AGUA DE VALENCIA: THE COCKTAIL THAT WON THE HEART OF THE MOON
Agua de Valencia is the city’s most iconic cocktail, the most famous of the many to be enjoyed under the light of our moon. It is a drink very of this place, and although its refreshing organoleptic qualities make it suitable for savouring any time of the day or night, it was originally an evening beverage.
Historians such as María Ángeles Arazo (Valencia Noche, Plaza & Janés S.A.) attribute its brilliant creation to Constante Gil, notable as an example of someone who combined the qualities of visual artist and host. Gil turned the former Cervecería Madrid, now Café Madrid, into a meeting place for evening social gatherings in València's Ciutat Vella (old town) in the second half of the 20th century. One night in 1959, at the urging of a group of Basque customers who had grown tired of drinking agua de Bilbao, as the best sparkling wine in the house was called, he rose to the challenge of creating his own cocktail. And from that magical on-the-spot improvisation there emerged a drink that has transcended the place where it was first dreamed up.
For the core ingredient, he turned to the star of Valencia's terreta, the orange. The recipe begins with a generous amount of juice from any of the local varieties, preferably plucked from the tree at the precise moment of ripeness, complemented by judicious splashes of vodka, gin and cava, the latter from the nearby Requena y Utiel district, if possible. Needless to say, the quality of the spirits employed must be on a level with the virtues of the king of citrus fruits par excellence. This is what has become known as the original recipe, although the family of the now-departed creator guards the secret of the special touches applied to that very first mixture. We know that he also added sugar, although the characteristic sweetness of València oranges make this optional.
Initially, the drink was only known to a few acolytes at the former Cervecería Madrid, the only ones to order and enjoy it at their secret meetings. But the popularity of the establishment, at the epicentre of the local scene during this period, meant it soon gained fame and demand increased, especially at the delightful social gatherings under the Valencian moon which our beloved and wonderful climate makes possible. There is no lack of night-time leisure activities!
In any event, one noteworthy aspect which should be emphasized is the unifying power of the cocktail itself, as it must be prepared in a large pitcher and shared in good harmony, served in a champagne coupe, of the style said to be modelled on the breast of Marie Antoinette. And so, if there is one thing that identifies the most Valencian of the many cocktails on offer during a night out in the city, it is its ability to bring people together and the characteristic orange colour of the fruits from this protected geographical indication.
Where to find it
To enjoy a 100% Agua de València experience, seek out a spot with a guarantee of excellence. It is important to choose one of the locations that serve it with both care and caring. And as they are also situated in some of loveliest parts of the city … there is nothing left to say but bottoms up!
Let us begin in Ciutat Vella, the most traditional area for València’s nightlife. Café de Las Horas (Comte d'Almodóvar, 1), Café Lisboa (Plaza del Doctor Collado, 9), Café Sant Jaume (Cavallers, 51), La Lola restaurant (Pujada del Toledà, 8) and Christopher Lee cocktail bar (Pinzón, 17), a temple for those nostalgic for classic cinema, never disappoint. Or opt for Mi Cub, located in Colón Market, a lovely example of modernist civil architecture.
- Juice of València oranges
- Cava (ideally, one of those produced in the Valencian Community)
- Sugar (only if the oranges are not completely ripe)
HOW TO MAKE IT:
When making this cocktail at home, the secret is to use high-quality ingredients. The sweeter the oranges and the higher quality the spirits, the better the cocktail will be. In all other regards, it is a simple recipe.
The first step is to squeeze a generous amount of orange juice. Then add splashes of cava, vodka and gin to taste. If necessary, add sugar. Serve over ice.