In December, drinking horchata…

by Talley

in Beverage,Cocktail,Mexican

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.

HorchataTypically, 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.

horchata mix

I accidentally added the sugar in the first step...

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.

blanched almonds


adapted from Authentic Mexican

  • 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

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 pressing horchatathe 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.

Sprited Horchata

Spirited Horchata

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.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

barefootrooster January 30, 2010 at 5:00 am

yum! horchata makes me think of the southwest. there is nothing better to help with the spice of too-hot chiles. there was a little place in my neighborhood that made great horchata — which means i’m going to have to put these ingredients on my shopping list. i’ve heard this (very catchy) song — what do you think of the rest of the album?
.-= barefootrooster´s last blog ..bird/dog. =-.


Talley January 30, 2010 at 8:24 am

Hey ms. rooster,
I love the album actually! I wasn’t a huge fan of their previous album (perhaps I’ll give it another chance now), but this album has found a solid place in the current rotation. you should check it out.


Connie January 30, 2010 at 9:16 am

I love almonds and this drink sounds delicious, I’d heard of it before, but never knew what it was. Thanks for posting this!

(On a side note, have you ever tried ajo blanco? I’ve always been curious myself.)
.-= Connie´s last blog ..Settling In =-.


Talley January 30, 2010 at 9:18 am

Never tried ajo blanco. never heard of it actually. but I just looked it up and it looks delicious! let us know if you find a good method…


Nhiro January 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm

As soon as you mentioned Vampire Weekend, I thought “horchata”. Saw them once in concert, but I wasn’t too impressed. This drink, however, looks great. Thanks for the recipe.


Janet January 31, 2010 at 8:02 am

Like you, I had never heard of Horchata before until that song. Love that song. Keeps me thinking that warm weather is coming soon. The recipe seems easy enough, I might give it a try.


Kat January 31, 2010 at 8:59 am

What a cool fusion of pop culture-meets-foodies! I’ve been wondering what Horchata was, because there is a Czech drink called ‘horka cokolada” and was curious if it was a similar Spanish counterpart. Not so, thanks to your detective work! I can’t wait to try it!


Olivia February 1, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Do you let it stand like on your table or inside the fridge??


Talley February 3, 2010 at 12:10 pm

We let it sit out covered at room temperature.


Zev Balsen February 4, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Che peccato! Hai mancato l’ottima horchata quando eri a San Francisco. Devi tornare subito.


Carter @ The Kitchenette February 7, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I *adore* Vampire Weekend. I think that it’s amazing that you made Horchata after hearing them! So great.


Lily Balsen February 27, 2010 at 5:00 pm

The saturation of color in the photo is incredible… really captures sweet/chilly/refreshing horchata.

Thank you.


liz@zested May 6, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I love both Vampire Weekend and horchata (I order it so often at my local mexican place that they just hand me a cup when I walk in). However, making it last year was a total disaster. I couldn’t get the rice ground fine enough to not feel gritty, and ended up covered head-to-toe in rice dregs while trying to force it through the cheesecloth. Do you know if you can use rice flour instead?
.-= liz@zested´s last blog ..Austin on an iPhone =-.


Talley May 6, 2010 at 9:15 pm

hah! that’s a funny image. I can’t say that straining the drink was my favorite part either. we used a coffee grinder to grind the rice… it was finely ground, for sure, but i still think it’d probably feel too gritty in the finished drink if not for the straining step. So, I think you’re best bet is to focus on the straining rather than on getting finer ground rice. (that said, if you do try the rice flour and it works well for you, let us know! . . . you might also find rice powder in asian markets, though most of it is toasted)
As for straining, it really helped that we have one of those old “actual” cheese-cloths (made of cloth): the holes are much smaller, so you can really filter out the fine particles, and pressing with the potato ricer doesn’t just end up forcing everything through the cheesecloth as with the disposable kind. Maybe see if you can find one of those real cheesecloths? that might help the gritty problem… but nothing I know of allows you to skip the annoying straining step.


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