syrup. But feel free to use sugar or another sugar alternative, to taste. I ended up using two tablespoons of agave syrup. The melon was sweet, but not too sweet, and the lime was very tart.
- Straining the agua fresca. This might be up to personal preference. My understanding is that you’re going less for smoothie and more for super flavorful fruit water. Some don’t strain at all, especially where the method is stirring the water into the blended fruit puree, like Mexico in My Kitchen‘s. A number of recipes, like A Cozy Kitchen‘s, recommend that you strain once. I’ve seen this more where the method calls for blending most everything together, like I did here. I strained twice to achieve the consistency I wanted, and used a mesh strainer to do so. In a pinch, I bet you could use a coffee filter!
- Serving. If you’re serving a lot of people, which we’re not really doing these days (alas!), you can pour all the agua fresca into a pitcher or drink dispenser with ice for serving. I made a lot and wanted to keep it fresh for the week, so I just poured what I wanted in a glass with ice and stored the rest in the refrigerator (see note 7).
- Chilling before serving. While it may seem convenient to stick an open pitcher in the fridge, I suggest using a closed container to prevent other fridge aromas from getting into your agua fresca. Just pour into a pitcher or glass with ice when you’re ready to serve. That way, that sliced onion you forgot about isn’t going to be a problem.
- Storing for longer. Agua fresca can be made and refrigerated the night before. Refrigerate without ice (so you don’t dilute its flavor) in airtight containers. I used two quart-sized mason jars. Many recipes say agua frescas will last in the fridge 2-3 days max, but this tasted great to me for about 5. Maybe it’s the lime!
- Spiking the agua fresca. This is non-alcoholic. But if you throw in a shot of tequila blanco into your 8 oz glass of agua fresca for an easy cocktail, I won’t tell anyone your secret (because it’s totally my secret).
Enjoy! Goes great with Molletes with French Breakfast Radish Pico.