Horchata = Cold Comfort

Horchata = Cold Comfort

The cool, damp spring screeches to a sudden halt with a day so muggy it’s like walking around in someone’s mouth. And of course the air conditioner is out of service.

Under these circumstances, I can’t think, I can’t focus and I feel so sweaty and gritty I want to peel my skin off.

But a cool, sweet liquid hovers in my mind with a shimmering promise of sweet refreshment. Ahh, Horchata.

In Mexico, horchata is a creamy, lightly sweetened rice milk blended with flavors of cinnamon and almond. The drink was brought to Mexico from Spain, and was probably brought to Spain by the Moors, who made it with the chufa — a root pod also known as the “tigernut.”

I’m told that Spanish chufa horchata is liquid ambrosia, but since my corner market doesn’t sell a lot of chufa, I can’t corroborate that rumor. (2018 update: Chufa horchata is wonderful and yes, it’s widely available in Spain.)

The sad fact of the matter is, I can’t even find a rice-based horchata around my neighborhood. What’s an overheated girl to do?

Luckily, horchata is extremely simple to make, and since there are so many variations out there, it seems nearly impossible make a wrong move.

Some recipes add a little milk or coconut milk. Some grate in a pinch of lime zest or a squeeze of juice. Some people use a little vanilla in their mixture. Some instructions recommend grinding the dry rice to a powder before adding water.

Others tell you to cook the rice nice and soft first, then blend it to a smooth consistency. That’s generally my approach.

However, if you’re looking for something super-easy, you could, of course, skip the rice/almond preparation altogether and just use a commercial rice milk along with an almond milk, some water, and a little cinnamon and sugar.

Mexican-Style Horchata

(About 8 cups)

  • 1 cup white rice
  • 10 cups of water
  • 1 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1-2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  1. In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, gently simmer the rice, almonds, cinnamon and water until very tender (about 30 minutes).
  2. Allow the mixture to cool and then remove the cinnamon sticks.
  3. If a thicker version is desired, divide the mixture into batches and blend smooth with a blender or food processor.
  4. For a thinner version, simply strain the liquid through layered cheesecloth or a fine sieve.
  5. Chill well. Serve in an ice-filled glass (maybe with a sprinkle of additional cinnamon) and revel in the cool, creamy (non-dairy!) goodness.

Your horchata will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Some folks enjoy their horchata with chewy rice at the bottom, which is something like the tapioca pearls in bubble tea.

Personally, I find that it’s also lovely poured over crushed ice like a cocktail.

Throw in a touch of rum or tequila if the mood strikes you!

Miss Ginsu

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