Aguas frescas (“fresh waters”) are popular soft drinks sold primarily by street vendors in Latin American countries. They can also be found in taquerias and bodegas (convenience stores) throughout the region, and into North America. They are made with a variety of fruit, sugar, and water. The most common flavors are horchata (almond), tamarind and roselle (hibiscus), which in Spanish is known as Jamaica (pronounced ha-MAY-ka.)
Put allspice, ginger, zest and cinnamon in 2 liters of water; add the sugar and bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. Add the roselle and allow the mixture to steep covered for 20 minutes. Strain the syrup into a storage jar and add the lime juice. Store this in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. To serve, fill a glass with crushed ice, add the syrup to half fill the glass and top up with club soda.
Agua de Jamaica is the classic version of an agua fresca, and certainly the easiest to make. The roselle is high in Vitamin C, and is tangy yet floral in character, almost like a berry or grape drink. The spices are subtle, and create background complexity. It can be prepared as a still beverage, or, as in this example, topped up with club soda to create a sparking (gaseosa) version. Refrescante y delicioso!