Ordering horchata is like having sex. You always order it when it’s available, you rarely regret it, sometimes you stumble upon it in strange places, and you’re always hoping it will be the best of your life, but unfortunately, it probably won’t be.
Because of its simple ingredients and time consuming process to make, I often find that corners are skipped, and sugary syrups or artificial thickening agents are added. Not that this makes bad horchata…I am just always keenly hunting for knock-your-socks-off horchata.
I started making horchata while living in Japan where it is completely unavailable. To my surprise it was both easy to make, and the homemade version surpasses most restaurant or store bought versions. It keeps well, and you most likely have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now.
Best of all, it is highly customizable (see personalizations below). I sometimes add almonds if I have some laying around. I nearly always add a drop or two of almond extract. As for milk, we did a blind taste test of no milk, with milk, and with coconut milk. While they were all delicious, the version with milk won hands down, but coconut milk is a great vegan alternative.
The real key is patience. Some people will try to convince you that you can concoct it in an afternoon, but they are probably boring people whose favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla. In order to get a real beverage and not just flavored water, you must be patient, small fry. So, make this over the weekend and have it in your fridge all week.
Note: Don’t spend a lot of time rinsing your rice, it’s only going to sit in water for the next couple of hours. I have found the best way to rinse rice is by using nylons or a cheese cloth, or if you’ve ever lived in Japan, 1 – 2 of those sink socks.
Horchata: Mexican Rice Milk
serves 6 to 8
- 1 cup long-grain white Rice, rinsed
- 1 Cinnamon Stick, preferably Mexican, more for garnish
- 4 cups Water
- 1 cup-ish Sugar
- 1 tbsp Vanilla
- ½ cup Almonds, blanched & chopped
- 1 – 3 drops Almond Extract
- 2 cups Milk or 2 cups Coconut Milk (not both)
- Combine the rice, 2 cups of water and the cinnamon stick in a sturdy blender. Pulse (don’t blend) until the rice is like coarse bird seed, but not so long it resembles sand. It will be loud. Your cat will be scared.
- Pour the mixture with the other 2 cups of water into a large (I prefer air-tight) container and let soak for 24 hours. Grab a good book. Leave it alone until tomorrow. Or, throw it in the fridge and go away for the weekend. Just don’t move on to the next step for several hours, unless you feel the need to shake it. You’re allowed to shake it if you like.
- Have you slept? Are you sure? If you haven’t slept at least once, you haven’t waited long enough. If you have, you may now return the contents to the blender. Sometimes I find there is too much water to fit everything in the blender. If so, you can do this step in batches. Blend the mixture, and this time blend like you mean it. Get angry, and pulverize the mixture until smooth.
- Strain the mixture through your best straining device. We used a a cheese cloth over a bowl, but a chinois, nylons, or fine mesh strainer all work. Some are messier than others. Get as much liquid out as you can.
- At this point I like to blend and strain again, but this is a personal preference. If you do blend it a second time, the horchata will likely get very warm, this is natural.
- Once you have reached the desired level of smoothness, you can add as much sugar as you like along with the vanilla. Start with a little and gradually add more, waiting for the sugar to dissolve completely before tasting. I usually start with 1 cup, but feel free to start with less.
- Serve over ice, with a cinnamon stick stirrer, or as our friend Chris likes it, with a shot of whiskey.
- You can add a ½ cup of almonds or other nut to the soaking rice mixture. If you do, blanched and chopped are best. In Spain they use the tigernuts…grrr!
- You can add a couple drops almond extract at the same time or in lieu of vanilla, goes especially well if you have added almonds to the soak.
- You can add milk at the same time as the vanilla if you want a creamier horchata.
- You can add coconut milk at the same time as the vanilla if you want a more tropical flavored horchata.