Across metro Phoenix, you’ll find traditional flavors at taquerias but the sky is the limit on these Mexican drinks. Phoenix offers vegan versions and creative twists to savor everywhere from farmer’s markets to rooftop patios.
Here’s where to drink the best aguas frescas in the Valley.
Emilio’s Tacos & Hotdogs
13803 North 19th Avenue
There are strawberry horchatas and then there’s Emilio’s strawberry horchata. This sinfully decadent sip starts with housemade horchata and ends with a fruity syrup, thick with chunks of real fruit, that slowly oozes into the horchata, turning the whole thing jewel-toned red and pink. Almost smoothie thick, each mouthful tastes simultaneously creamy and tart with a velvety sweetness. A bright spot in North Phoenix with a modern interior and drive-thru, Emilio’s sweet and savory menu also includes standout Sonoran hotdogs, asada fries, fried ice cream, and churros.
The Garfield Phoenix
924 East Roosevelt Street
The food menu at The Garfield is small but mighty, much like the retro diner itself. Just five items strong, the menu includes carne asada tacos made with premium flank steak, super-stuffed burritos that are almost too big, and a combo plate with a side of pinto beans that’ll turn non-bean lovers into believers.
Husband-and-wife owners Oswald “Ozzie” Fuentes and Shannon Moss put the same care into their horchata, a recipe that comes from Fuentes’s mother. Made from scratch using long grain rice, evaporated and condensed milk, sugar, Mexican vanilla, and whole cinnamon sticks, the secret is in the mixing process.
“I have a method for combining everything so you end up with a very sweet, creamy, and smooth horchata,” Moss says. They also offer a horchata float with vanilla ice cream, a dreamy horchata cold brew coffee, and a spiked horchata cocktail made with Kahlua.
Testal Mexican Kitchen
1325 Grand Avenue
If you think you’ve tried every flavor of agua fresca, you haven’t tried them at Testal. The Grand Avenue spot is known for its Chihuahua-style burritos and housemade tortillas, but the aguas frescas really stand out. As well as the familiar flavor of Jamaica, Testal serves two homespun standouts: Iskiate, a natural energy drink made with fresh lime juice, chia seeds, and agave nectar, a pucker-up pick-me-up that’s sour and slightly gelatinous, and, Pinole, an oat milk and roasted ground corn sweetly satisfying sip that tastes entirely original. Imagine roasted marshmallow-meets-corn on the cob with an earthy edge you’ll savor down to the last swig.
The aguas frescas menu at Tortas Manantial is substantial. Available in sizes large and larger, the colorful array of drinks ranges from fruity (papaya, strawberry, watermelon, mango) to creamy (coconut, horchata) to novel (guanabana, mamey), all for under $6. If that’s not enough options, get creative and make your own combo (coconut and orange tastes like a Creamsicle). Always made to order with hand-sliced fruits and vegetables, as evidenced by the rows of whole pineapples and papayas lining the shelves, each drink is blended fresh and strained before your eyes for a fresher than fresh sip. We just wish the West Valley mini-chain would expand east.
Belly Kitchen & Bar
4971 North 7th Avenue
Ordering horchata at Belly, the hipster Southeast Asian-inspired eatery and rooftop patio at Seventh Avenue and Camelback, may seem counterintuitive. Here, bartenders sling creative cocktails made with Thai basil, pineapple shrub, and tamarind salt while servers run crispy spring rolls, steaming clay pots, and funky fried rice to a clamoring crowd. But this isn’t your grandma’s horchata. These masters of flavor make rice milk by blending rice, water, and salt. They then simmer lemongrass and lime leaf until it turns into a tangy tea, before dissolving organic sugar cane and blue agave nectar for a kiss of sweetness. Finally, they blend it with coconut cream and coconut milk for a trippy sip that’s equal parts exotic and ingenious – and just happens to be vegan.
La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop
4117 North 16th Street
5932 West Glendale Avenue, Glendale
La Santisima‘s horchata is as famous as its extensive salsa bar. Developed from a family recipe, the cool, frothy drink comes crowned with chopped strawberry, cantaloupe, pecans, and specks of cinnamon for the perfect cool down between bites of salsa-spiked tacos. But the real refresher is the Yerbabuena Mint, a not-nearly-as-sweet sip that turns just three ingredients – sugar, fresh mint, and water – into the ultimate taco tamer.
