I like the idea of a watermelon margarita. But you can't really substitute watermelon for lime juice—it just doesn't have that acidity. And sure, you could add watermelon on top of the lime juice, but to me, that's kind of like making a banana daiquiri. Is it a tasty drink? Sure. But should you do it? Out of principle, probably not.
Also there's the issue of strength. People tend to think of the margarita as a light and refreshing drink, but between the tequila and tripe sec, your typical margarita can be stronger than a Manhattan.
So I like the idea of adding tequila to something traditional and quite light, like aguas frescas. These are the natural sodas of Mexico, typically made with watermelon, hibiscus or tamarind. I operate on the "what grows together, goes together" principle, so adding tequila to a traditional Mexican beverage just makes sense.
For this cocktail, I'm using both hibiscus and watermelon, two traditional agua fresca flavors. The hibiscus tea is going to bring some tannins and astringency to the mix, which is balanced by the agave syrup and the tequila.
As for the name, agua fresca implies a non-alcoholic drink, so Agua Fuerte (strong) plays on the notion that this is something with a bit more punch.
But it's still lighter than a margarita—and way more refreshing.
James Beard Award-winning mixologist Jim Meehan is Drinks Editor at Tasting Table.
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