Although I'm usually all about adult fermented liquid refreshment, I do enjoy less mood-altering beverages during the daylight hours. I've become especially fond of aguas frescas, which I, um, had never heard of before I came to Texas. (Central Pennsylvania is not, as one might imagine, an epicenter of Hispanic cuisine.) Here are my five favorites in Houston:
5. Red Bell Pepper (La Tapatia). If you're tired of overly sweet aguas frescas, try the chile morron at La Tapatia. More cool and soothing than spicy, this juice is the perfect complement to heavier Tex-Mex entrées.
4. Tepache (Hugo's). A combination of tropical and autumnal flavors, tepache mixes sweet pineapple with earthier notes of cloves, cinnamon and brown sugar. It's sold in plastic bags on the streets of Mexico City; Hugo's, however, insists you use a glass.
3. Horchata (La Guadalupana Bakery & Cafe). Horchata is my new favorite endurance sports beverage (sorry, Lean Body); I mean, really, how can you go wrong with liquified rice? I've tried enough versions in H-town (including one rather gross grocery store offering) to know that the stuff at La Guadalupana is first-rate in terms of fresh ingredients and consistency. On weekend mornings, I suggest double-fisting with a cup of their fresh coffee.
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2. Watermelon (The Original Ninfa's). While it's not terribly unusual for an agua fresca to arrive adorned with a garnish, the watermelon version at The Original Ninfa's comes with an unusually large slab of fruit. So gigantic is this chunk of melon that it threatens to tip over the glass, whose contents are equally big on crisp, clean flavor.
1. Cantaloupe (El Rey Taqueria). The perfect coda to a meal of tacos and tortilla soup at El Rey Taqueria is a large glass of agua de melón. Fragrant and slightly syrupy, this juice satisfies your sweet tooth and leaves you far more hydrated than that piece of flan.