Common knowledge: watermelon and July go together like sunshine and sunscreen — can't have one without the other. Similarly, on the savory side of things, basil and July go together like blue skies and pool days — together, bliss. So by simple deduction, watermelon and basil served together in a glass of lime and sugar over ice in the middle of July is nothing short of perfection.
Agua fresca is a Spanish term that translates literally as "fresh water." Common street-stall beverages throughout South America, they are made by blending fresh fruit with water or ice, lime, salt, and sometimes herbs.
If an agua fresca is designed to refresh on a hot, busy street, I can't think of a flavor that accomplishes this better than watermelon-basil. Before developing this recipe, I was little skeptical, but I had extra watermelon and so much basil, so I gave it a try.
As it turns out, I've been living under a rock: watermelon and basil are already a trusty summer salad, and as an agua fresca, they're delightful. The flavor is in all respects a win: the light sweetness of watermelon, the essence of summer in basil's scent and flavor, and fresh lime.
Watermelon Basil Agua Fresca
4 cups watermelon, cubed
1/4 cup sugar
15 basil leaves
1/2 cup water, room temperature
1 lime, juiced
Place the watermelon, sugar, and 2 to 3 ice cubes in a blender. Purée until smooth. Strain the watermelon through fine-mesh strainer or cheese cloth and discard the pulp.
In a glass pitcher, combine the water, lime juice, and basil leaves. Muddle the basil against the sides of the pitcher with a spoon. Pour the watermelon into the pitcher, stir, and serve over ice. Garnish with lime and basil. (The basil garnish is the cherry on top—every sip buries your nose in the fragrant leaves.)
This keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days.
- If you love basil, add more leaves!
- The ague fresca will separate if stored in the refrigerator. Simply stir and garnish with fresh lime.
(Image credits: Michaela Cisney)