watermelon and mint agua fresca

As I write this post, the National Weather Service has issued an "Excessive Heat Warning" for New York state. It's 93 degrees in city. With the humidity, the weather reports tell me that it "feels like 106 degrees" outside. I can't tell you personally, because the last time I left the apartment was at around 8:00 AM (when it was still a balmy 88 degrees, ha) to dart around the corner to grab this watermelon and an onion bagel with scallion cream cheese from The Best Bagel Place in the Entire City.

I don't know what it's been like in other parts of the country, but if it's anything as hot as New York, I wouldn't be surprised if everybody's been avoiding their oven like the plague. What have you guys been doing to cool off? I've been eating bowls of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and drinking beverages like this watermelon and mint agua fresca:

I first discovered agua frescas at a Venezuelan restaurant specializing in arepas in my old neighborhood in Portland. However, agua frescas are actually Mexican in origin, and are basically fruit juices mixed with water and sugar (though you can also get a horchata flavored one made from a variety of rice, nuts, or other crazy things).

My favorite flavor has always been a pineapple and lime variation, but since watermelon is in season, I decided to make a watermelon one instead:

And real talk — there is no fruit more quintessentially summer than watermelon. This drink is basically all the good things about summer in a glass! Light, refreshing, and a wonderful vibrant pinkish-red (Seriously, what is that color?! Is that marsala?! It's a touch too red, no?), I'm proud to contribute this recipe to Sherrie's annual #drinkthesummer virtual cocktail party. Check out her blog and the hashtag for more summer recipe ideas!


Some maker's notes:
  • The amount of simple syrup you use will depend on how sweet your watermelon is and how sweet you like your drinks, which is why I've given a range for the amount of simple syrup used in the recipe. Be sure to taste as you go, adding simple syrup in small increments until you find your ideal level of sweetness.

  • So I made mine booze-free, but you can totally spike the shiz out of it like a cool kid. I recommend using it as a mix-in for a relatively mildly flavored booze like vodka, a non-hoppy pilsner, or even champagne.

Watermelon and Mint Agua Fresca




Special Equipment:

For the Simple Syrup:
(makes 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) water
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint

For the Watermelon and Mint Agua Fresca:
(makes about 6 cups, or 1 medium pitcher)
  • 2 1/2 pounds (40 ounces) peeled and seeded fresh watermelon
  • 2 cups (16 fluid ounces) water
  • fresh juice from 2 medium lemons, strained
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup simple syrup (from recipe above — see baker's notes)
  • 5 to 10 sprigs of fresh mint
  • ice, for serving
  • blueberries, for garnish


For the Simple Syrup:
  1. In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup water. Whisk the mixture until the sugar is dissolved, and bring the mixture to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute before removing from heat and transferring in a wire rack to cool completely. After about a minute on the wire rack, add a sprig of fresh mint and whisk gently into the mixture. Let sit for 30 minutes.

  2. Once the mixture has cooled for around 30 minutes, use a fine-mesh sieve to strain the syrup into a small glass jar. Discard the mint. Refrigerate the syrup overnight to cool completely. The syrup keeps in a glass jar with a lid for about 2 weeks. 

For the Watermelon and Mint Agua Fresca:
  1. Combine 2 1/2 pounds peeled and seeded fresh watermelon, 2 cups water, and the fresh juice from 2 medium lemons in the pitcher of a blender. Blend until very smooth.

  2. Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain into a pitcher, discarding any leftover solids. Pour in 1/4 cup simple syrup and whisk. Taste the agua fresca for sweetness, and add more simple syrup in small increments until you find your ideal level of sweetness. Once you do, add 5 to 10 sprigs of fresh mint and ice, giving the mixture a hearty whisk. Serve with your choice of booze, garnishing with blueberries, any leftover watermelon, and ice. Serve immediately.


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