The global novel coronavirus pandemic may have grounded us, but we can still enjoy happy hour. This daily series will provide delicious drink recipes for you to try at home. So call your friends for a virtual sip session and traverse the globe, even if it's only in your mind. 

Today's cocktail hails from Mexico and Latin America – Horchata.

What is it?

Pronounced or-CHA-tah, this rice-milk drink is thirst-quenching, nutritious and the perfect counterbalance to the spiciness of Mexican and Central American cuisines. Some variations use milks derived from nuts. 

Origins 

Beverages sold as horchata abound throughout Latin America, having first come from Spain (where it was – and still is – made from chufa nuts). Horchata in the New World leans closer to the Mexican version, made from ground rice or almonds, vanilla and cinnamon. Its popularity in cultures known for spicy cuisine should come as no surprise – horchata is an intestinal balm. 

You'll need (Makes a jug)

1 cup (200g) uncooked long-grain white rice 
cinnamon stick or ½ tsp of ground cinnamon 
5 cups (1.2l) water 
1 cup (200g) white sugar 
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Method

Step 1: Pulverize the rice using a blender or a (clean) coffee grinder until it’s about the consistency of finely ground coffee beans. 
Step 2: Place the rice and cinnamon in a bowl, adding 3 cups (750ml) of warm water. Cover and allow to sit overnight (or even longer) at room temperature. 
Step 3: Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor. Blend until as smooth as possible. 
Step 4: Add 2 cups (500ml) cold water. Blend again. 
Step 5: Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a very fine strainer. You may have to clean out the rice gunk a couple of times as you go. 
Step 6: Transfer to a pitcher and mix in the sugar and vanilla extract until dissolved. Add more or less sugar to taste. (Honey and agave are both acceptable substitutes.) 
Step 7: Serve over ice with a dash of ground cinnamon. 

Tasting notes

Your first sip of horchata may follow a bite of a spicy Mexican dish like chile rellenos (spicy peppers, stuffed and roasted). If so, the beverage’s distinctly soothing properties – for which you will be grateful – will be the first thing you notice. As the culinary fires are quenched, the drink’s milky sweetness, tinged with strong overtones of cinnamon and lighter notes of vanilla will move to the forefront. You may find the beverage reminiscent of rice pudding enjoyed as a child, making it all the more interesting as a counterpoint to your next bite of fiery Mexican food. 

For more cocktail recipes, check out our Destination Drinks page

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter. Make sure you're ready for anything with travel insurance from our trusted partners.

Explore related stories

LOCAL FLAVOR - Title

Tips & Advice

Local Flavor: where to eat and drink in Porto

Apr 4, 2024 • 4 min read