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 a fancy electric citrus juicer like this one 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.
Cafe Rio Copycat Mint Limeade
If you can’t make it to a nearby Cafe Rio, let’s at least pretend you can – this Copycat Mint Limeade is perfect for spring and summer!
For the Syrup
- 1 3/4 cups white sugar
- 2 cups water
- 2–3 sprigs fresh mint (just mint, not peppermint or spearmint)
For the Limeade
- 1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
- 8–10 cups cold water
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
For the Garnishes
- 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.
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.
- Serving Size: 12
Get our strawberry sauce recipe here!
Lol! It’s a copycat, not the actual recipe—I never claimed it was the actual thing, just that it inspired me to make it. When I posted this, Cafe Rio was very kind and reached out with all sorts of freebies as a thank you for mentioning them, so if they weren’t bugged by this post, I’m not sure why it bugs you. ??♀️
Sounds Great Thanks or sharing! We just tried Cafe Rio for the first time the other day and I so wanted to recreate their Limeade! It was so delicious! The poster above the drink station said the Limeade had Lime and Lemon juice. So have you tried adding the lemon juice as well? I think I will try 1 cup fresh squeezed lime and 1/2 lemon and see how close in taste it is.
Might even taste good with salt on the rim….sound delicious either way Thanks!
It says 1 3/4 suger and 2 cups of water ,what measuring cups do I use to add sugar? Do i use The measurement cup for both water and suger?
Or do I use the drinking water cups?
Thank you so much for this recipe!!! I made it today, and it is so good-just found a new summer favorite!
Any kind of cool summer-y drink hits the spot. I, too, used 12 limes for this recipe. SO good! I also tried this one I found. A winner, as well.
Ok. For me it was about 10-12 large limes, and I did my juicing by squeezing by hand, not with a juicer of any sort.
Can you give me an estimate on about how many limes I’ll need? Thanks!
Yes, that would be helpful! I’m guessing it’s how many are in the picture?
am i the only one now wanting the sweet pork salad recipe?!?!?
The Sweet Pork Salad is in the first Our Best Bites cookbook. We LOVE it! I serve it with the Mexican Sweet Pork, Lime Cilantro Pineapple Rice, with black beans, salsa, chips, cheese, loads of lettuce and topped with Lime Cilantro rice. I think that is all found in the first cookbook
thank you for the tip!!
Cafe Rio here…
Thanks for the awesome shout out. Email me…I might have something awesome for you! Keep up the good work, amigo!
Oh it’s so fresh!!! waoo.
I love the jars, so cute!!!!!
So refreshing! I could easily down a few glasses 😀
This sound so refreshing! I wish I had a glass now!
I’m going to do this for Easter! And GREAT and BEAUTIFUL pictures!!!!!!
Do you think a pitcher of this would keep well in the fridge, or does it all need to be served soon after prep?
I wouldn’t keep it for too long in the fridge with the chopped mint, but you could always add it right before serving. Hope that helps!
I have heard of something like this that my family calls limericky or somthing like that and its made with the sugar syrup, club soda, and lime juice and is super delicious and refreshing! I am sure this is very similar, will have to try! I love the fizz that the club soda adds, though
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I now have a recipe for “my crack.” Seriously, this stuff is addicting!
We are finally getting a Cafe Rio in Washington State, I’m so excited not to have to wait for a trip to Boise to get my Lowcal Cherry Limeade fix! Speaking of the that, do you have a Lowcal Cherry Limeade copycat recipe? I can’t figure out how to make it as low cal as Cafe Rio.
Oops, I meant Sonic diet cherry limeade, which we don’t have in Seattle either.
I got a Cafe Rio sweet pork and a cilantro dressing recipe from a friend of mine. I never knew what Cafe Rio was…..now I know. (Although, I’m confused. Isn’t Rio in Brazil, and therefore Portuguese and not Mexican?) Ironically, I just made some this past week and have some left overs in the fridge. I LOVE that dressing. I’ll eat it off my fingers. 🙂 Shhh….. don’t tell anyone. I’ll have to try this limeade recipe to go with it! Thanks
YUMMY!!!! I think now I need the sweet pork salad recipe to go with 🙂
The first thing I do when I go to Utah is go to Cafe Rio and make a hair appointment!! I’m totally making this drink for Easter dinner. Great Easter recipe!
I just discovered these too (fellow Mormon girl) in the form of Crystal Light’s mojito flavor for water. Delicious!!! I can’t wait to try the full sugar version, which I am sure is even better!
YUM! Thanks. I agree with Emily #3…except I have and use the yellow (lemon) squeezer…works for all limes and most moderate sized lemons. (Made your gumbo again last night…easy peasy delish.)
I love getting that at Cafe Rio – even enough to choose it over Diet Coke! Now I can make it at home, thanks!!
I can’t wait to try these! I love rimming glasses in deliciousness! I made the s’mores hot chocolate from your cookbook last week and I LOVED having the mugs rimmed in graham cracker crumbs…super fun 🙂
Yay!! #4 to comment!! And this is recipe is perfect for whenever i call my frnds over for a barbecue.
You need one of these to juice the limes…
It will change your juicing experience. They are heaven on the juicing!
Thanks for the recipe! Can’t wait to make it!
I had a lemonade with fresh mint at a Middle Eastern restaurant once. And it’s been one of those flavors that I keep remembering and wishing I could have again, even years later. I’m so looking forward to making this mint limeade.
Otherwise known as a virgin mojito??
I like to use sparkling water, it makes it that much fresher.