Agua de Tamarindo or Tamarind Water is one of the most common and well-loved aguas frescas in all of Mexico. The earthy sweet and sour flavor—with its definitely bracing acidic note—is most welcome on a hot day.
Though tamarind itself is native to Africa and most often used in Indian cuisine, Tamarind Water is a popular drink mainly in Latin America. The flavor is so beloved that commercially produced tamarind-flavored drinks (some carbonated, others not) are commonly found, most notably Mexico´s Jarritos brand soda.
The rustic-looking and very astringent fruit of the tamarind tree is a pod containing a few seeds surrounded by pulp. It is the pulp, mixed with water and sugar, that is used to make this refreshing beverage. Although ready-made tamarind syrups and bricks of tamarind paste can be found at many Hispanic and Asian stores, there is something singularly satisfying about making the drink from scratch—that is, starting with the dried pods themselves.
- 15 dried tamarind pods
- 2 quarts (2 liters) drinking water
- 1 cup sugar (granulated, white)
Bring half the water (about a quart) to a boil in a large pot over high heat.
While you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare the tamarind pods: remove the brittle outer shell and pull off as many strings as you can; discard the shell and strings.
After the water comes to a rolling boil, remove it from the heat and place the inner portion of the tamarind and the sugar in the water. Let the tamarind soak for about an hour and thirty minutes.
The water will have cooled down. Use your fingers to squeeze out the hard tamarind seeds and remove the remaining strings; discard them.
Place the liquid and remaining pulp into a blender and process until the pulp is fully blended into the water.
Run the liquid through a strainer, if you wish, or leave it pulpy.
Pour your delicious Agua de Tamarindo into a pitcher, add the rest of the water, and refrigerate until cold. Serve over ice, if desired.
Notes on Agua Fresca de Tamarindo
All the quantities in this recipe are approximate and can be tweaked to taste. Add more water if you like a less concentrated beverage, use less sugar if you want more tartness, etc.
Squeeze a juicy lime or two into your pitcher of Agua de Tamarindo for an extra punch of flavor.
Even the most well-strained Tamarind Water tends to have solids settle at the bottom of the pitcher, so always stir before serving.
Edited by Robin Grose