It’s easy to have bottled drinks on ice or in the fridge when you have people over for dinner or a barbecue, but taking the time to make a jug of liquid refreshment elevates the event to seasonal celebration status.
A glass of Horchata. — Photo by Thinkstock.com
In Mexico and other hot, southern locales, folks refer to refreshing drinks as aguas, or waters. They know that cloyingly sweet or strongly seasoned concoctions are not the answer to staying cool in the summer. The recipes today lean on our friends to the south, but use ingredients that are accessible right here up north.
This slightly sweet, milky, nutty liquid is sold in every restaurant or club in Mexico, and you can buy it bottled in any corner store. It often accompanies lunch or dinner at home. It’s not difficult to make, you just need to think a day ahead, and it’s well worth the effort. Stir in white rum for an adult cocktail that no one will forget soon.
Don’t be tempted to use ground cinnamon in this recipe because it will turn the liquid brown, float on top at the end and leave a powdery texture in your mouth.
You can use a food processor for this, but unless yours is a lot better than mine it won’t give quite as fine a grind as you’d like — still works, though. This is enough for six generous servings.
1 4-inch cinnamon stick
8 cups boiling water
1/2 cup long-grain white rice (uncooked)
1 cup ground almonds
3/4 cup extra-fine granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup skim milk
Place cinnamon stick in a large jug and pour in the boiling water. Put the rice in a spice grinder and whizz it until it is powdery. Stir into hot water along with ground almonds. Refrigerate overnight; remove and discard cinnamon stick.
Pour mixture in a couple of batches into a blender and give it a good three- or four-minute puree. You can skip this step, but it leeches out the last bit of flavour from the rice and nuts.
Strain through a fine sieve lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth into a clean jug, moving around the mixture to help it work through the sieve. Squeeze the cloth at the end to get all the liquid.
Add sugar, salt and milk and stir to dissolve all the sugar. Mixture should not be thick, so add more cold water to get the consistency you like. Serve over ice.
Here’s another agua you can find anywhere down south. It can be made with watermelon or honeydew, but cantaloupe is my favourite. This is such a soothing drink on a warm day you can’t have too much in the fridge, and with just four ingredients, it couldn’t be quicker or easier to prepare. To turn it into a party offering, stir in 1 cup of gin. This makes 8 servings, give or take, and halves or doubles perfectly.
8 cups cold water, divided
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup extra-fine sugar
Halve cantaloupes and scoop out and discard the seeds. Peel and coarsely chop the fruit. Blend in batches with enough of the cold water to allow for a very smooth puree. Pour into a large pitcher and add remaining cold water, lime juice and sugar. Stir to dissolve completely and serve over ice.
Iced Mexican Chocolate
If you like your hot chocolate deep and rich with a pinch of cinnamon, you will love this cold version. It’s perfect for an evening drink watching the game or hanging out on the deck. Add a splash of white rum to create a saucy cocktail.
If you’ve never tried agave nectar, it’s getting easier to find in the import sections of large grocery stores and well worth having on hand as a tasty alternative to sugar, honey and corn syrup in many dishes.
This recipe has a more substantial consistency than the typical summer aguas, so it is better standing on its own as opposed to accompanying a meal. This makes about 6 servings.
2 cups skim milk
2 cups water
2 oz. grated or finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp. honey or agave nectar
1 large strip orange peel, white part removed
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cups vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, nearly melted
Heat milk and water together in a small pot or in the microwave until nearly boiling. Pour over chocolate and stir until dissolved. Stir in honey, orange peel and cinnamon and refrigerate until cold. Whizz together with ice cream until well combined — you’re going for a milkshake consistency. Serve in tall, narrow glasses with straws.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her
c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.