I have a guest post today from my friend Macarena Hernández. She told me this story while I was hanging out with her in San Antonio recently.
Agua mineral preparada is one of my antojos. They’re very easy to find in the Rio Grande Valley, and along the border, at drive-through stores. Depending on where you go, they’re made differently. Some people put chamoy in them. Others, like at my favorite drive-through in Palmview, Texas, they actually put in stalks of celery, long shreds of carrot and dill pickles — like hamburger dill pickle slices. It’s really good.
On top of that, obviously, they put lemon, chilito (I prefer Tajin) and salt. And on top of the styrofoam cup lid, they put small cubes of jicama with sal, limón y chile, with toothpicks. So you get a little jicama salad on top of your agua mineral preparada. My family, for the most part, loves agua mineral preparada, especially after carne asadas, when we’ve had too much red meat, too much arroz and frijoles. It feels like a good digestive drink.
When I make it at home, I don’t complicate it for myself. I buy Topo Chico. I’m so partial to Topo Chico because the carbonation levels are just right. (Lesley interjects: IT’S INSANE.) It’s insane. And I don’t think you can have an agua mineral preparada without insane levels of carbonation. I’ve tried it with Perrier or whatever, the American ones, and it just wasn’t an agua mineral preparada. No matter how much limón or salt or chile I put in there it didn’t work.
Everyone likes their agua mineral preparada differently. It really depends on how much limón, sal and chile you can take. Depending on who I’d make it for in my family, the drink could look orange, or it could have just a few speckles of chilito and salt. And then I mix it gently, because I don’t want it to lose any carbonation. I like to drink it with a straw — it just goes down better.
If anyone’s visiting me, this is one thing I have them try. Not everyone likes it. If you don’t like salty, lemony, spicy drinks, you’re not going to like this. My personal favorite raspa is a diablito, which is basically lemon juice, salt and chile, so for me it’s basically a mineral water version of a raspa de chile limón.
[Lesley interjects: I think this tastes like a cross between a limonada and a michelada, without the beer. Or it tastes like these fruit salads that you have in Mexico, with the cucumber and jicama with lime and chile powder. It has that sort of freshness to it.]
Agua Mineral Preparada
Macarena’s notes: For the mineral water, I don’t recommend anything except Topo Chico. (I like Peñafiel, but only as a thirst quencher, not for my agua mineral preparada. And I have tried all kinds — even making this in Europe. They’re too flat. If Topo Chico is reading this, they should send me cases. I do spend a lot of money on Topo Chico mineral water.)
You can find Topo Chico and Tajin in South Texas at almost any HEB. Note that Tajin does have salt in it.
Ice is essential. This drink needs to be cold.
1 cup of ice
Juice of 2 yellow lemons
Juice of 1 good-sized lime (not key lime)
1 6.5 ounce bottle Topo Chico
Tajin (I use about 9 shakes of the Tajin bottle — this might be too much; start with less and taste)
Salt to taste
Sliced dill pickles
Thinly sliced carrot sticks
Thin slices of celery
1 or 2 saladitos (dried, salted plums or apricots)
Fill a pint glass with ice. Add citrus juice. Pour in Topo Chico, and then the Tajin. (If adding saladitos, add at this point, before the salt.) Taste for salt, add to your preference, then add jicama, dill pickles, carrots and celery, if using. Stir gently to preserve the carbonation levels in the drink.
Macarena Hernández, who grew up in La Joya Texas, is a professor at the University of Houston- Victoria and a multimedia journalist.