So if you’re not familiar with Cafe Rio, it’s a fresh Mexican restaurant that began in Utah and has started to sprout up in other US locations. I first discovered it in college and it kind of changed how I viewed Mexican food (and food in general…hello, cilantro and Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette and Creamy Lime-Cilantro dressing and freshly made flour tortillas). After my husband and I got married, it became our go-to place to eat on payday and when I go home, there are two things I must do that are of the most serious and utmost importance: get a haircut and eat at Cafe Rio.
Sara and I made a few trips to Utah last fall and at my first Cafe Rio trek, I made the most wondrous discovery: they were serving fresh mint limeade.
If there’s one thing more delicious than a sweet pork salad and a Diet Coke, it’s a sweet pork salad and a fresh mint limeade.
Now…if you’re thinking, “Hey, Kate, mint limeade sounds good (or doesn’t), but this is the week before Easter! Post something Easter-y!”, I would tell you that a) Here’s a whole bunch of Easter-y recipes and b) This recipe is fresh and springy and serves a crowd–perfect for all sorts of Easter gatherings.
The ingredients here are super simple–fresh mint (just mint, not spearmint or peppermint), a whole bunch of limes, sugar, and water. Because the ingredients are so simple, I really recommend using the best ingredients possible–name brand sugar, not the sad, shrively limes at the bottom of the produce pile, and, if you have yucky tap water like I do, some kind of filtered or bottled water (I use the water from our water cooler).
To make the syrup, combine 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2 cups of water, and a few sprigs of mint in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and strain the mint leaves. Allow to cool at room temperature or place in the refrigerator. The syrup can be made a few days ahead of time.
When ready to serve, place the chopped mint leaves
into the bottom of a large serving pitcher.
Then juice enough limes to get 1 1/2 cups of lime juice. Now, I made this earth-shattering discovery as I was making the limeade this go-around. Unless you have an electric citrus juicer or you’re planning on hiring a professional citrus squeezer, the next easiest way to get your limes juiced is to place a cheap citrus juicer on a work surface that’s about at hip height. I’m short and in the past, I’ve always done this on my kitchen counters, which hits me at about the bottom of my ribs. When I did this on a lower surface, I was able to put my body weight into it a little more and it made the whole process infinitely easier.
Add the syrup, freshly squeezed lime juice,
and 8 cups of cold water. Taste and add additional water to taste (if necessary). If serving over ice, you might want to make it a tiny bit sweeter than you would normally like to account for the melting ice.
Now…one of my favorite things to do with this drink is to mix 1/2 cup sugar with the zest of a lime in a shallow plate.
Using a damp paper towel, wipe around the rim of each serving glass and then invert each glass onto the plate to sugar the rims of the glasses. It’s so easy and pretty and delicious! Then just carefully spoon ice into the glasses and pour the limeade into the prepared glasses.
Makes 12-14 servings.
Cafe Rio Copycat Mint Limeade
Recipe by Our Best Bites
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 cups water
2-3 sprigs fresh mint (just mint, not peppermint or spearmint)
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
8-10 cups cold water
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
Fresh mint sprigs
Fresh lime slices
1/2 cup sugar + freshly grated zest of 1 lime combined (for sugaring the rims of the glasses)
Combine the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and strain the mint leaves. Allow to cool at room temperature or place in the refrigerator. The syrup can be made a few days ahead of time.
When ready to serve, place the chopped mint leaves in the bottom of the serving pitcher. Add the syrup, freshly squeezed lime juice, and 8 cups of cold water. Taste and add additional water to taste (if necessary). If serving over ice, you might want to make it a tiny bit sweeter than you would normally like to account for the dilution from the melted ice.
To make the lime sugar for the rims of the glasses, mix the zest of one lime with 1/2 cup sugar. Using a damp paper towel, wipe around the rim of each glass and then invert the glass into the lime sugar. Carefully fill the sugar-rimmed glasses with ice cubes and pour the limeade into the glasses to serve.
Makes 12-14 servings.
Strawberry Mint Limeade: After pouring into glasses, add a spoonful or two of strawberry sauce to taste. Other berries like blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries can be substituted for strawberries in the sauce to make other variations.