Fresh orange juice and cava take center stage in this agua de Valencia recipe. Learn how to make this popular Spanish cocktail reminiscent of the mimosa.
Years ago when I came to Spain as a student, one of our favorite pastimes was going to karaoke bars and singing the night away. That’s where I first learned some popular Spanish songs, and it’s also where I fist tried agua de Valencia.
Agua de Valencia is a Spanish cocktail from this region of Spain made with fresh oranges, as could be expected from here, cava, and a couple of spirits. There are many variations of the agua de Valencia recipe floating around the internet, some which are quite strong, but when I have tasted it most places here, the cava and fresh orange juice take center stage. It is a smooth and sweet cocktail that is reminiscent of the mimosa.
If you were wondering, cava is just a Spanish sparkling wine, once known as “spanish champagne.” Many people refer to sparkling wines from all over the world as types of “champagne” but really the only sparkling wines that can legally be called that are those made in the Champagne region of France using the regional grapes and the traditional champagne method. Cava is made using the same traditional method, but uses grapes indigenous to their region of Spain, and tends to be less expensive than champagne. The lower price point makes it perfect for mixing into cocktails such as this one. I once went on a tour through the Cava Codorniu bodegas in Barcelona, and it was really interesting to see the process of how cava was made, tour through the cellars filled with bottle upon bottle of cava, and to taste the wines, of course.
If you don’t have cava, you can substitute another sparkling wine of your choice. Just like champagne and other sparkling wines, cava also is made in a variety of sweetness levels from very dry to sweet (Brut nature-brut-brut reserve-sec-semisec-dolsec). For this recipe, you can use whichever you prefer. Despite normally liking wines on the drier side with dinner, for a cocktail using freshly squeezed orange juice, I prefer a cava on the sweeter side like a sweet or semi sweet (the most popularly used for this cocktail); it just seems to fit.
As for the oranges, when I first arrived at this region of Spain, orange trees were everywhere. I would go for walks through orange groves in my city on the other side of the castle. Sadly, little by little the orange trees are disappearing, especially from within the city limits where the cost of land is at a premium. Even in the countryside, many farmers are abandoning their orchards as the price of the upkeep of the land is often much higher than the price that can be made for selling any harvested oranges. My aunt and uncle, that now live in Alicante, still have what was once a successful orange grove in another city, but have told me that they lose money each year with it.
Despite the progressive disappearance of the orange groves, The Valencia region of Spain is still well known for its sweet oranges so it’s not surprising that a cocktail named “agua de Valencia” would have freshly squeezed orange juice as its main ingredient.
Apart from the orange juice and cava, vodka and gin are also used in varying proportions depending upon the recipe. I’ve see recipes that use equal proportions of orange juice, cava, vodka, and gin, but I can imagine that the combination would be very strong and nothing like what I’m accustomed to drinking in restaurants and bars here. I’ve also seen recipes that use much less orange juice, and some that add in Cointreau to help add more of an orange flavor, but I have seen the purists complain about that, saying it ruins the cocktail. Lastly some people add in extra sugar, something that I don’t normally do myself, but I can understand considering it if you are using oranges that aren’t particularly sweet.
Not too long ago, we received the gift of some freshly picked oranges from somebody’s grove. It is not uncommon around here for people to exchange whatever it is that they happen to have on their land or the product of their labors. I can only guess that the oranges we received were a result of my father-in-law sharing fish from the boat with a friend who happens to have orange trees on his land.
I don’t usually drink a lot of orange juice, and I don’t eat enough oranges to use the large amounts before they would go bad. Instead I decided to experiment with making agua de Valencia because it’s something that I’ve wanted to share with you for quite some time now. After reading several recipes and making and taste testing several combinations, this is agua de Valencia recipe that I came up with. I think it’s pretty comparable to what would be served here locally in my part of the Valencian community.
This post is also available in Español.