Aguas frescas—literally, “fresh water” fruit drinks—are very common all over Mexico. They come in many flavors: horchata (made with a rice-base), sandía (watermelon), piña (pineapple), limón (lime), tamarindo (tamarind), naranja (orange), mango and so on. There are a lot of places in Mexico where you can buy aguas frescas out on the street, in the market, as pre-made powder mixes (also sold in the U.S.), etc., and many people make them at home from scratch because it’s so easy. Everytime we visit family in Mexico, nearly every meal made at home is accompanied by some kind of agua fresca. One of our favorite flavors is called jamaica—pronounced HAH-MY-CAH in English.
Jamaica is made like tea, infusing the flavor and purple-red color of hibiscus calyces. Like tea, jamaica is also a natural diuretic so don’t go drinking the whole pitcher in one day. (Yes, I once did that. I don’t think I need to explain what happened.) The only real variation among recipes are the ratios used of sugar to water, and whether or not you dilute the juice (and if so, how much) when serving.
Some households serve their jamaica a bit more tart like cranberry juice; we like ours a little sweeter (but not syrupy-sweet) and I dilute it by adding half a glass of water to half a glass of juice. I use granulated cane sugar because regular processed white sugar is too sweet.
AGUA DE JAMAICA
- 2 cups (about 2 ounces) dried flor de jamaica (hibiscus flower calyces)
- 3/4 to 1 cup granulated cane sugar
- 8 cups water
Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a non-corrosive pot and add the flowers and the sugar. Stir to wet all the flowers and dissolve the sugar, and allow to boil for 3-5 minutes undisturbed.
Remove from heat, stir, and allow to steep and cool to room temperature for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Using a sieve over a pitcher, pour the liquid (with the flowers still in it) through the sieve to filter the flowers out. The flowers will have plumped up during rehydration. Press them against the sieve with your fingers or a spoon to extract any extra juice left inside.
Refrigerate. Yields about 6 cups of concentrated juice. When serving, cut with 50 percent water to dilute.
- How do you make your jamaica?