One of the most popular of the aguas frescas, horchata (the h is silent: or-CHAH-tah) is common in most of Latin America. It consists of water and/or milk mixed with ground seeds or nuts (such as sesame or cantaloupe seeds, almonds, or others). In Mexico, horchata is most often made with ground white rice and cinnamon, and the result is unexpectedly refreshing. Although you can buy bottled syrups to which you need only add water to make horchata, this homeade version is so easy that it seems sensible just to prepare it from scratch.
- 1 cup dry, uncooked long-grain white rice
- 1/2 of a cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 5 cups drinking water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
Grind the rice in your blender until it is pulverized. Toss with cinnamon stick and lime zest; let rest overnight.
Place rice mixture into blender and blend until smooth. Add 2 cups of water to mixture, stir, and let soak for 2 hours.
Strain the liquid through a fine sieve or a few layers of cheesecloth, squeezing frequently to remove as many of the solids as possible.
Add the rest of the water (3 cups) and sugar; stir until sugar is dissolved.
Refrigerate your delicious horchata. Serve over ice, if desired.
Some simple variations on Rice Horchata
- Coffee Horchata: Follow the basic recipe, adding 1 or 2 teaspoons of instant coffee powder together with the sugar (step 4).
Coconut Horchata: Replace one of the cups of water with 1 cup of coconut milk (not coconut cream).
Strawberry Horchata: Add 2/3 cup of fresh or frozen strawberries to the mixture after step #3; blend until smooth.
Vanilla Horchata: Add ¼ teaspoon of vanilla essence to each serving of horchata right before serving.
Chocolate Horchata: Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the mixture after step #3; blend or stir vigorously until smooth.
Peanut Horchata: Add 1 tablespoon peanut butter to the mixture after step #3; blend until smooth.
Nut Horchata: Add 1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts to the mixture after step #3; blend until smooth.
Edited by Robin Grose