The Traditional Way To Prep And Serve Horchata

As you browse online listicles and foodie magazines in an effort to find your new summer drink obsession, it might be worth looking south of the border to gather some inspiration. Mexico, along with other Latin American and Spanish-speaking countries, is known for its refreshing agua fresca, a sweet summertime drink that often features fresh fruit blended with sugar and water. While many aguas frescas featured on restaurant menus are made from watermelon, pineapple, or other fruit juices, they often contain more than just fruit. Nuts, grains, and seeds each make an appearance in these drinks, as in the case of the well-known horchata.

Depending on which country you're in when you try this drink, the ingredients and flavors may vary slightly. One of the most well-known versions is the Mexican horchata. This drink is made from white rice, cinnamon, maple syrup, vanilla, and water. Even these ingredients can be substituted or swapped, but the prep remains quite similar. It's very easy to make horchata from scratch, but it can be a bit time consuming. The first step is blending rinsed rice and a pre-steeped cinnamon stick together with water. Once the mixture has been blended for about a minute, the rice concoction is left to soak. After a few hours, it gets strained through a cheesecloth, and the smooth liquid is then sweetened and flavored. Now, the drink is ready to serve, however, there are a few things to keep in mind before you dish it out to guests.

Make sure to serve it cold

With warming ingredients like cinnamon and vanilla, you might assume that this drink is best served warm, however, horchatas are traditionally served cold. Pouring out your sweet mixture into an ice-filled glass is a great way to get it ready. With a sprinkling of cinnamon on top, or a cinnamon stick added as a garnish, you will love sipping on your spicy, earthy, and velvety drink during those hotter days. Something to look out for when serving over ice is that your drink is likely to get slightly watered down this way. If this is something that bothers you, and you're looking for the rich, full-bodied flavor horchata is known for, try pre-chilling your batch in the fridge before serving.

Another common issue with horchata is that it can turn out a bit too thick because the rice in the recipe allows there to be a creamy consistency without the presence of dairy. While many horchata recipes today do feature milk or another dairy product, this ingredient is not included in the traditional lineup. Rather it's the starch and fats in ingredients like nuts that increase the viscosity. If your horchata comes out thicker than a glass of milk, it likely needs to be thinned. To fix this, just add a cup of cold water to your entire batch and mix well. Now, you can feel confident handing out your homemade horchata for your next pool party, barbecue, or family gathering.