Introducing Agua Fresca, Mexico City's Favorite Drink

Beat the heat in Mexico City with a refreshing glass of agua fresca
Beat the heat in Mexico City with a refreshing glass of agua fresca | © Eric Heath/Flickr

Northern England Writer

Aguas frescas are ubiquitous on the streets of Mexico City and an ideal way to cool down in summer. Literally translating to fresh waters, these non-alcoholic drinks are typically made from a blend of fresh fruit, water and sugar. Here’s what else you need to know about Mexico City’s favorite drink.

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Agua fresca vendors are instantly recognizable with their distinctive carts, which bear either huge plastic containers holding pre-made juices or fresh fruit ready to be whizzed up in seconds. You’ll also find it in chain stores and the seemingly omnipresent ice cream parlours called La Michoacana.

How much does an agua fresca cost?

Aguas frescas are a budget-friendly alternative to sugary bottled drinks, and generally available in two sizes, chica (small) or grande (large). Some vendors, however, only sell them por litro (by the liter). Ask for no ice if you want to get the most for your money, though even a liter of these addictive concoctions will generally only set you back around 20 Mexican pesos.

What is agua fresca made from?

Most aguas frescas are made from fruit, but not all. Two of the most popular – which you can order from nearly any taco stand, restaurant or bar – are horchata and jamaica. Horchata, which is popular in the United States, is actually rice water flavored with cinnamon sticks and cooled to make an enjoyably refreshing, sweet drink.

Jamaica, on the other hand, is made by boiling flor de jamaica (hibiscus flowers) with a generous helping of sugar and water before chilling and serving.

Another favorite is the lesser-known cebada, an agua fresca made from barley. This creamy alternative to the light, fruity agua fresca is particularly refreshing.

If you really want to expand your agua fresca adventure, head to the coast of Jalisco (on the Pacific side) for the regional specialty agua de tuba. This delicious, thirst-quenching drink is served with nuts and diced apple, and sold by vendors who dispense it from the tubas for which it’s named.

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