Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas

Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasNew 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.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasI 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).Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasSpicy Mango Aguas FrescasWhen 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.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasBut 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 FrescasSpicy 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.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasLet it steep until the syrup has a good amount of heat…Spicy Mango Aguas Frescas…and strain it out.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasSo, 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.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasPour 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.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasBlitz it all until smooth…Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasSpicy Mango Aguas Frescas…and strain out the pulp.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasPour 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.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasIf 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.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasWe 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 Frescas

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.Spicy Mango Aguas FrescasSpicy Mango Aguas Frescas

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Wassail

Wassail {Non-Alcoholic}My family didn’t do any holiday baking when I was growing up and we’ve never been much for big holiday traditions, but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without my mom’s Wassail.

Wassail {Non-Alcoholic}Yes, Wassail. Like hot mulled cider.

Like “Here We Come A-wassailing.”

Does that song make anyone else automatically think of A Claymation Christmas Celebration, where they go a-waffling? No? Just me?

Whatever happened to the California Raisins?!

Anyway…

Wassail {Non-Alcoholic}Wassail, y’all. It’s delicious and you should all make some this holiday season. My mom makes a big pot of the stuff in the days leading up to Christmas and then reheats it as necessary. And, oh, is it necessary.

Wassail {Non-Alcoholic}You’re going to drop by to deliver a gift or have a chat? Great! Would you like some Wassail?

You want to play a raucous multi-hour game of Dominoes? I’ll get the Wassail.

You’re going to go for a walk to see your neighbors’ insane Christmas light displays? I’ll make you a to-go cup.

Texas missed the memo that it’s Christmas and it’s blazing hot outside? Let me pour this Wassail over ice and top it with a little splash of seltzer.

We’re going a-wassailing? I don’t exactly know what that is, but I’ll bring the Wassail.

Bottom line: Wassail is appropriate for any and all holiday occasions.

Wassail {Non-Alcoholic}My mom’s recipe comes together in just half an hour and couldn’t be easier. You literally simmer a half-gallon of apple cider with a couple cinnamon sticks and then jazz it up with some pineapple juice, the juice and zest of a lemon, some honey and nutmeg. Serve it up with a slice of lemon or another cinnamon stick and prepare for a mug of sweet, tangy holiday bliss 😍Wassail {Non-Alcoholic}

Wassail {Non-Alcoholic}I love that this Wassail is non-alcoholic. It’s appropriate and appealing for kids and grown ups alike, and it’s a rare non-seltzer/coffee/soda option for those of us who don’t drink 🙋

This seasonal beverage has been a part of my Christmas memories for as long as I can remember, and I can’t imagine a holiday season without it. Make a batch in the next few days and it might become your tradition, too.Wassail {Non-Alcoholic}

Wassail
from my mom’s recipe box
makes about 3 quarts

1 medium lemon
1 half-gallon (8 cups) apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
24 ounces (3 cups) unsweetened pineapple juice
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For Garnish:
1 medium lemon, thinly sliced, optional
cinnamon sticks, optional

Use a vegetable peeler to remove lemon zest in thick strips. Slice lemon in half and squeeze into a small bowl. Set aside zest and 3 tablespoons of the juice.

Combine apple cider and cinnamon sticks in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer for five minutes. Stir in lemon zest strips and juice, pineapple juice, honey, and nutmeg. Bring back to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer for five more minutes.

Strain out lemon zest and cinnamon sticks, if desired (I don’t mind them). Serve Wassail in mugs. Garnish with lemon slices or cinnamon sticks, if desired.

Wassail will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days and may be reheated on the stove or in the microwave.

Wassail {Non-Alcoholic}