So I've had this song stuck, I mean S-T-U-C-K in my head for the last week or so. It's called Horchata, and it's the first track on the new Vampire Weekend album. Whatever you do . . . don't hit the play button... Did you do it? You did, didn't you. I had never heard of horchata prior to hearing this song. But I found myself waiting in line at a local Mexican place the other day, this song running through my head (in December drinking horchata, I'd look psychotic in a balaclava...) and there it was on the menu: Horchata. Revelation: it's a Mexican drink. The second revelation came this weekend when I was humming the song again, looking through Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless for a squash recipe. There is was again: Horchata - Almond Rice Cooler. Typically, horchata would be a summer agua fresca , but I think the lyrics of the song more than allow us to make it in the dead of winter. Indeed, I think they demand we make it. And so make it we did, and so glad are we now. Where has horchata been all my life? For a guy who loves rice pudding and anything almond flavored, this drink is a dream come true. If you fall into the same camp, put this recipe for horchata on your to-do list. Even if it is January.To blanch almonds, drop whole almonds into boiling water for about 1 minute. Then remove them and plunge into cold water. The skins will peel off easily.
adapted from Authentic Mexican
Grind the rice to a powder in a blender or spice grinder (we used a coffee grinder). Place rice powder in a medium sized bowl and add the almonds, cinnamon, and lime zest. Stir in 2 1/4 cups of hot water, and let stand, covered, for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. Scoop the mixture into a blender and blend for a few minutes until it no longer feels gritty. Add an additional 2 cups of water then blend for a few seconds more. Set a large sieve over a large mixing bowl and line the sieve with 3 layers of dampened cheesecloth. Pour in the almond mixture a little at a time (it will strain slowly) and using a spoon, stir gently to help the liquid pass through. When all has strained, gather up the corners of the cheesecloth and trap the dregs inside. Squeeze the cheesecloth to release the remaining liquid. I found it helpful to do this in small batches, wrapping up the cheesecloth around the dregs and then placing the whole thing into a potato ricer. This gave me the leverage to squeeze every last tasty drop out of the almond paste. Then I emptied the cheesecloth and placed it back on the sieve for the next batch of dregs. Add an additional 1 - 2 cups of water, depending on how strong you like it (I only added about 1 1/4 cup) and stir in enough sugar to sweeten the drink to your taste (I liked about 1 cup). If it is too thick, add additional water. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve and stir before pouring. Horchata will keep for about a week covered in the fridge.
- 6 Tbsp rice
- 6 oz (about 1 1/4 cups) blanched almonds (see text above)
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- Three 2-inch strips lime zest (colored part only), 3/4-inch wide
- about 1 cup sugar
For an extra special treat, combine 2 parts horchata with 1 part Rum (I like Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum), shake on ice, and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist.