New York City has reached a level of heat and humidity that can only be solved with one big cleansing thunderstorm. The trouble is, we don’t really get thunderstorms in New York City—maybe three times a year, and they’re never as spectacular as the storms in Texas.
I recall many times over the course of my childhood where my whole family would gather on our covered porch to watch the rain. Sounds dull, but when you live in a place that’s almost always teetering on the edge of drought, heavy thunder-and-lightning temperature-dropping rain is a thing to see.I had forgotten all about watching thunderstorms until I visited my older sister last summer. We had spent all morning boating on Lake Austin, where it was sunny and very hot (because Texas). By time we all got home and cleaned up though, the skies were ominous and the air was so thick, walking outside was more akin to swimming than anything else (because Texas).When thunder started cracking, my sister broke out the blender, made some watermelon aguas frescas, and shuffled us all (three geriatric dogs included) out onto the covered porch to watch the storm. I don’t remember what we talked about out there, but I know I’ll remember watching that storm with (almost) all my favorite people and those cool lime-scented watermelon aguas frescas for a long time.
And also how my sister and I put on head lamps and took jigsaw puzzling to a new level as the storms continued and the electricity went out three hours later.But back to aguas frescas. I should probably explain what they are. That’s a good place to start, right? Aguas frescas are a blended beverage made of water, ripe fresh fruit, and sugar, that are popular in Mexico and parts of the U.S. They’re super refreshing and make for a great non-alcoholic option on hot summer days.
I love my sister’s watermelon version, but I got the idea for these Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas last weekend and just had to figure them out. It only took one try—when you’re blending mango, lime, and jalapeño, you’re all but guaranteed to have great results.Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas begin with a jalapeño simple syrup. This is the most difficult part of the entire process. Heat equal parts sugar and water with two split jalapeños until the sugar has dissolved.Let it steep until the syrup has a good amount of heat……and strain it out.So, yeah, not difficult at all. This recipe makes more than you’ll need for aguas frescas, but you can keep jalapeño simple syrup in the fridge for weeks on end. It goes well in cocktails and mocktails too—you won’t have any trouble finding excuses to use this combination of sweetness and heat, I promise.Pour 1/2 cup of your jalapeño simple syrup into a blender, along with some fresh lime juice, water, and 3 cups of fresh mango chunks.Blitz it all until smooth……and strain out the pulp.Pour it over ice and garnish with lime slices. And maybe some of those paper straws you bought at Target four years ago and keep forgetting about.If you love mango and sweet heat, this is the drink for you. Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas have a rich, sweet mango flavor and a bit of a kick from the jalapeño simple syrup, while the lime and water balance it all out. This is what summer tastes like. For me, anyway.We have storms in the forecast later this week. I’d love to invite you all over to watch them and drink some Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas on a covered porch, but this is New York and nobody watches storms. Also, I don’t have a covered porch.
It’s the thought that counts though, right?
Spicy Mango Aguas Fresca
makes about 6 servings
3 cups fresh mango chunks (about 2 large mangos)
1/2 cup jalapeño simple syrup (recipe below)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2-3 cups water
ice, for serving
lime slices, for serving (optional)
Combine mango chunks, simple syrup, lime juice, and 2 cups of water in a high-powered blender. Put on the lid and blend on medium speed until smooth. Taste for sweetness and heat, and add another cup of water, if desired (I did).
Place a mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl. Pour mixture through the strainer, pressing the pulp to get as much liquid as possible. Discard pulp.
To serve, place a few ice cubes in each of 6 small glasses. Divide aguas frescas among glasses. Garnish with lime slices.
Leftover agua fresca may be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Mixture will separate over time; stir before serving.
Jalapeño Simple Syrup
makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2-3 fresh jalapeños, stemmed and halved
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently, until sugar has dissolved (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Let cool for 45-60 minutes, or until the concentration of flavor/heat is to your liking. Strain out jalapeño halves and any seeds. Store simple syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator.