TRAVEL TALES | Agua fresca de sandia

That's right, mis amiguitos... it's that time of year again. When pick-up trucks spilleth over with the pink-fleshed fruit from that siesta-loving land of the Aztecs, Agave and rodents of unusual size. Qué? you say? It's summer! And with it comes one of my favourite things in the entire world - aguas frescas.

I once spent a summer alone in Mexico City on a fellowship to study pre-Columbian fertility goddesses (true story). Previous to those fated weeks, I had a passing relationship with the street cuisine of our kissing primos down south. After all, I grew up in a city where, not a block from my neighbourhood, the street signs, billboards, store names and voices floating in the air morphed from English to Spanglish to Mexican Spanish at an astonishing speed. I often squirreled away enough cash for a champurrado and tamale in the morning, a paleta in the afternoon and maybe some elotes if I was feeling particularly fiscally wanton with my meager savings. Lord was it tasty.

Back to el DF and that one summer... once I was inserted in the lovely green-tiled room at Cuca and Miguel's quiet, court-yarded abode in the working class San Cosme barrio that summer, I had free reign of the city... although, looking back, perhaps a nose ring and blonde hair were poor aesthetic choices... Let me re-phrase and say I had almost free reign of the city -- I was a free as long as I could take the attention -- being a blatant güera. I soon learned that one could disappear into the covered markets where indigenous women patted blue corn tortillas by hand in the corner, adding a thin layer upon layer to the leaning towers at their sides. Old, toothless men hoisted their caved mouths into receeding smiles, wooing me to blankets covered in sliver, real and counterfeit, antiques. And I obliged. It was a menagerie of the senses. The music, the chatter... smells that were foreign to me, my first taste of mango sprinkled with lime juice and chile... the life and vitality of an entire people seemed to pulse under the eaves of those market tents. 

The first time the afternoon heat hit me, the rain season clouds parting after the routine morning shower revealing perfectly blue skies, I happened upon a colourful row of plastic jugs, like stout technicolor soliders. Upon closer look, the plastic wasn't colourful at all, rather it was the liquid inside. Que es esto!? From creamy yellow to electric green, orange, milky white, pink and purple... They were aguas frescas, a Mexican speciality that was my oasis in the asphalt dessert that was the city during a summer afternoon. 

Horchata and Tepache were my go-to flavours that summer. But, it turns out you can make a drink out of almost anything, including watermelons, which, sadly, I had not actually thought of before (even though watermelons are almost 100% water. Clever me). All you need is a sieve, limes, ice, sometimes (but not always) sugar and a tropical locale... fine, fine, the last item is optional.

My love for the corn-sheathed fertility goddesses has since faded by my passion for the punch has remained.

Here's how to make your own little cup of Mexican heaven that is agua fresca de sandia (Watermelon juice):

For one pitcher or approximately 8 glasses (as this is a *highly scientific* (er, not) recipe, bear with me... unlike baking, you're okay to eyeball it):


  • 1/4 to 1/2 a large watermelon, cubed
  • 2-3 limes (add to taste)
  • Ice (for the glasses or pitcher)
  • Sieve
  • Blender (optional)
  • Cheese cloth (optional)

The speedy recipe (con pulp):

  1. Take cubed watermelon and puree in the blender
  2. Pour through the sieve. DO NOT DISCARD. THIS IS YOUR JUICE!
  3. Wait for pulp that got through to settle on the top of the sieved liquid and skim off (if you have a few extra minutes you could use the cheese cloth (see below) here too)
  4. Pour into pitcher
  5. Add lime juice to taste and mix
  6. Pour into glasses filled with ice
  7. Heaven

The less speedy recipe (pulp-free):

  1. Take cubed water melon and manually scrunge up in a big mixing bowl lined with cheese cloth.
  2. Take edges of cheese cloth and twist together, twisting all the liquid that you can out of the cheese cloth and into the bowl. DO NOT DISCARD. THIS IS YOUR JUICE!
  3. Suspend above the bowl or pitcher and let drip for an hour or so (you can figure out your own rigging system. Perhaps by setting in sieve and having that hang above the bowl)
  4. Discard the pulp
  5. Add lime juice to taste and mix
  6. Pour into glasses filled with ice
  7. Heaven

Oh and did I mention that it's the most gorgeous colour as well? Yeah, it's beautiful. And it's a great beauty product ingredient (and you thought I had forgotten about the beauty angle... easy on the eyes and the skin!). Watermelon in your beauty products is a great source of:

  • Hydration... it's 98% water. Great way to slake a thirst.
  • Vitamins... A, B and C
  • Acids... Antioxidants, holler
  • Omegas 6 and 9...

Sip on that...


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