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What is Agua Fresca?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Agua fresca is a Latin American drink made with water, a small amount of sweetener, and fruit, grains, or flowers. The result is a very cooling, refreshing drink which pairs well with a wide variety of foods and is enjoyable on its own. Agua fresca is associated with Mexican cuisine in particular, and many Mexican restaurants keep several vats of agua fresca by the counter, allowing guests to fill their own glasses as needed. It is also very easy to make at home.

In Spanish, “agua fresca” means “fresh water.” Many people describe the flavor of agua fresca as extremely fresh, especially when it is made with seasonally available fruits. You may also see agua fresca labeled as “fruit water,” in a reference to one of the most common ingredients in this popular beverage. For people who don't feel like preparing it at home, some Latin American grocers sell agua fresca mixes and powders which just need to be mixed with water and chilled to serve.

Some common ingredients in agua fresca include: lime, lemon, cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, guava, hibiscus flowers, mint, and grains like rice, although these ingredients are not used together. In addition to being found in restaurants, agua fresca is also sold as a street snack in many parts of Latin America, and diners typically have a range of flavors to choose from, from sweet and intense horchata, made with rice and cinnamon, to refreshing and crisp watermelon agua fresca.

These drinks are made by pureeing the ingredients with water and then blending in more water and allowing the mixture to chill for at least an hour to develop the flavor. The use of a small amount of sugar is optional, and it can add a depth of flavor to the drink with some people like. A little bit of lime or lemon juice keeps the agua fresca tasting crisp and fresh, and adds a tartness to the overall flavor. When served, agua fresca is typically poured over ice.

When making agua fresca, you want around one cup of fresh fruit to every two cups of water, although you can adjust this ratio to suit your taste. You can add up to one quarter cup sugar to the mix, along with a few tablespoons of lime or lemon juice. These simple drinks are easy to improvise and to change to suit personal taste, so feel free to experiment with a wide range of ingredients and garnishes.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Speechie — On Oct 13, 2011

Agua fresca sounds so delicious! Especially since I love water, fruits, and fruit juices, this seems like a great mixture! I have mostly only seen the more intense flavors at Mexican restaurants, like rice and cinnamon. I have not been brave enough to try the intense ones, but the lighter ones, like the ones with fruit, sound good and seems like a good place to start. I like when fruit juices have no added sugar, so I would probably like the agua fresca without any sugar. At least if sugar isn’t in there, and you want sugar in it, you can always add some. If it sugar is already in there, you really can not do anything about it, since you can not take the sugar out. I am going to look for this agua fresca the next time I go to a Mexican restaurant or Latin American store.

By orangey03 — On Oct 13, 2011

Has anyone ever tried peppermint agua fresca? I had some last winter at a party, and I absolutely loved it!

Rather than tasting like peppermint candy, it more closely resembles a natural tea. I feel like I’m truly getting hydrated because of all the water in it.

It tastes wonderful when paired with dark chocolate or brownies. Anything you could imagine adding peppermint to will taste great with it.

I hear it has the added bonus of soothing an upset stomach. Party food usually makes me sick, and come to think of it, I didn’t get sick at that one.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 13, 2011

In my hometown, there is a little Mexican popsicle shop that serves agua fresca also. It is the only shop of its kind in the area, and it sees a lot of business.

Their popsicles are made with real fruit and come in flavors like cantaloupe, mango, and watermelon. Their agua fresca comes in watermelon and cantaloupe, and it is very sweet.

I tried some of it out of curiosity. Watermelon juice is overly sweet on its own, but they had added a bit of sugar to it, so it was overwhelmingly sugary. I gave it to my niece, and she loved it.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 12, 2011

I have had hibiscus agua fresca before, and it really needed some extra sweetener. I had originally told the waitress to bring it to me unsweetened, but after one sip, I reached for the sugar.

It tasted a bit like cranberry juice. It was very intense and tart. I know some people actually like that flavor, but my tongue shrivels up when it comes in contact with it.

After two small packets of sugar and a lot of stirring, the tea tasted great. It’s definitely something different. I usually drink water at restaurants, but interesting options like agua fresca intrigue me, since I don’t get the chance to drink them at home.

By shell4life — On Oct 11, 2011

Most of the Mexican restaurants in my region serve cantaloupe agua fresca. I love the fact that they don’t put any sugar in it. It is one of the few drinks that I can adjust the sweetness of on my own.

I never order sweet tea in restaurants, because it is always too sweet. Soft drinks come already manufactured, so you just have to deal with the sugar level. Agua fresca is the ideal choice when you want something with more flavor than water but with no carbonation.

My friends usually puts a packet of sugar in their cantaloupe agua fresca, but I drink mine as it comes. The restaurant uses really ripe fruit, so to me, it doesn’t need any added sweetness.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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