Tres Leches Café
1714 West Van Buren Street
The aguas frescas at Tres Leches Café range from sweet to sweeter. Made fresh from mustachioed owner José “ET” Rivera’s recipes, the roster includes 12 flavors, including pina colada, prickly pear, coconut, agua de mazapan, horchata, and the sweetest of the bunch, Sundae la Rosa. This confection in a cup is inspired by chocolate-covered mazapan. More like a dessert than a drink, the latter is made with the popular peanut and powdered sugar Mexican candy and topped with chocolate sauce and a cherry. Add a shot of espresso to make it a “sucia.”
Presidio Cocina Mexicana
519 West Thomas Road
The recipe for Presidio’s award-winning horchata is a closely guarded secret. Ask your server and you’ll get a vague answer that includes some combo of rice milk, whole milk, evaporated milk, and cinnamon without any specifics. The person who does know is Lucina Nava. She brings her Michoacán-inspired family recipes, like housemade chorizo, fresh tortillas, and bold salsas, to Presidio. Needless to say, history, family, and love go into the recipe, resulting in a rich, nuanced drink with just the right amount of sweet that goes down smooth.
Just Tacos and More
2910 North 32nd Street
When you walk into Just Tacos and More, an unassuming strip mall spot at the corner of Thomas and 32nd Street, two beehive-shaped jugs of aguas frescas greet you along with a colorful sign announcing the flavors. Made fresh daily, you can count on horchata, served from a barrel brimming with almonds, pecans, coconut, diced strawberries, and apples sweetened with condensed and evaporated milk. The second flavor sways between papaya, watermelon, tamarindo, and cucumber limeade with a hint of mint. All of the creative concoctions sing with fresh fruit and tropical tastes. Whether you pair your drink with a ceviche tostada or an ancho chile-marinated fish taco, the food is just as bright and flavorful.
The Horchata Company
1900 E 5th Street, Tempe
Stephen May and his wife Maria Janet officially started The Horchata Company in February of 2022 out of Tempe Food Court, but they started making and honing the Mexican drink long before. Janet hails from Acapulco, and the couple lived in Puerto Vallarta for 10 years. There, they served up frothy, fruity creations and combos to friends and family.
“We wanted everyone to be able to experience the taste of authentic horchata from Mexico without traveling all way there to try it,” May says. As well as their original horchata, the duo offer mango, peach, strawberry, pina colada, chocolate, iced coffee, and blue curacao horchata.
Uptown Farmers Market at 5757 North Central Avenue
Raul’s Cocina serves vegan standouts galore including hearts of palm ceviche, red jackfruit tamales, and jalapeño chickpea salad. These Mexican-inspired dishes also happen to be gluten-free. The aguas frescas are no exception. All are made and served with love by owner Anna “Salsa” Salazar. Strawberry Jamaica tames the tartness of hibiscus and pina is blended with real pineapple, then strained, leaving hints of the tropical fruit. Both are sweetened with agave. But it’s the horchata that’ll keep you coming back. This rice milk, coconut cream, and cinnamon sip is sweetened with condensed coconut milk. It’s both creamy and refreshing.
909 North First Street
As you might expect from an art gallery and minimalist coffee shop housed inside Palabra, a modern hair studio in the Roosevelt arts district, the horchata at Futuro is anything but basic. Housemade with toasted wild rice, cinnamon, raw almonds, allspice, cane sugar, and oat milk, the dairy-free blend is so rich and thick that the cinnamon floats, suspended throughout. Pair it with a picture-perfect sculpture of a pastry made by Mark Chacón, like his lovely layered Horchata Bavarian Tres Leches cake, for a duo that tastes even more elevated when enjoyed within the white-walled space.
901 North First Street
The horchata at The Churchill’s Provecho takes time to create. It starts with unblanched rice that’s soaked for 24 hours and then blended for eight minutes with whole cinnamon sticks, sugar cane, and Mexican vanilla. Then in goes whole milk and a little evaporated milk to give it body, creating a silky-smooth sip that’s right on the edge of sweet. This shipping container restaurant also serves an agua of the day, like Jamaica Fresa or Limon Con Chia, which pair perfectly with the Guadalajara-inspired tacos.