The Mexican drink agua fresca is made with fruit, but it is much different than juice. Fruit juice is typically made by squeezing the liquid from the fruit. Agua fresca starts with fresh water, and the fruit is blended or squeezed into it, resulting in a much lighter and refreshing drink. Agua fresca can be made from any of your favorite fruits as well as chia seeds, dried hibiscus flowers or tamarind. Homemade agua fresca is also made with fresh, seasonal fruit which is much healthier than store-bought. You can also use your preferred sweetener whether that's sugar, piloncillo, stevia, or artificial sweetener so it's easy to adjust for your own dietary needs. If you use a granulated sweetener (such as white granulated sugar or piloncillo) you might want to make a simple syrup (sugar syrup) first, otherwise you will be stirring the agua fresca for quite a while until the granulated sugar dissolves.
Agua fresca can be made with virtually any fruit and you can combine different fruits to make up your favorite flavor. Some fruits such as melon and apples can be blended into the water after you remove the skins, seeds and stems. Simply cut them into chunks and blend them together with the water. Berries can be blended in whole, but sometimes the larger seeds (such as those found in blackberries and raspberries) are a nuisance, so aqua fresca using berries may need to be strained before serving. Citrus fruits can be squeezed right into the water, making it quick and easy to whip up a batch.
Agua fresca made with hibiscus flowers is made a little differently because the dried hibiscus needs to simmer in warm water to bring out the color and flavor. After the flowers are steeped, it is then cooled to make a sweet and refreshing drink that tastes very similar to sweetened cranberry juice. This is one of my favorite agua fresca's.
The brown gooey pulp of the tamarind pod is tangy with a mild earthiness and when sweetened it makes a delicious agua fresca. It takes a bit of work to get the pulp away from the seeds and so if you prefer, you can use canned tamarind. After you get the tamarind ready, you just blend it up with the water to make Agua de Tamarindo.
4. Chia Fresca
Chia seeds are a highly nutritious "superfood" which contain fiber, protein and Omega-3 fats which are all very healthy to consume. When you make Chia Fresca, you place fresh chia seeds in liquid, they absorb some of the liquid and become gelatinous. You can add chia seeds to any agua fresca, simply sprinkle a scant teaspoon of them into the drink, and wait 5-10 minutes. Add ice, stir and enjoy.