People who know me in real life, or even people who just follow me on social media, will know that I love to indulge in a little tipple (okay, let’s be honest – a big tipple).
However, while I do enjoy the taste of cocktails, I’ve never really been a big cocktail drinker. I like my alcohol to taste like alcohol, and while I’m partial to a Bloody Mary when the mood strikes, I usually stick to beer and wine.
However, when you have a cocktail like Agua de Valencia, that is so integral to the fabric of its home city that its name translates to ‘Water of Valencia,’ you can’t not try it, especially if you live in said city.
So, since my arrival in Valencia, I’ve been quaffing Agua de Valencia (also known as Aigua de València in Valencian) at every chance I get.
In the name of research of course. Ahem.
During said ‘research,’ I have concluded that not only is Agua de Valencia a great cocktail to order at the bar, but it is really very simple to make at home, and whether you’re hosting an Italian-style aperitivo party (with a Spanish twist of course), or you want to impress your friends by gifting them bottles of homemade Agua de Valencia for Christmas, this simple Agua de Valencia recipe will make you the most popular person in town!
The Perfect Agua de Valencia Recipe
What is Agua de Valencia?
Before we get into the Agua de Valencia recipe itself, let’s take a look at what Agua de Valencia actually is.
Agua de Valencia is a Spanish cocktail from – you’ve guessed it – the city of Valencia.
While it is less popular to foreigners than Sangria, Agua de Valencia is a staple of Valencian culture, and no matter where you go in the city, you will find friends gathered around small tables in the sun sharing pitchers of the city’s signature drink, or drinking buckets full of it at the annual Fallas festival.
With freshly squeezed orange juice and cava taking centre stage in this cocktail, you would be forgiven for thinking it sounds just like a Mimosa, but actually, an Agua de Valencia is far more dangerous (and delicious!) due to the additional presence of vodka and gin.
The Origins of Agua de Valencia
Agua de Valencia is said to have originated back in 1959 at Café Madrid in Valencia, by Constante Gil.
As the story goes, some Basque visitors kept ordering cava, referring to it as ‘the water of Bilbao,’ but before long, they got tired of ordering the same drink and asked Gil to make them something new.
He joked that he could make ‘the water of Valencia’ for them instead, and to his surprise, they took him up on the offer, meaning that he had to think quickly and come up with something!
Knowing that his guests enjoyed drinking cava, he decided to combine their favourite tipple with some freshly squeezed Valencian oranges (Valencia is famous for its oranges, after all!), along with a splash of vodka and gin to top it off, and thus, the original Agua de Valencia recipe was born.
As it happened, his guests loved the end result so much that they continued to order it every time they were in the city, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that other bars and cafes began selling the drink and its popularity began to soar.
In the present day, pretty much every single bar in Valencia sells pitchers of Agua de Valencia, and it is beloved by locals and tourists alike.
Key Ingredients for the Perfect Agua de Valencia
Valencian oranges are some of the most famous oranges in the world (and the sweetest!). The entire city (and the pueblos in the wider Valencian community) is surrounded by lush orange groves, and Valencia actually produces more than 70% of Spain’s oranges for export!
Due to their sweetness, Valencian oranges are perfect for Agua de Valencia, meaning that adding extra sugar is not necessary. However, if you have a sweet tooth or can’t get hold of Valencian oranges, you can add a pinch of sugar to your taste.
It is important that you use freshly squeezed oranges when making Agua de Valencia (usually without the pulp). You will really taste the difference when the juice is freshly squeezed.
Cava is a sparkling wine similar to Champagne or Prosecco. Around 95% of cava is produced in Catalonia, in the northeast of Spain, but the Requena side of the Utiel-Requena region in Valencia is one of the few places outside Catalonia authorised to produce it, meaning that a true Agua de Valencia is made with locally-sourced cava.
However, while using cava is ideal, if you don’t have any then you can easily substitute it with another sparkling wine.
I would personally stay away from the dry sparkling wines (such as Brut Nature) and go for a slightly sweeter ones such as Semi-seco. This will also reduce the need to add extra sugar to your Agua de Valencia.
The spirits used in Agua de Valencia are traditionally vodka and gin.
You don’t need to buy anything super expensive, but I would still advise on buying quality spirits – you don’t want the cheapest bottle making your cocktail taste like antifreeze!
You will also find some Agua de Valencia recipes recommending the use of Cointreau to enhance the orange flavour.
However, most Valencians would argue that this ruins the cocktail, and takes away from the true orange flavour.
Of course, you are free to experiment and find what works for you, but my Agua de Valencia recipe will be using the traditional method without Cointreau!
The Perfect Agua de Valencia Recipe
I prefer to use 1 part cava to 1 part everything else, so for example, if you use 500ml of cava when making your Agua de Valencia, all of the other ingredients would need to add up to 500ml.
This is because I love my bubbly, and prefer a slightly stronger drink. If you want yours to be weaker then simply use 1 part orange juice to 1 part everything else!
Agua de Valencia Ingredients:
- 500ml cava, semi-sweet and chilled
- 300ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 100ml vodka
- 100ml gin
- Orange slices
How to make:
- If you haven’t already, squeeze your orange juice. This bit will need some elbow grease but it will be worth it!
- Take a 1 litre pitcher and add all of the ingredients, making sure that the cava is added last.
- Gently stir and taste. If it tastes bitter, add a small pinch of sugar. Repeat until satisfied.
- Serve over ice and add a few slices of orange for garnish.
- Voila! Your Agua de Valencia is ready to drink!
Agua de Valencia | Final Thoughts
I hope that this brief introduction to Valencia’s signature cocktail and Agua de Valencia recipe helped you!
I think that Agua de Valencia is the perfect choice for any occasion, from a boozy brunch to a picnic in the sun, an aperitivo or even a more sophisticated date night on the town.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section below, and also don’t forget to let me know how you get on making Agua de Valencia at home, and whether you stick to my Agua de Valencia recipe or shake it up a little and do something different!
Until next time,
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