Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

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.

Halve the grapefruit from pole-to-pole (cutting through the stem and blossom ends). Slice halves into thin half moons.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

In a large bowl or 8-cup measuring cup, combine 1 cup water (236ml), half of the grapefruit half-moons, 1 cup of the blackberries, and 2 tablespoons of sage. Using a potato masher or muddler, mash fruit mixture until broken down and all juice is expressed, about 1 minute.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Stir in 3 cups (710ml) of water. Refrigerate, covered, until flavors meld and mixture is chilled, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Strain infused water through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large pitcher, pressing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez

Stir in remaining 4 cups (945ml) water. Just before serving, garnish pitcher or individual glasses with remaining half of grapefruit slices, remaining 1/4 cup of blackberries, and remaining 1 tablespoon sage. Serve over ice.

Serious Eats / Amanda Suarez


Feel free to adjust the amount and cutting technique of the ingredients used as the final garnish in the water. This is your opportunity to be creative and add your personal touch.

For a fun final garnish, serve with decorative ice cubes filled with small pieces of fresh produce or herbs frozen in the center.

Special Equipment

Large water pitcher (holds at least 10 cups), potato masher or muddler, fine-mesh strainer

Make-Ahead and Storage

Strained infused water (without added garnish) can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

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