Horchata—that brown-tinted rice milk ladled from a plastic barrel in your local taqueria—has been getting a makeover at some of our favorite Bay Area restaurants and bakeries.
Although most of us think of it as a Mexican beverage, horchata actually originated in Valencia, Spain, where it was made from barley. Everywhere horchata lands, locals tweak the recipe with their own particular flourishes. The Moors added almonds and tiger nuts. In El Salvador, horchata is made with morro seeds, while Venezuelans add sesame seeds and Puerto Ricans dose their horchata with coconut and, of course, rum.
In keeping with this tradition, Bay Area chefs and baristas are taking local liberties with the ancient libation. Here are recipes for three local versions we love that you can make at home.
Recipe: Nopalito's Almond and Strawberry-Almond Horchatas
Nopalito uses brown rice to add richness to both their almond and seasonal strawberry-almond horchatas, while almonds add a nutty flavor and agave nectar blends more easily sugar. The nuts make for a richer consistency than you'd find in a typical agua fresca, somewhere between a glass of milk and a smoothie. As with all of their offerings, the restaurant sources local, sustainable, organic ingredients where possible.
1 ¼ cups cooked long-grain brown rice, preferably organic
1 cup raw almonds
¾ cup plus two tablespoons agave nectar
¼ teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1 cup cleaned and stemmed strawberries
½ cup agave nectar
1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Horchata (preceding recipe)
Pour 3 cups water into the bowl of the blender or large mixing bowl and add the brown rice, almonds, agave nectar, and cinnamon. Let soak overnight. Blend in a high powered blender until smooth, then mix with an additional 6 cups water. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Serve over ice.
In a blender, combine the strawberries, agave nectar, lime juice and salt; blend this syrup until smooth.
For each serving, fill up a 1 ounce glass with ice and fill three-quarters of the way with horchata. Pout two ounce Oaxacan-style syrup on top.
Reprinted with permission from Nopalito, copyright 2017 by Gonzalo Guzman. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
// 306 Broderick St (Lower Haight), nopalitosf.com
Recipe: Dandelion Chocolate's Chocolate Nibby Horchata
Dandelion Chocolate makes the Latin American non-dairy drink with almonds, hazelnuts, cinnamon, roasted Camino Verde nibs for a thick, chocolatey, slightly nutty drink. Serve it over ice and pair with a chocolate canelé.
½ cup uncooked long grain white rice
½ cup blanched almonds
½ cup blanched hazelnuts
¾ cup cocoa nibs
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup almond milk*
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread almonds and hazelnuts in an even layer on a baking sheet. Toast nuts for 5-8 minutes, until golden.
In a large mixing bowl combine the rice, toasted almonds, toasted hazelnuts, nibs, and cinnamon stick.
Bring water and sugar to a boil in a pot to make a simple syrup. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Pour syrup over the nuts and rice in the bowl. Stir.
Using a blender, blend mixture on high speed until as smooth as possible and completely liquified (we use a Vitamix and blend on high speed for three minutes. If you have a regular blender, blend for at least 5 minutes). The cinnamon stick will soften in the liquid and does not need to be removed before blending.
Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over a pitcher. Strain out as much liquid as possible, pushing on the solids with a spatula or spoon. Discard the solids that remain in the strainer.
Blend the liquid again on high speed for about two more minutes, and strain again as described above.
Stir in the almond milk. Serve over ice. Horchata will keep in the refrigerator for one week.
* Dandelion uses Califia Original Almond Milk, but any unsweetened almond milk will work.
Reprinted with permission from Making Chocolate: From Bean to Bar to S'more, copyright 2017 by Dandelion Chocolate, Inc. Published by Clarkson Potter /Publishers, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, A division of Penguin Random House, LLC.
// Multiple locations, dandelionchocolate
Recipe: Chica Oakland's Dirty Horchata
While the brunch menu at Oakland's Chica includes the expected cast members of chilaquiles and huevos rancheros, the stars of the show are the fried chicken torta, featuring chicken thighs marinated in chorizo spices, and the eggs Benedict-O, which uses housemade lemon bread as a base to support seasonal veggies, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce. Their horchata is a traditional recipe; we like it "dirty" with a shot of espresso.
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
4 tablespoons vanilla extract
6 cups cold water
2 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup piloncillo (unrefined Mexican sugar)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
White sugar to taste
Place rice, 2 tablespoons vanilla extract, 4 cups water, cinnamon, and piloncillo into a container and let sit overnight or until piloncillo is dissolved.
Pour into a blender and blend for a minute or two. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Add the rest of the water, vanilla extract, and evaporated milk to the liquid.
Add white sugar to taste.
Recipe courtesy of Maria Esquivel, owner/chef of Chica.
// 303A Oakland Ave. (Oakland), chicaoakland.com