As summer marches on and the heat index begins to ratchet up, we look for tasty ways to cool down. That’s where a good Agua Fresca comes in. These Mexican soft drinks are ubiquitous in our favorite taquìeras around town.
I’m a fan of jamaica (sweet hibiscus tea) but yesterday I was feeling like a change and went with horchata. It was smooth, creamy but not heavy, and cooled me down while providing a little exotic zing on the way. When I tried to place the flavors and figure out the basis of the recipe, I was at a loss. Vanilla and cinnamon for sure. The creamy, nuttiness? Who knows?
While finishing my pollo asado I looked up recipes on my phone. I was surprised to see that rice is the main component. In fact, the recipe is so simple, there’s a good chance you have all of the ingredients to make this recipe right now. And, as with any age-old concoction, variations are abound. Feel free to riff on this and add your own twist – or a good measure of rum – as we did.
Horchata (Almond Milk version)
Makes about 6 cups
- 1 cup long grain white rice (short grain will work fine in a pinch)
- 4 cups warm water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (regular milk or soy milk are also fine)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- juice of 1 lime (optional)
1. In a blender or larger food processor, blend the dry rice until broken into fine bits. Go for a coffee-ground consistency if your blender will do it, otherwise get it as fine as you can.
2. In a large bowl combine the ground rice, warm water and the 2 cinnamon sticks, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight if possible.
3. Remove the cinnamon sticks from the rice and water then pour the mixture into the blender, add the vanilla and lime juice and puree until fine and milky, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Finely strain the rice mixture through a sieve lined with a few layers of cheesecloth or fine tea towel. Add the almond milk and sugar and stir well. Strain once more into a sealable bottle and store in the fridge.
To serve, shake the horchata well and pour over ice. For an adult version, add a couple ounces of good light rum like Ballast Point Three Sheets with a squeeze of lime.