October 27, 2014 | Posted by Sally Jackson
Looking for a cool way to tame the heat of a hot-sauce-doused taco? Or a delicious way to beat the heat on a sweltering day? Do what the Mexicans do, and pour yourself an agua fresca, the literal translation of which is “fresh water.” These refreshing drinks are sweetened blends of water and fresh fruits, grains, nuts and/or seeds. Horchata is one such delicious beverage.
Horchata originated in Spain, where it was made with a base of chufas, or tiger nuts, but the Mexican version that most of us associate with the name is a sweetened, cinnamon-scented rice milk. Speaking of sweetened….while traditionally horchata was dairy free, you can find many a version that combines rice milk with either evaporated or sweetened condensed milk. Super sweet and creamy! But I wanted to make something a bit lighter...
This version airs on the side of thirst-quenching as opposed to being milkshake-like, as it’s dairy free and only lightly sweetened. Toasted blanched almonds give the drink a nutty creaminess, and my rice of choice, basmati (I used the Texmati brand), really pumps up the rice-y flavor of the drink and adds a nice floral aroma.
Making horchata is a process, no doubt, requiring two trips to the blender, and overnight soak, and careful straining...but none of the steps are especially arduous. A labor of love? Yes. Worth it? Oh yeah.
This horchata makes a wonderful morning or afternoon sipper, but that's not all it's good for: add a shot of espresso for a refreshing pick-me-up, or a glug of bourbon or rum for a different sort of pick-me-up...