If you take a trip to northern Brooklyn in the summer—or anywhere else with a large Puerto Rican population––chances are, you’ll run into the piragua man. Piragua, or “water pyramid,” is a shaved ice rooted in traditional Puerto Rican street food consisting of three simple ingredients: water, sugar, and fruit-flavored syrup. I find a $0.30 packet of unsweetened Kool-Aid gives the perfect artificial flavoring, while the ice acts as its chilly vessel.
- In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup room-temperature water.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat and gently stir with a heatproof spatula until the sugar is fully dissolved, about 1 minute.
- Add the unsweetened cherry Kool-Aid packet to the sugar mixture and whisk until fully dissolved and cooled. Remove from heat.
- Allow the cherry syrup to cool completely, pour into a squeeze bottle or jar, and place in the refrigerator until ready to use. This mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3–4 weeks.
- Working in batches, place 1/3 of the ice in a durable plastic zip-top bag and cover with a kitchen towel. Crush the ice with a rolling pin or blunt kitchen tool to break the ice into smaller pieces.
- Place half the ice in a food processor (or blender, in a pinch) and grind until granular—the consistency of fresh snow. Repeat with the remaining crushed ice.
- Use the ice immediately or store it in a freezer-safe zip top-bag for up to a day.
- Fill a small cup 2/3 of the way full with ice and add a generous amount of cherry syrup, about 4 tablespoons.
- Add an additional bunch of ice to the top, then an additional tablespoon of cherry syrup, and enjoy immediately.
- Optional: Take a small funnel and shape the top of the ice to achieve a cone-like appearance right before adding the last tablespoon of syrup.