Even though I spent much more measurable amount of time living in France, the country that really left the biggest imprint on me was Spain. I studied abroad in Spain the summer I turned 20 years old – which is so young in so many ways. I didn’t have a clarified sense of self, I didn’t have a clarified sense of the world and other cultures, and it was really this experience of being in Spain for a summer that started to bring both of those things into focus for me.
Before Spain I was struggling to find my independence and self-confidence. Going away to college was a particularly difficult transition for me, so spending two months away from home in a country where I didn’t speak much of the language at all was terrifying.
And actually in college, I was on a career and education path that didn’t align with my interests and overall goals. But to give you an idea of how really young and lost I was just know this: before going to Spain I was an extremely picky eater. Things I wouldn’t eat include but are not limited to: seafood of any kind, potatoes, coffee that wasn’t drowned in sugar and cream.
So you could say I grew up a lot after studying abroad in Salamanca. I completely changed my picky eating ways and fell absolutely in love with Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine. I learned to drink my coffee black. I went from banning all food that once swam in an ocean to loving anchovies on my tapas and knowing exactly what to do when the shrimp in my paella came out with their heads still fully intact.
But aside from a new appreciation for food and culture, the best thing I came away with from Spain was my independence. I made wonderful friends there, and we spent the weekends traveling to new places all throughout the country.
One of my favorite of those destinations was Valencia: home to the best paella in all of Spain, Mediterranean beaches, the City of Arts & Sciences, and fruit trees dripping with Valencian oranges all throughout the city.
It’s there where we were first introduced to the city’s most famous cocktail – Agua de Valencia. It became our Spanish cocktail anthem from then on out. We would buy fresh oranges and cava and make our own Agua de Valencia for nights out or for lazy picnics. When I came back to the US, I loved making Agua de Valencia for my friends.
What is Agua de Valencia?
Classically, Agua de Valencia is made with fresh squeezed Valencian orange juice, cava (Spanish sparkling wine), vodka, and gin. You can think of it as a cross between a mimosa and a French 75.
The thing that makes it particularly good is of course the fresh squeezed orange juice. The orange juice they used in Valencia had a sweet, almost vanilla like, flavor. It’s something I have a hard time recapturing when I make Agua de Valencia at home.
Recreating Agua de Valencia
To try to capture some of that more complex flavor when using fresh squeezed oranges from Valencia at home, I use Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur. It helps lend depth of flavor, and I use it in place of either the vodka or the gin to reduce the alcohol content just a bit (not by much admittedly).
Using orange liqueur instead of vodka or gin in Agua de Valencia does help to give a stronger, more complex orange flavor, but it also ups the sweetness levels as well. My taste for overly sweet cocktails is very different at 30 than it was at 20, so I like to balance the sweetness with a tart squeeze of lemon juice. It helps to round out the flavor of the cocktail in general.
Ratios in Agua de Valencia
I’ve found the magic ratio when making Agua de Valencia to be 1 part cava to 1 part everything else. So if I’m making a drink with 5oz of cava, I need the gin, Grand Marnier, and fresh orange juice to also equal 5oz.
You can play with the ratios of the “everything else” to your liking. For me, it’s 1oz gin, 1oz Grand Marnier, 3oz fresh squeezed orange juice. That’s all balanced with 5oz of cava.
Psst, don’t worry, the recipe is spelled out in full below.
A note on ingredients:
Always try for real oranges freshly squeezed when making Agua de Valencia. It really does make all the difference in the world. If you don’t have access to oranges to juice, then you can buy fresh squeezed orange juice at the store (Simply Orange is my brand of choice in this scenario).
Have fun with the oranges you try in this recipe! I used a mix of blood oranges, navel oranges, and cara cara oranges and loved the color and flavor mix they provided. Experiment yourself and see which citrus you like best.
Agua de Valencia
Agua de Valencia is the cocktail of choice in Valencia, Spain – sweet, fizzy, and with bright citrusy flavor – it’s a crowd pleaser!
- 1 oz gin
- 1 oz Grand Marnier
- 3 oz fresh squeezed orange juice
- 5 oz cava or other dry, sparkling wine
- Squeeze of lime or lemon juice
Combine the gin, Grand Marnier, and Orange Juice together in a large wine glass
Top with the cava and stir gently
Add a squeeze of lemon juice or lime juice and taste for sweetness. Add more juice as necessary
Garnish with an orange slice and serve!
The ratios in this recipe can be copied and used to make a large pitcher of Agua de Valencia. Simply combine all ingredients, top with cava, and set out lime wedges and orange slices to serve