Make agua fresca for Cinco de Mayo. Photo
© Raptor Captor | Fotolia.
In Spanish, agua fresca means fresh water. In culinary terms, it refers to a variety of refreshing cold drinks that are sold by street vendors and at cafés throughout Latin America; they’re also sold bottled and are whipped up at home.
A traditional agua fresca is an infused, sweetened water, flavored with fruits and/or vegetables—often a more complex layering of flavors than lemonade and limeade. It is nonalcoholic and noncarbonated.
The recipes can include a combination of fruits or veggies, flowers (like hibiscus), herbs and/or spices, cereals (barley, oats, rice), seeds (chia), even almond flour. Agua de horchata, a very popular recipe, is made of rice spiced with cinnamon.
While some look forward to Margaritas and other alcoholic libations to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, kids and adults who refrain from drinking should indulge in an agua fresca or two. Of course, you can add a shot of rum, tequila or other spirit for those who want to celebrate with it.
Three of our favorite combinations:
They’re as easy to make as lemonade. Try different recipes and develop your own signature. You’ll be certain to have people dropping by through the warm spring and summer months.
TIP: To ensure that the sugar dissolves, use simple syrup or ultrafine sugar (which you can make by pulsing regular sugar in the food processor or spice mill). You can infuse the simple sugar with herbs (we like basil or rosemary). Here’s the simple syrup recipe.
And here’s the agua fresca recipe we had recently at Tres Carnes, a wonderful new Texican smoked meat spot in New York City (more about it below). The house agua fresca, a combination of apple, cucumber and lime, was so refreshing that we had a second. Thanks to executive chef Sasha Shor for sharing her recipe.
TRES CARNES AGUA FRESCA RECIPE
1. MAKE a basic simple syrup by boiling water and dissolving sugar in it. Reduce by 1/3 until a syrup forms. Cool completely.
2. TRIM ends from cucumbers and chop into large chunks.
3. CORE apples and remove stems, discard cores and seeds.
Smoked pork shoulder, our favorite among three delicious smoked meats at Tres Carnes restaurant. Photo © Chris Gardiner | Fotolia.
4. PURÉE cucumbers and apples with lime juice in a blender or food processor until all is incorporated and you have a thick purée. The consistency should be similar to thinned applesauce.
5. STRAIN the purée mixture through a fine mesh strainer, removing all fruit and vegetable pulp. You may have to strain twice depending on your strainer.
6. ADD simple syrup and water and stir well. You may have some sediment but that’s ok!
7. CHILL the agua fresca and serve over ice. Garnish and serve.
TRES CARNES RESTAURANT: TEXICAN SMOKED MEATS IN A FAST FOOD VENUE
Tres Carnes is the newest best thing to happen to fast food. The first outpost launched recently in New York City (at Sixth Avenue and 22nd Street). If the great food and lines snaked out the door are any indication, it’s a smash hit.
You move through a line past the hot table, where personable counter staff put whatever you want in a bowl, in a burrito wrap or onto a plate with two soft tortillas. You choose from three kinds of smoked meat (the “tres carnes”) prepared by Mike Rodriguez, an award-winning pitmaster—smoked brisket, chicken adobo and BBQ pork shoulder—and revel in the delicious sides of beans, corn, greens, guacamole and squash. Chili is Texas-style: all meat, no beans.
There are so many delicious sides that vegetarians can have as wonderful a meal as carnivores. Everything is seasoned with great finesse, and the food is of a quality that doesn’t get any better at far fancier, white tablecloth restaurants. In fact, we can’t think of any other Tex-Mex restaurant we’d rather return to.
The eatery is so new that there are no photos of the fab food on the website, no place to sign up for information, not even a Facebook page or Twitter. But keep checking at TresCarnes.com, and hope that a Tres Carnes comes to you, soon.