How to Make Fruit-Infused Water at Home

Why It Works

  • Grapefruit gives this water welcome acidity tinged with bitter notes from the oils present from the peel being muddled.
  • Mashing a portion of the ingredients with a small amount of water extracts the essential flavor in a short steeping time.
  • A final decorative garnish adds visual appeal and fresh flavor.

In my years of cooking in restaurant kitchens, I would routinely cut off a piece of masking tape at the start of every shift and put it above my station, then mark a notch with my sharpie every time I would finish a deli container of ice water. It was something that I forced myself to do to track my water intake throughout the course of a busy service where self care was not a priority, despite sweltering kitchen heat. If I had a few scrap ends of lemons or limes, or a bruised berry or two, I’d throw them into my deli filled with ice water in an effort to make my water more enticing, but it was hardly a thoughtful approach to creating a flavored beverage. 

With my days of cooking on the line far behind me, I now approach my water consumption with a different perspective. I no longer track and force my water drinking in a hurried haste. I now view water as something to be savored and enjoyed. And while water is very necessary, plain water can sometimes be…a little boring. Infusing water with a few fresh ingredients that are muddled, steeped, then strained, can elevate everyday hydration.

Here, I want infused water with subtle bright flavor that I would be excited to drink, without needing a piece of masking tape in my direct eyeline to track my consumption. To obtain this, I needed to figure out a reliable method for achieving those goals. After wading deeper into the world of infused water, and learning from established drink recipes such as agua frescas and horchatas from Mexico and Central America, as well as various other steeped fruit and herbal infusions throughout the world, I realized there’s more to a flavored water than simply adding a handful of fresh produce to plain water, and serving. When I tried this back in my days as a line cook, the water lacked flavor, and turned bitter over time. 

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Better, I found, is the muddling technique used in this cucumber water recipe, where I muddle the selected ingredients and then steep with a small amount of water for just 30 minutes to one hour, which provided a more intense flavor. Leaving the muddled ingredients in the water for over an hour made the water bitter, especially the pithy grapefruit, which means straining after the steeping step is important. Additionally, if the mixture is left unstrained, the water turns into a cloudy and pulpy beverage, which I did not want.

I chose blackberries, grapefruit, and fresh sage as my muddling ingredients for this flavored water recipe below. Blackberries provide a welcome pink hue to the water and a tart and sweet flavor to offset the bitter grapefruit. Grapefruit gives the water welcome acidity with bitter notes from the oils present in the peel, which I leave on for muddling and steeping. Sage rounds out the water with a complex herbal quality that, when used in moderation, is aromatic with grassy undertones.

When infused properly, the combination of these ingredients creates a water that is slightly sweet, acidic, and a bit complex. And while not totally necessary, a final garnish of the ingredients adds visual appeal that might be just enough to motivate the under-quenched among us to stay hydrated.

July 2023

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