It’s been real hot. These past few days have probably been the warmest of the entire year, really. And so while I was sitting at my desk with sweat rolling down my face after a long 6 hour school day of Zoom classes, I decided I was going to do something about it. First I got my trusty Vornado fan and cranked it up to max. Then I started looking for recipes that would lead to some sort of cold, refreshing food. It would be the perfect way to counter the high temperatures. A couple of minutes later, I’d found the perfect item. During my Mexican Street Tacos post, I recalled wanting make a drink to go with it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t follow through with that because the beverage took way too long to make. If you’re thinking of possible drinks that go well with Mexican food, you’re on the right track. This is something that I’ve had only a few times, largely due to its high sugar concentrate. It has a unique texture, bits of cinnamon, and lots of water. I was thinking of horchata!
In 6th grade I went on a chill outdoor education trip with my classmates. I’m slightly embarrassed to say this, but probably my biggest memory was of this mysterious lunch drink that the chef’s always served in the dining area. It kind of tasted like milk, but it also had this delicious vanilla-cinnamon flavor. On top of it all, it was served over ice cubes. Milk with ice? I had never heard of it. I only found out later that it was called horchata, so for the time being, I dubbed it “churro-milk”.
Here’s some background info: Horchata is a traditional Mexican drink that is more or less made with “rice milk”. In fact, horchata is actually a broader term for any sort of drink using non-dairy (plant) milk. It’s made in a ton of countries with nations like Spain having their own unique flavors/ingredients. These non-dairy milks can be made at home by soaking whatever you choose to have as your base in water for a long period of time. You start by mixing the two ingredients in a blender or by hand and then you just let them sit. After a while, you’ll start to see the water obtain that silky, smooth milk texture. It’s simple, but still powerful.
So I went to Google, searched it up, and found an incredibly simple horchata recipe. I was a bit confused, because it did not taste like something that was “simple”. Yet I still tried it nevertheless! At noon time I combined the rice with the water and then later on I strained/added the flavorings. It probably required no more than 10 minutes of preparation time which really appealed to me.
I was really nervous about tasting, like really nervous. Some of the rice bits kind of got stuck to the bottom of the pitcher, so I had no idea if the homemade plant milk was as flavorful as it should’ve been. But when that first, crisp sip went gushing down my throat (I was thirsty), I knew I had hit the jackpot. The horchata was nice and cold, it had a perfect balance of milk, water, and flavorings. It was probably one of the best beverages I had tasted that entire summer, especially for a homemade one. I mean, if I had a glass full of that horchata after a hot day like the ones we just had, it would make everything seem so much better. Honestly, for the amount of work that it takes to make, you guys have to try making this horchata. The value is unbelievable. So, if you have some extra time in the morning or at lunch, give this a try! It’ll make you forget it was ever hot!
Modifications/notes (provided by a helpful comment on Allrecipes):
- Instead of the 2/3 cups of sugar, use 1/3. Unless you like yours very sweet, I would recommend using the smaller option as it will make your horchata much healthier.
- When blending the rice and the water together, add two cinnamon sticks as well. This helps to prematurely flavor the milk, rather than relying on the cinnamon powder at the end to do all of the work.
- For vegans, almond milk works just as well as normal milk. That’s actually what we tried and I’ll tell you, it still tasted like heaven.
- A little extra vanilla, cinnamon, and milk never hurts, especially if you accidentally spill some of the horchata when straining.
- For bigger parties, it’s probably best to double or even triple the ingredients as even though one batch may look like a lot to start off, it ends up smaller than you thought.