Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Aguas frescas or “fresh waters” are popular in Mexico, sold on street corners, in the markets, in restaurants. They are made every day, and the taste is so bright, sparkling and healthy that it is difficult to describe. They come in a huge variety of flavours and are mostly fruit-based, but more exotic ingredients (tamarind, hisbiscus blossoms, nuts) and vegetables are also used very successfully, as in the case of this agua de pepino or cucumber water.
Cucumbers are not among the most flavourful or interesting inhabitants of my refrigerator, but they are highly refreshing and moisturising, and therefore make a surprisingly pleasant drink (as well as a sorbet) – and they are of course a famous natural “beauty aid”, with an enviable reputation for perking up tired eyes and disposing of unwanted kilos.
It is essential that this cucumber water is served very cold, as room temperature brings out its latent “vegetable soup” qualities! If you have a grating attachment on your food processor, do use it to grate the cucumber before blending it with the other ingredients as this will make the fibres easier to break down.
Cucumber water - Agua de Pepino
Makes 2 cups/serves 2
300 g/11 oz cucumber, washed but not peeled, coarsely grated or chopped
1 hot green chilli, sliced, seeds and all
30 ml/2 tbsp fresh lime juice – about 1 large lime
10 g/1/3 oz fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1/8 tsp salt
250 ml/1 cup very cold water
30 ml/2 tbsp runny honey or maple syrup
Ice cubes (optional)
Chipotle chilli powder or hot smoked paprika, to taste
Long spoons, cocktail swizzle sticks or straws
Blend the cucumber, green chilli, lime juice, mint, salt and water until fairly smooth – this will take a few minutes as the cucumber, although watery, does not break down instantly. Avoid using a high speed blender as you will end up with a cucumber smoothie rather than a “water”. Strain the mixture through a coarse-meshed sieve, pressing down on the solids to extract all the liquid without pushing through too much of the pulp. Discard the contents of the sieve.
Stir in the honey or maple syrup. Do not be tempted to add more sweetness as the flavour can become bland if it is too sweet – there needs to be a good balance of vegetable, herb and heat.
Pour the cucumber water into tall glasses and add some ice cubes if desired.
Sprinkle to taste with chipotle chilli powder or paprika (a little goes a long way, even if you are a fire-eater) and place a long spoon, swizzle stick or straw in each glass – this is useful for stirring the chilli powder into the water and distributing the flavours.