Furloughed, bored, and locked in the house, Pablo Murillo started blending aguas frescas for his three-year-old daughter in March, completely unaware that his quarantine hobby would soon take off as a full time hustle.

Fast forward almost a year and Murillo and close friend Morris Ellis both quit their day jobs to run Aguas Locas — a thriving Instagram and pop-up businesses selling homemade aguas frescas alongside fresh and funky margaritas.

“I’ve had a love connection with aguas frescas ever since I was a little kid. They remind me of my family. My dad is from Mexico City and my mom is from a small Mexican state called Colima,” said Murillo. “In trying to create these nostalgic drinks for my daughter, I had to make them without any sugar because she doesn’t have any sugary drinks.”

After experimenting with different substitutes, Murillo settled on agave, as it’s a delicious natural sweetener from Mexico that stays true to the drink’s roots.

“Aguas frescas are an ancient Aztec tradition where the Aztecs would muddle fruit, water, and sugar,” said Murillo. “They would drink it in the morning to give themselves a natural energy boost, kind of like how nowadays we have Red Bull.”

Sipping on these refreshing fruity aguas, Murillo realized he might be onto something. There was no easy place to buy bottled aguas frescas in LA and especially not healthy ones, so he reached out to Ellis about starting a small business.

This was a scary stage of the pandemic. The pair had both been furloughed from their jobs at the Rose restaurant in Venice. Looters ransacked the streets where Murillo lives in downtown Santa Monica. No one knew what would happen next.

Aguas Locas became a bright spot in a dark time.

“I saw an opportunity. I thought why don’t we make people’s days better by bringing them margaritas and aguas on the weekends,” said Murillo. “If you close your eyes and think back those times when everything was so horrible, just bringing a smile to somebody’s face would change all of that and give me such a gratifying feeling.”

The pair went out and gave free aguas to Black Lives Matters protesters and started delivering drinks to all their friends and family. Demand grew so quickly that they could barely keep up with it.

Murillo was hired back at the Rose, where he would work until midnight and then stay up until 5 a.m. mixing and bottling aguas. Ellis, who designs all the visuals for Aguas Locas, was working a day job as a graphic designer and was also back working his night job at the Rose.

“It got to the point where I was sitting at my desk job and spending the whole time answering DMs and responding to texts from Pablo,” said Ellis. “I was always thinking about Aguas Locas and the great feeling of being out there delivering to the community.”

The pair took the leap to run Aguas Locas full time in October and never looked back. They are constantly running pop ups, bringing their aguas and margaritas all over Venice and Santa Monica as well as Highland Park, Catalina, Hollywood, Downey and Downtown LA.

It’s still a very homegrown business run out of Murillo’s garage, hand bottled and delivered with the help of friends and family. However, they are working to get their products stocked in stores and locals are currently able to purchase Aguas Locas at Cafe Demitasse on 3rd Street.

The team offers four varieties of aguas and margaritas each filled with creative blends of natural ingredients.

“Our first agua fresca was the jamaica, which is hibiscus with cinnamon, lime, mint, and agave,” said Ellis. “We have a mariposa margarita which is our famous purple margarita that you can’t get anywhere else, where we infuse a classic margarita with organic butterfly pea flowers.”

All orders are taken through the @aguas_locas_la instagram account, which is also where pop-up locations are announced. The team recently released a limited edition margarita bottle design in collaboration with the Love street art crew.

“We encourage everybody to join us on Instagram to come to our pop ups, get our merch, and try our product,” said Murillo. “We’re building this incredible community of misfits, musicians, yogis, restaurant workers and artists. We welcome everyone to be part of our familia.”