Pros: True tamarind taste, cane-sweetened.
Cons: Empty calories!
Jarritos's line of naturally flavored, cane-sweetened soft drinks consists mainly of flavors that are familiar, even if they don't usually come to mind when we think "pop": pineapple, watermelon, guava, etc. Two stand out to us gringos as exotic: jamaica, or hibiscus flower, and tamarindo, or tamarind, sweet and sour seed pod of a tropical tree, more familiar to us as a base ingredient in steak sauce. Take my word for it until you get to try them: both are delicious as traditional aguas frescas and make the transition to soda pop quite well.
I've taken a liking to both while living in Tucson. Making my own jamaica agua fresca is almost as easy as making tea, but tamarindo is another matter, which involves getting as much of the peel off of the pods as possible, then boiling them, followed by an overnight soak, boiling again, straining, and mixing with sugar. A few specialty shops and restaurants in town serve it--Maya Quetzal makes the best--and one can get sometimes get passable version at some of the taco stands or Mexican-American grocery stores, but the one specialty shop in my neighborhood serving this closed down and finding it elsewhere is a hit-or-miss affair.
How, then, does one get one's fix of sweet and sour, prunelike, datelike, earthy brown refreshment? Jarritos Tamarindo--available even at the local Walgreens in these parts--works quite well. Although tamarind is nowhere on the ingredients list, it must play a role in the "natural flavor", as it is pronounced and spot-on. This is not "brown" tasting like "red" Kool-Aid is supposed to be cherry; this is something that could be mistaken for a true tamarind beverage if one didn't read the label. The somewhat creamy agua fresca mouthfeel is lacking, but the right balance of sweet-and-sour is struck, and Jarritos's use of cane sugar ensures that the flavor is brought to the front.
Tamarind agua fresca can hardly be considered healthy; there's a considerable amount of fiber, but it's mostly sugar water. The Jarritos soda pop version, at 110 calories per 8 ounce serving, is perhaps worse in that respect, dispensing with fiber altogether. However refreshing on a hot summer day, it's definitely, as the Cookie Monster now says, a "sometime food".
Ingredients: Carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, natural flavor, caramel color, sodium benzoate, and Red 40