In Mexico and some parts of the U.S., horchata is ubiquitous. The cinnamon-infused rice drink is served cold in huge jars alongside agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea) and other fruit based aguas frescas. This week, we’re also drinking it hot . . .
Despite the unpredictability of spring weather here in Colorado, it’s my favorite of all seasons.
New growth budding on leafless branches. Greener grasses and spring bulbs readying to bloom. Wet snowfalls. Cool weather herbs and greens peeking through in the garden. My first few outings on my bicycle and overestimating how far I could ride. Sore muscles. More snow.
A few days ago we took advantage of 60 degree weather here in Colorado, and cleaned several beds and remnants of seasons since passed. My momma was the willing assistant – helping me carry several tarps full of leaves and turn the compost bin.
That sort of work made us thirsty. Luck (and some pre-planning) was ours, I had three kinds of cold horchata ready to drink. Snap!
As refreshing as it was, we had to fight the urge to drink it all. I still had pictures to take the next day of the “hot” shot – a steamed horchata with a shot of espresso.
A cold blast came through Denver the very next day. Rain quickly turned to snow. And, of course we were out and about in the worst of it. A bit chilled when we got home, we pulled out the horchata again – this time served hot with espresso for momma; steamed and plain for me ( I’m a caffeine wuss).
The hot version, is inspired by Taza de Café, a northwest Denver coffee shop, which serves up horcha-tté, a luscious horchata drink with espresso.
So, horchata is a drink for any season!
Below are 5 ways to make this quintessential Mexican rice drink. Check them out and this song called Horchata by Vampire Weekend, which was released last fall.
Tidbits on Horchata:
- In Mexico, horchata is typically made from rice and water, although some make creamier versions using milk and/or almonds. There is also an horchata made from ground melon seeds.
- Horchata, also called orxata, and this method of making refreshing drinks comes originally from Spain, where they use ground seeds, nuts and grains. There, instead of rice, they use tigernuts, also called chufas.
Source: The Mexican Gourmet by Maria Dolores Torres Yzabal & Shelton Wiseman
5 Ways to Make Horchata
For a cold beverage, any of the versions are delicious. However, for a hot version the rice and water only version falls flat. The extra creaminess of milk (almond or milk) is lovely – like a Mexican steamer. But, if you want something extra flavorful –use the version with all three rice, milk and almonds.
#1: Horchata – Rice Water (Serves 4)
I made this with long and short grain rice with no noticeable difference. I also made it using brown rice and it changed the flavor slightly but it wasn’t as ricey as the white version. I use 1/3 1/2 cup sugar, although some friends preferred a sweeter drink.
1 cup raw rice – medium or long-grain rice
2 1/2 cups hot water
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, preferably Mexican canela
1/3 – 1 cup sugar
2 cups cold water
1/2 – 1 teaspoon vanilla, preferably Mexican
In a glass pitcher or mason jar, add rice, hot water and cinnamon stick. Cover and let sit overnight on the counter. After it has soaked overnight, pour the mixture into the blender, add 1/3 cup sugar. Blend contents on high for several minutes until the mixture is almost smooth – there will be some grit from the rice. Strain well through a fine sieve, cheesecloth or nut milk bag into a pitcher.
Add cold water and vanilla and adjust sweetness. Refrigerate to allow flavors to meld.
Serve over ice or hot with a dash of ground cinnamon on top.
#2: Horchata – Rice Water + Milk
Follow #1 Rice Water version above up through straining step, then substitute 2 cups milk for cold water.
#3: Horchata – Rice Water + Almond Milk
If you prefer a thicker drink or more concentrated flavors, reduce the water added in the rice milk and/or almond milk after the blending step.
Almond Milk Ingredients
1 cup raw almonds, skin on
3 cups cold water (for thicker milk use 2 cups)
Follow #1 Rice Water version above.
Use a separate container to make almond milk; add almonds and barely cover with hot water. Cover and let sit overnight. Drain off soaking water.
Blend almonds with cold water separately, until the liquid becomes milk-like. Strain well through a fine sieve, cheesecloth or nut milk bag into a pitcher. Add cold water.
Mix the rice water and almond milk together. Refrigerate to allow flavors to meld. Adjust sweetener and flavoring. Serve cold or hot.
#4: Horchata – Rice Water + Almond Milk + Milk
Follow the overnight soaking method for rice and almonds. After each are blended separately and strained, reduce water added to each by 1 cup (equals 2 cups total).
Mix strained rice water and almond milk in a pitcher with 2 cups milk and vanilla. Adjust sweetness. Refrigerate to allow flavors to meld. Serve cold or hot.
#5: Horchata – Any of the Above + Espresso
Add one or a couple of shots of espresso. Serve over ice or hot for a Mexican latte.
Milk/Almond milk: Cashew milk, coconut water
Espresso: Kahlua, amaretto
Sweetener: agave, honey or sweetened condensed milk