Horchata is a chilled, sweetened, milky Mexican beverage made from rice and flavored with almonds and cinnamon. It is essentially a lighter and more economical version of almond milk. At GCM and across Los Angeles, horchata is a favorite drink in hot weather and alongside a plate of tacos—it helps douse the heat in both senses. The rice adds a starchy or chalky quality, and perhaps to compensate, most taquerias use a very heavy hand with the sugar. But the rice flavor is also part of horchata’s charm, and this version inspired by GCM vendors reduces the sweetness—a bit. Like sweet tea in the South, horchata’s sugary taste and rich mouthfeel make the drink what it is. Of course those who prefer unsweetened tea might disagree, and by the same token you can adjust the recipe below to suit your own preference.
Note: Making horchata without a blender or food processor requires too much work to even contemplate. The rice and almonds require an overnight soak.
- In a blender or food processor, combine the rice with 3 cups hot water. Pulse until the rice is broken to bits, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large jar or bowl, and add the almonds and cinnamon stick. Cover and set aside at room temperature to soak overnight, at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours.
- Transfer the rice, almonds, cinnamon stick, and soaking water to a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain the puree through a damp jelly bag or a double thickness of cheesecloth that has been wetted and wrung out over a large bowl. Squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids.
- Add 1 cup water to thin the mixture, and stir in the agave. Taste and adjust the sweetness as needed. Transfer to a large pitcher or jar and place it in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour. To serve, stir in the seltzer. Serve in tall glasses over ice, garnishing each with a pinch of ground cinnamon.
Reprinted from The Grand Central Market Cookbook. Copyright © 2017 by Adele Yellin and Kevin West. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Johnny Autry. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.