Horchata is known as a Mexican drink made with rice, and is flavored with cinnamon and sugar. It’s roots go much deeper than this though. Horchata has roots as far back as ancient Egypt and has been used in countries all across southern Europe, Africa, and North America. It is a simple drink but classic in its taste and use.
A brief History Of Horchata
In ancient Egypt they used to make a drink with the same process but instead of rice they used the chufa nut. Eventually the drink made its way over to Eastern Europe, more specifically Spain. They called this drink horchata de chufa. The Spanish traveled to North America in the early 1500’s and the horchata de chufa with them. However, they had no chufa nut in the Americas. So the chufa nut was replaced with rice.
Today, horchata and other similarly-flavoured plant milk beverages are sold in various parts of the world as varieties of horchata. Horchata as a flavor has been used in ice cream, cookies and other sweets, and other products such as the popular RumChata, an alcoholic tribute to the beverage. Smoothie shops, cafés, and McDonald’s in the U.S. have been experimenting with horchata-flavored frappes.
Horchata de chufa – The drink now known as horchata de chufa (sometimes called horchata de chufas or in West African countries, kunnu aya) is the original form of horchata. It is made from soaked, ground and sweetened tiger nuts. Kunnu Aya made from tiger nuts is an inexpensive source of protein.
Horchata de arroz – made of rice, sometimes with vanilla and typically with canella or cinnamon.
Horchata de melón – made of ground melon seeds.
Semilla de jicaro – In the Central American countries of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica, horchata refers to the drink known as semilla de jicaro, made from jicaro seeds ground with rice and spices such as ground cocoa, cinnamon, sesame seeds, nutmeg, tiger nuts and vanilla. Ground peanuts, almonds and cashews may be added.
Ecuadorian horchata – In Ecuador, horchata is a clear red infusion of 18 herbs, and is most famous in the province of Loja.
Is It Weird To Ask What A Tiger Nut Is?
A Tiger Nut isn’t really a nut. I know, it’s confusing but here is an explanation that will help you to understand what it is and why it is referred to as a nut. In most other countries, cyperus esculentus is considered a weed. It is often found in wet soils such as rice paddies, peanut farms, and well irrigated lawns and golf courses during warm weather; hence the name water grass.
Cyperus esculentus is a crop of the sedge family widespread across much of the world. It is found in most of the Eastern Hemisphere, including Southern Europe, Africa and Madagascar, as well as the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. Cyperus esculentus can be found wild, as a weed, or as a crop. Evidence exists for its cultivation in Egypt since the sixth millennium BC, and for several centuries in Southern Europe. In Spain, it is cultivated for its edible tubers, called earth almonds or tiger nuts. They are shaped like a nut at the very root of the plant, thus the name Tiger Nut.
There are so many different variations of this classic drink that it’s hard to pick the right recipe to go with. However, I found one that I think captures the essence of an authentic Mexican Horchata drink. You can check it out here on tastesbetterfromscratch.com.
HOW TO MAKE HORCHATA:
- Blend. Blend the rice, water, and cinnamon sticks until the rice and cinnamon sticks are roughly ground. Add the remaining water and blend again.
- Let Sit. Pour the contents into a pitcher or container with a fitted lid and place on your countertop overnight (or for at least 8 hours).
- Strain. Pour the rice mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher and discard the rice.
- Add. Stir in the milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and sugar (to your preference). Chill until ready to serve. Stir well before serving and serve over ice.
To make vegan horchata, simply substitute equal parts almond milk for the milk in the recipe.
If you don’t feel too comfortable making your own horchata then you can always buy some pre-made versions from Amazon here. You can also get a variety of different versions of the classic drink in protein powder, Creme Mix, and Coffee.
Recipes for Horchata Cocktails
Right off the top of my head, I have had a delicious drink with Rumchata, which is an alcoholic drink that pays homage to the flavor of Horchata. It is Rumchata and the oh so popular Fireball Whiskey mixed together. You can do it as a shot or as a drink with ice. It is good but powerful. Here are some recipes that include actual Horchata.
Sub out plain cream for spice-filled horchata concentrate and an additional sprinkle of aromatic ground cinnamon. Like the original, this cocktail gets its boozy spike from vodka and an additional sprinkle of ground cinnamon.
1.25 ounces of vodka, 1.25 ounces of horchata, and 1.25 ounces of coffee liqueur. Stir and serve in a rocks glass over ice. Top with cinnamon.
The Walking Dead
A mix of Day of the Dead Porter, Kahlua and housemade horchata.
Horchata Whiskey Slam
2 ounces of bourbon, 2 ounces of horchata, and .75 ounce of maple syrup. Shake ingredients and serve over a rocks glass over ice. Top with cinnamon.
1.75 ounces of rum (unaged, aged, or spiced), and 3 ounces of horchata. Mix in a Collins glass with ice. Top with cinnamon. Yes, it’s a mixed drink not a cocktail, but it’s life-changing.
If you ever get the chance you can find this delicious drink in authentic Mexican restaurants across North America. You can also find the original version of the drink in Spain and parts of Europe. You can find it in different parts of Africa as well. If you’ve never had it then I suggest you find some place to try it. It’s smooth and enjoyable and it makes a great mixer for your drinks. Just remember to get a DD! Cheers!