This cucumber agua fresca is bright, light and refreshing. It comes together easily with just a few simple ingredients and is perfect to cool you down on a warm day.
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One of the things I loved about my various visits to Mexico is all the wonderful tropical fruit. I remember one place I stayed in Merida had the option of a big bowl of fruit for breakfast (the inspiration for my tropical fruit salad) and it was just too hard to resist.
Then, there are the street vendors with chunks of fresh pineapple and other fruits, sometimes dipped in chili. And that's before I even mention ice pops (like mango paletas).
Given the climate it's not really a surprise, I guess, and tropical fruits of course appear in other similar climates. But my sense is Mexican cuisine makes a broader use of fruit in drinks than some other places, and I definitely wasn't complaining.
All the agua frescas
Agua fresca, literally "fresh water" is a Mexican drink made with plenty of chilled water combined with fruit or other ingredients. They are more refreshing than straight juices due to the water but more interesting than just water itself.
Some popular ones include fruit versions with mango, watermelon and cantaloupe agua fresca. Others use flowers, grains and seeds like horchata (from rice), tamarind and agua de jamaica (made with hibiscus).
Traditionally they are completely natural with little more added than a little sugar. Some might add some herbs like mint or a splash of lime for extra flavor and freshness. The key, though, is enough flavor to taste it but enough water to maximize refreshment.
These drinks are definitely something you can play around with depending on your favorite flavors or what you have. You can use individual fruits or combine to make your favorite blend. A good place to start is equal parts fruit to water, but for less juicy fruits you may need more water.
Sweetness is a little to taste - I tend to err on less. If you start with 1 tbsp per cup of fruit and cup of water, you can then sweeten more as needed. Some things, like a juicy ripe watermelon, arguably don't need anything, though a little helps bring out the flavor.
In terms of herbs, keep things minimal and nothing that might overpower or clash in flavor. So probably not sage, but mint or basil can be good.
While cucumber isn't exactly a tropical fruit, it is definitely great for that cooling sensation. Since the skins can be more bitter, it's best to remove these first before blending up with the water, ice and a little sugar. You can leave it as that, but I prefer this with a bit of lime and, if I have it, a small amount of mint.
Once it is blended up, as with all fruit-based agua frescas, you have a choice whether you strain it or not. Some depends on how powerful your blender is. Strained will be lighter and smoother, but arguably you get more nutrients keeping the pulp in. Really as you prefer.
This cucumber agua fresca takes so little time to prepare and the result is a wonderfully light and refreshing drink. It's perfect for a warm day, and something the whole family can enjoy (as mine do!).
Try these other refreshing drinks:
- Limonana (mint lemonade)
- Watermelon lemonade
- Falooda (kind of a cross between dessert and a drink, but refreshing too!)
Cucumber agua fresca
- 1 cup cucumber 100g, approx - around 1 Persian cucumber or ⅔ English cucumber
- 1 cup water 240ml
- ½ cup ice 120ml, around 6-8 cubes, or more as you prefer
- 3 tbsp lime juice (fresh)
- 2 tbsp sugar or a little more to taste
- 2 mint leaves (optional)
- Grate the skin from the cucumber and cut into thick slices before measuring.
- Place the cucumber, water, ice, lime juice and sugar (and torn mint leaves, if using) in a blender and blend until everything is well blended and smooth (you can also use a good hand blender). Taste the drink and add a little more sugar, lime or water to taste.
- If you prefer a smoother drink, strain the mixture before serving with a fine mesh strainer. Chill if not serving immediately and serve over ice.
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