Aguas Frescas – Refreshing Beverages

The glasses shown above feature only three examples of the many traditional beverages prepared every day at homes, served at restaurants and offered on special occasions at feasts all over Mexico, known as “aguas frescas.”  The basic formula is a mixture of water and fresh flavourings (hence the name, literally “fresh waters”) sometimes with the addition of sugar or other sweeteners.  The fresh flavourings may be fruit, such as pineapple or tamarind; seeds, for example, chia; or infusions with herbs and spices, such as spearmint or cinnamon.  Continuing with the Mexican tri-colour pattern this month, I chose green limeade, white horchata and red hibiscus for this post.

To achieve the green tint in the limeade, I used two limes cut into quarters, rind and all, along with 2 cups of drinking cold water, and 2 teaspoons of agave syrup (sugar is fine, too) and processed them in the blender for one minute; I strained into a tall glass and decorated with a slice of lime.  Processing the lime chunks with their rind on provides not only colour, but an incredible flavour to this beverage.  This is one of my favourite aguas frescas, being so frothy and zestful, but it must be consumed freshly prepared since it tends to become bitter if left standing for more than a couple of hours.

For the white horchata, please check my recently posted quick recipe (click here).

For the red agua fresca, some fruits would be suitable, such as watermelon or strawberry, but the most traditional choice in Mexico is to make an infusion with dry hibiscus flowers.  Although there are many species of hibiscus, such as the Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), and all are generally not toxic to humans (but toxic to domestic animals!), they are mostly used as ornamental plants; Hibiscus sabdariffa, with its bright red blooms, is the species most widely used for cooking.  It is known as “Jamaica” in Mexico, although the plant is originally from West Africa, and consumed in many countries.  I managed to find some dry Jamaica at a Latin American grocery store in Toronto, but because of its medicinal properties (lowering blood pressure and fat levels, anti-oxidant, high vitamin C content) it is not hard to find in health stores, usually packed in individual portion envelopes:

Hibiscus dry flowers and tisane envelopes

It is prepared like a tisane, by letting the hibiscus steep in boiling water for at least ten minutes.  Once cooled and strained (or envelope removed), sugar is added to taste, and some ice cubes, if needed.  I used about a quarter cup of flowers to two cups of boiling water, and two teaspoons of sugar.


I would like to propose a toast with these aguas frescas, in honour of the Ragtag Daily Prompt Community for completing over a century of prompts, and thank the diligent prompters who have made this possible ¡Salud!

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