On the hunt for the ultimate thirst quencher? Turn Northern Michigan watermelon into a booze-free cooler to beat the heat with this Last Call agua fresca recipe.

This article first appeared in Traverse Northern Michigan. Find this story and more when you explore our digital issue library. Want Traverse delivered to your door or inbox monthly? View our print subscription and digital subscription options.

In this era of Instagram and Pinterest, it can be easy for us food-obsessed overachievers (it takes one to know one) to daydream about bringing one of those hand-carved watermelon baskets as our dish to pass this month. You know, the kind where you carefully carve a sawtooth edge and use your grandmother’s melon baller to get as many perfect little spheres of juicy watermelon as you can engineer. But what, we ask ourselves, would we do with all the scraps? What about all those pieces of delicious watermelon that sit between the little holes that became balls of melon? I’m not sure if you actually want the answer or if you prefer the convenient excuse to talk yourself out of spending a half a Saturday with a watermelon, but the solution to all those scraps is easy. Blend them, add some water and a smidge of agave, pour the mixture over ice, garnish with a spring of oregano and a time-honored refresher is born: watermelon agua fresca, or agua de sandia (literally, watermelon water) in Spanish.

Watermelon and limes

Photo by Dave Weidner

Agua fresca with watermelon

Photo by Dave Weidner

Throughout Mexico, agua frescas are made to beat the scorching heat with anything from pineapple scraps to steeped hibiscus petals, but I love supporting Michigan melon farmers and making ours with watermelon. These alcohol-free coolers are often served in a plastic barrel known as a vitolero, but I keep it simple and pour mine into a mason jar instead. And while we are keeping it simple, I’m definitely skipping the melon baller and just making the mocktail. Here in the North, summer’s too short for sawtoothed edges.

Watermelon Agua Fresca Recipe

Serves 1

  • Half of a lime
  • 8 ounces chopped watermelon, about 2 cups
  • 1⁄2 cup water
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons light agave
  • Fresh oregano sprig, for garnish
Watermelon Agua Fresca Directions: Slice a round off the lime half, reserving it for garnish. Squeeze the juice from the remainder of the lime into a blender, about 11⁄2 teaspoons of fresh juice. Add watermelon, water and agave to the blender and whiz for a minute, until fully incorporated and frothy. Fill a 12-ounce canning jar with ice, pour the mixture over the ice, garnish with the lime round and sprig of oregano and serve.
Watermelon Agua Fresca drinks

Photo by Dave Weidner

Stacey Brugeman is a Leelanau County-based food and beverage writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Food & Wine, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Eater and Denver’s 5280, where she served as restaurant critic. Follow her on Instagram @staceybrugeman.

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner