AGUA FRESCA translates literally to “fresh water.” And that’s a pretty apt description for Mexico’s ubiquitous fruit juice, slightly diluted to allow you to gulp cup after cup on a sweltering day, cooling you off as the natural sweetness of fresh fruit shimmers through. When Bryan Steelman, owner of the ¿Por Qué No? taquerias on SE Hawthorne Boulevard and N Mississippi Avenue, spent time in Mexico, he got hooked on agua fresca made from tropical guavas, cactus fruit, and pineapple. Back in Portland, he often imports tropical fruits and purées from Mexico to whip up the versions he serves daily at his restaurants. But Steelman also puts a Northwest churn on the tradition, serving agua fresca made from Oregon-grown melons, cucumbers, and berries.
For Steelman, this raspberry-mint version is truly homegrown, sourced partly from the vines growing behind his Mississippi location. “It’s a chance for us to have an expression of the fruits that are growing here,” he says. “It just gives you a sense of time and place.” In this recipe, he pairs the tart sweetness of Oregon raspberries with a cooling finish of fresh mint. And if you’d like to riff on tradition even further, you can follow ¿Por Qué No?’s model and pair it with a splash of rum and a chunk of lime. Here’s to summer.