Mexican agua frescas, French and Italian syrups, and British sherbet powders are all derived from North African and Middle Eastern sharbats: sweetened drinks flavored with fruit, ground nuts, grains, seeds or flower petals. Sorbet and sorbetto are also descendents of sharbats. Orangina is actually a type of sharbat, in fact, it was first commercially produced and marketed in French colonial Algeria.
Fruit and citrus based agua frescas and sharbats couldn't be easier to make: mix juice or mashed pulp with water (flat or sparkling) and add sugar, simple syrup or agave nectar to taste. Food historian Rachel Laudan has fifty-two agua fresca recipes in her blog. But we'll give you a few pointers and tips anyway. And yes, North African and Mexican limonada have become as American as apple pie.
Ratios of fruit, water and sweetener for fresh fruit agua frescas and sharbats are not set in stone, since sugar and acidity levels vary in fruits. They should be refreshing with just enough sweetener added to enhance the flavors of ripe fruit. Mint, cinnamon, cardamon, rose or geranium petals and sliced citrus are common optional garnishes. The consistency should be thin with just enough fruit to add a little body.
Watermelon agua fresca
Note: If you want more concentrated watermelon flavor or if you want to add ice cubes, reduce the amount of water in the recipe.
2 cups of seedless watermelon
Juice of 3 small limes
3/4 cup sugar
½ cup gently crushed fresh mint leaves
Whole mint leaves for garnish
Approximately 6 cups sparkling or flat water
2 limes, thinly sliced into circles
1. Put watermelon into a large bowl, add sugar and smash with a potato masher or puree in a food processor or blender.
2. Place watermelon in a large pitcher, add smashed mint, lime juice and water, stir, taste, add additional sugar if desired. Chill thoroughly. Garnish with sliced lime and whole mint leaves before serving.
Mint Tea Sharbat
Notes: Sharbats often start with a simple syrup base of sugar dissolved in hot water and stirred until syrupy in consistency.
Matcha green tea powder
Mint leaves, crushed
A pinch of ground cardamom (optional)
1. Prepare matcha tea according to package instructions, add more or less matcha to taste. Add cardamon at this point, if desired.
2. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of sugar per serving in an equal amount of hot water. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture has a syrupy consistency.
3. Stir in crushed mint, add simple syrup to taste. Chill in refrigerator for at least a couple of hours, add ice cubes before service. Garnish with whole mint leaves if desired.
Aprium Agua Fresca
Note: Apriums are an apricot-plum hybrid. Read more about them here.
2 cups apriums, peeled with stones removed
4 cups water
Juice of 1 small lime
sugar to taste
Whole mint leaves for garnish
1. Add apriums, lime juice and water to a food processor or blender, puree until smooth. Add more water if the mixture is too thick and sugar to taste.
Notes: We have a wide variety of lemons available with widely varying levels of acidity. For example, Persians lemons are sweet and not tart at all. So, play around with lemon juice to water ratios until you find the right sweet spot. Use edible rose petals for garnish.
Fresh lemon juice
simple syrup (granulated sugar and hot water)
Flat or sparkling water
cinnamon sticks and rose petals for garnish (optional)
Pinch of ground cloves or ground cardamom (optional)
1. Add lemon juice to a pitcher, add water and simple syrup to taste. Stir in crush mint leaves, add ground spices if desired. Chill, garnish with cinnamon sticks and rose petals.