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Meet the vendor: Aguas Frescas Bernice

Meet the vendor: Aguas Frescas Bernice
Posted on 10/24/2018
Victor Zelocualtecatl grew up in Tlaxcala, Mexico, drinking aguas frescas in his family home. Aguas frescas means “cool waters” or “fresh waters” and are non-alcoholic beverages made from one or more fruits, cereals, flowers, or seeds blended with sugar and water. Victor says every Mexican home has a jar of agua fresca on hand. 

Fast forward many years and many miles from Tlaxcala, Victor landed in Kansas City after serving in the United States Marine Corps. Victor met Kansas City native Raymond Pallanich and introduced aguas frescas to Raymond and many other friends, making and running out of the beverages on raft trips. 

Turning their love for aguas frescas into a business grew out of an encounter Victor and Raymond had attending an event where a woman was selling aguas frescas. Victor noted that the horchorta (a very traditional agua fresca flavor) was not good. The thought occurred to him, “Why is she here selling this and she’s not even Mexican? I’m Mexican, I should be here doing this!” 

As Victor and Raymond’s idea began to take shape, they realized one hot evening during First Friday in downtown Kansas City that there were no vendors selling only beverages. They saw a need and decided to try and fill it. In researching their idea for Aguas Frescas Bernice, they discovered they needed a licensed commercial kitchen in which to make their product. The Lenexa Public Market had a licensed kitchen they could rent, and one thing led to another. After they began making beverages for First Fridays, Victor and Raymond learned that Lenexa would be opening a farmers market. Why not operate a vendor stall there?

All of Aguas Frescas Bernice’s beverages are made in the authentic Mexican style with the freshest fruit and ingredients and allowed to infuse slowly — with one exception. Aguas Frescas Bernice uses less sugar than is traditional. Victor and Raymond say their customers prefer it that way. Each week Aguas Frecas Bernice serves Café Frio (similar to iced coffee with milk and spiced), Horchata (very traditional made from rice and cinnamon), Jamaica (hibiscus infused with fruit), and they mix things up with an additional flavor such as apple-carrot-ginger or lime-cucumber. They say many of their ideas for new flavors come from customers. 

One might think Bernice is the name of Victor or Raymond’s mother or grandmother, but you’d be wrong. It is actually the name of their Dachshund Labrador dog. When trying to decide on a name for the business, they felt they needed a person’s name. They obviously threw around Raymond and Victor, but didn’t like how they sounded. They looked to Bernice for her opinion and, thus, Aguas Frescas Bernice was born.

Victor and Raymond can be found on Saturday mornings at the Lenexa Farmers Market under their signature green umbrella with a variety of delicious aguas frescas to wet your whistle.

Published Oct. 24, 2018