I love some agua fresca served fresh with a salted rim right after I’ve spent the morning instagramming artfully arranged piles of fruit in a foreign market (“wish that you could SMELL these mangos!”). I also enjoy a glass of agua fresca spiked with tequila while sunning by the pool or enjoying a Sunday funday with my friends eating $7 tacos and taking selfies and day drinking. But my current situation is that I’m sipping tap water out of Tervis tumbler with a school logo on it, still in my workout clothes, writing this, and keeping one eye on the time so I don’t miss my dentist appointment.
What about the rest of us, the ones standing by the microwave in the breakroom waiting for our Amy’s breakfast burrito to finish cooking? Or those of us with cups in every vehicle cupholder because we keep eating in the car while ferrying children to day camps? Or moms who aren’t getting sweaty salsa dancing into the night but fighting fire ants in the front yard? Are we to be denied agua fresca? And should we even bother?
Everyone deserves the refreshment that is agua fresca at breakfast, brunch, or beyond, dammit, and we don’t need anyone to make it for us. As the good, hardworking people we are, a beginner batch is easy. For summer’s sake, “agua fresca” means “fresh water.” How hard can it be?
Not very. Just do this:
Buy a watermelon. Not one of those fancy, personal watermelons that cost twice as much for half the fruit. Look for a good, old fashioned watermelon with a flat yellow bottom (so you know it ripened in a field). You can move onto other fruit once you master the method, but watermelon is the easiest.
Get in there with a knife of some sort and start separating rind from fruit. It doesn’t need to be pretty—and it’s always kind of awkward—but you’ll need about 2 cups of fruit to get you started for a blender batch. You can always make more than one batch.
Half a lime. Even that withered one from the bottom drawer will do as long as it doesn’t have powdery white spots.
Filch some herbs from your neighbor or friend who is growing basil, rosemary, mint, or even cilantro. I’m assuming you don’t, well, because we are being honest here. You’ll need a handful of leaves, or around ¼ cup, to give you a good herbal kick. Give those leaves a rinse.
Put the watermelon in the blender. Yep, seeds and all. Add 2 cups water. Squeeze in lime juice. Bruise, rip, or smack herb leaves and throw in.
Pulse lightly. Seriously. Otherwise it becomes a middle school volcano project. You just want to break up the fruit but not pulverize the seeds. A Vita Mix blender will definitely decimate the seeds, but then again, if you had one, you wouldn’t be making this. You’d be on vacation hashtagging wildly.
I usually skip this step, but you can add a sprinkle of sugar. That doesn’t mean Splenda or Stevia, you sweetener crazies. That will give it a weird non-refreshing aftertaste.
Using a fine mesh strainer, a pasta strainer, or cheesecloth, pour contents of blender into strainer over a bowl. The liquid in the bowl will be relatively chunk-, leaf- and seed-free, depending on your method.
Transfer the strained liquid to a pitcher and chill at least 30 minutes in the fridge. Serve over ice. It even tastes good in a Tervis tumbler, or with any clear spirit, though not in combo (no matter how tempting) if you are en route to the dentist or picking the kids up from art camp.
Instagram if desired with the hashtags #staycay, #housemade, #howisummer, or just drink it and feel refreshed. Repeat.
Stephanie Burt is the host of The Southern Fork podcast.