Balmy weather calls for ice-cold sweet treats; fruity drinks are a natural part of the summertime poolside landscape. But those drinks are often loaded with sugar, boasting 40 or more grams in even a reasonably-sized drink.
Worse, the "fruitiness" is often from flavored syrup instead of the actual fruit, which likely translates into high-fructose corn syrup and food dyes. Even "natural" frozen fruit drinks often have a bunch of added sugars. (Remember: White sugar is natural. It doesn't mean your body needs a ton extra.)
The good news is that making your own fruity drinks is incredibly easy. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, drinking "aguas frescas," which translates into "fresh waters." Mexican aguas frescas are made from fresh fruit blended or mashed into cold water and ice.
Living near the border, we would peel fragrant mangoes, and scoop the chunky sweet flesh into a blender with a cup of water, ice, a splash of lime juice and (yep!) a little sugar and we'd blend into a slushy treat that defined hot Arizona summers for me.
Now that I have four daughters of my own, I whip up my updated version of the agua fresca of my childhood. I blend up a cup of almost any summer fruit cut into cubes — I love cantaloupe, mango or strawberries — with a cup of cold water, a cup of ice, and the secret to a great icy texture: a cup of frozen watermelon cubes.
The frozen watermelon blends up icy and thick, and gives the drink body that doesn't melt away as quickly as ice. And, the blended frozen watermelon helps keep the agua fresca from separating while you sip. Plus, watermelon is refreshing, and mixes easily with all the other summer fruits, allowing them actually to be the star of the drink.
I skip the white sugar altogether, squeezing in a little orange juice instead of the traditional lime juice — it gives the drink just enough tang and a tiny touch of sweetness. (But, if you want to add a spoonful of sugar or agave, you'll still come out ahead of most overly-sweet prepared drink mixes.) My last agua fresca trick: Pick a contrasting-colored ingredient to add in the last 10 seconds of blending, so you get pretty flecks of color (and flavor), such as blueberries, mint or basil leaves or even chopped cucumber.
Icy Agua Fresca
Start to finish: 5 minutes
1 cup frozen seedless watermelon cubes (about 1-inch each)
1 cup strawberries, stemmed and halved (or other summer fruit, like mango or cantaloupe cubes)
1 cup ice-cold water
1 cup ice cubes
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves (or other contrasting ingredient like blueberries, chopped cucumber, or basil)
Place the frozen watermelon, the strawberries, water, ice and orange juice in the blender and blend until almost smooth. Add the chopped mint leaves and blend just until mixed in, with visible flecks, about 10 seconds.
Chef's Note: For a creamy treat, add a tablespoons of vanilla yogurt before blending.
Nutrition information per serving: 32 calories; 2 calories from fat; 0 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 1 mg sodium; 8 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 1 g protein.