Huge jars of milky-white horchata are a familiar sight at taquerias and the Red Hook ball fields, but this summer, the Latin quencher is hitting the bar.
Traditionally, horchata is made by soaking whatever grain or nut is most plentiful (tiger nuts in Spain, rice and almonds in Mexico), then adding sugar, cinnamon or other spices and straining the mixture over ice. The result is a light, cooling drink that counters sweltering heat. Now, bartenders are using horchata as a base for refreshing cocktails.
At the bar El Quinto Pino, frozen house-made horchata is spiked with brandy for a frosty after-dinner drink. La Esquina serves straightforward horchata at its upstairs taqueria, but in its downstairs restaurant, the bartenders make a boozy version using Tanteo's surprisingly unsweet chocolate-flavored tequila--a nightcap that doubles as dessert.
For something more risqué, try Death & Co. bartender Joaquin Simo's Smoked Horchata cocktail. Simo makes an extra-creamy horchata using toasted coconut, almond flour and rice milk, then blends it with tequila, mezcal liqueur, bitters and cinnamon syrup for a complex, slightly smoky drink (pictured). Get the recipe here to try it at home. Warning: It's a labor-intensive recipe, but you'll be left with enough homemade horchata to stay cool for days.