Horchata is a drink originating in Spain and is primarily served as a refreshing summer drink or as a milk substitute. While popular throughout the Spanish speaking world, not all Horchata are the same – in fact, horchata differs widely in Latin America from its Spanish forebear.

In Spain, Horchata is made from tigernuts, water and sugar while the Mexican variety is composed of rice, vanilla, water, and sometimes cinnamon.

Horchata originated in the Spanish city of Valencia during the period of Muslim rule. While many varieties exist, true horchata is the version made with tigernuts.

That shouldn’t dissuade you from trying every version available – because they’re well worth the effort to make this excellent summer refreshment.

From Saveur:

Mexican Horchata

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

⅓ cup long grain rice
1 1-inch piece Mexican cinnamon
2 1-inch strips lime or lemon zest plus grated lime zest, for garnish
1 cup whole blanched almonds, lightly toasted
1½ cup sugar
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Put the rice in a blender or spice grinder and process until it’s completely pulverized, with a flourlike texture. Transfer into a large container and add the cinnamon, lime zest, and almonds. Stir in 2 cups water, cover, and let sit overnight.

2. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until as smooth as possible. Add 2 more cups of water, mix, and strain into a pitcher through a sieve or colander lined with damp cheesecloth, pouring carefully and slowly and pressing the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. If you have lots of bits remaining in the cheesecloth, blend again with some of the strained liquid, then strain over the damp cheesecloths once again. Stir in the sugar and vanilla, then taste and add more sugar if you like. Serve over ice, garnished with fresh lime zest.

Horchata de Almendra – Almond Substitute (Valencian Horchata)

Because it isn’t possible to get tigernuts in many places, an excellent substitute for this in terms of flavor and texture can be found in almonds.

INGREDIENTS

1/2 kg skinless almonds (1 pound) (If skinless almonds are not available you will need to boil the skins of the almonds until they are entirely removed.)
1/2 kg sugar (may use 1/2 lb to 1 pound, desired)
1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch salt
2 1/2 liters water (warm)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Crush or otherwise pulverise the almonds into a coarse powder.

If you boiled your almonds to remove the skins, then smash them (or put them in a strong blender while adding some water) into a mush.

2. In a large bowl/container add the 2.5 liters of water with a pinch of salt.

3. Slice and add the lemon.

4. Mix in the almonds. Cover the container and let it remain at room temperature for 2 hours.

5. After two hours, add the sugar and cinnamon.

6. Stir until the sugar is entirely dissolved.

7. Strain the liquid with a fine cloth.

Refrigerate the drink; it will stay fresh for at least five days.

[Saveur]