Plus, the best fruits and vegetables to use and how far ahead of time you need to infuse.
water cooler with sliced fruit
Credit: Bryan Gardner

A sun-soaked patio, warm breeze blowing, flowers blooming-summertime is coming and with it lots of outdoor entertaining. Whether you're having a casual grilling session, chic pool party, or an alfresco dinner, there's always water for guests but chances are the H2O you offer is an afterthought. This summer upgrade your hosting game and help your guests be healthier by serving naturally infused water which will encourage them to drink more water and ensure everyone stays hydrated.

Not only will infused water look pretty at your party, it's an easy way to get creative with your drink options and to offer a non-alcoholic option that's not boring or overly sweet. Infused water can also help reduce food waste-you can use up fruits, vegetables, and herbs you have on hand. To determine the best produce to use, how to serve it, and how long infused water will last we asked Lori Taylor of Produce Moms, who has been pioneering infused water in schools and has experimented with just about every combination of fruit, vegetables, and herbs possible.

Which Produce to Use

While you can infuse water with any kind of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, citrus fruits with the rind intact, sliced in circles tend to hold up the best. "Seedless cucumbers, watermelon rind, and fresh herbs hold up great as well, if kept under refrigeration or with ice in the pitcher," Taylor says. If you're set on using melons, kiwis, sliced berries, or ripe mango, keep in the mind that they won't last as long. "Exposed flesh will cause the fruit to break down quicker so if you're doing say a strawberry infusion, slice the strawberries if you are using the water within two to six hours or keep them whole if you're preparing it in advance and plan to serve in 12-36 hours," Taylor says. Don't be afraid to get creative. Add jalapenos and other chiles to give your water a kick. You can even add carrots, which Taylor says are delicious in infused water but they will turn the water orange if they sit in it for a prolonged period of time.

When to Make It

There's a lot of flexibility on how far in advance you can make the infused water. It takes two to four hours for the water to become flavorful and the longer it sits, the more intense the flavor becomes. Most infused water when chilled will last roughly 36 hours, Taylor says, but will then start to look tired. You should also remember that the longer the water sits the less translucent it will be. For entertaining, make the infused water about two hours before serving so it looks and tastes fresh.

How to Serve It

Taylor's go to is to serve the water in a dispenser with ice so the water is served cold but if you don't have a water dispenser there's no need to go out and buy one. You can do produce kabobs in a pitcher or even in tumblers for pretty individual servings. If you're serving your infused water in a pitcher with a spigot that certain produce-such as pears-won't float, you may have to remove the fruit before serving. Or you can infuse ice cubes rather than water for a slow releasing flavor kick.


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