Agua de Valencia Is the Spanish Cocktail That Makes for Perfect Summer Sipping

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Agua de Valencia Is the Spanish Cocktail That Makes for Perfect Summer Sipping

The sun is beating down on the asphalt like a sledgehammer and the street shimmers with an almost visible heat as the late afternoon summer silence starts to settle. It’s July, or maybe it’s August—in the daze of heat, I forget the date, the day of the week, my name. I wish I was in Valencia, Spain, but instead I’m in Boston, Massachusetts: two cities that are spiritually connected by their lack of widespread air conditioning.

Valencia has a particularly strong pull for me during the summer months because it was there that I first tried one of my favorite cocktails, a drink I’ve never before seen on a Boston menu. The cocktail is called Agua de Valencia, probably at least partially due to how easy it is to drink—there are few alcoholic beverages as chuggable as this one, though I can’t recommend ingesting it in such a fashion.

The bartender at a hostel I was staying at suggested I order the drink, claiming that it was the only reliable antidote to the sweltering heat that kept me out of the Spanish sun during the late afternoon, forcing me to sit in the shaded common room while beads of sweat dripped down my back. Frankly, it tasted like juice, which is generally not a quality I look for in a cocktail, but in that oppressive heat, it was just right, smoothly gliding down my parched tongue and sitting like a cold pool in my stomach before I took another sip to relive the cooling sensation.

Agua de Valencia is made with orange juice, Cava, gin and vodka, and despite its relatively high alcohol content, it’s one of the most refreshing cocktails I’ve ever tried. It was reportedly created in 1959 in Valencia by a man named Constance Gil, who was tasked with making a cocktail that was more multifaceted than the country’s signature bubbly wine, Cava. It was a success, and soon, drinkers all over the region and the country were drinking Agua de Valencia.

Despite the drink’s popularity in Spain, it doesn’t seem to have enjoyed the same success in the U.S. You’re not likely to see it featured on the trendiest of cocktail menus (or really many menus at all), but that doesn’t mean you can’t experience this Spanish specialty from thousands of miles away. In fact, I think that Agua de Valencia may just be the best batched cocktail for parties during the summer months. It’s easy to find the ingredients, easy to make and even easier to drink.

The original recipe calls for Cava, which is what’s known as a traditional method sparkling wine. (Champagne is made using the traditional method too!) These types of sparkling wine often have a richer, fuller, more complex flavor than other types of sparkling wine, like Prosecco. Cava was probably the wine of choice because it’s so readily available in Spain, but you can opt for a cheaper, lighter and fruiter option like Prosecco if you don’t like the dough-y flavor of Cava… or the price tag, for that matter. The flavors of the vodka and gin kind of get buried under the bright citrus notes of the juice, but you can swap them out for other types of liquor if you prefer. (I’ve used tequila and mezcal before—don’t tell the Spanish.)

You don’t have to succumb to the simplicity of a seltzer during summer if you’re looking for something a bit more elevated, and you don’t have to book a last-minute flight to Spain just to enjoy the country’s signature refreshing cocktails. A cold pitcher of Agua de Valencia is just a trip to the liquor store away.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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