2021 Let’s Get Blitzen: Cocktail Advent Calendar – Day 8 – Ho-Ho-Ho Horchata. I first sampled horchata a few years ago when it appeared on the menu at Copper Sights and Spirits at the Andaz hotel in the ByWard Market. I went for a Mother’s Day drink with my parents and my mom ordered the horchata and we all fell in love with the delicious cinnamon and rice-based cocktail.
I’ve featured an eggnog recipe or two in each edition of the Let’s Get Bltzen: Cocktail Advent Calendar to date – including Hazelnut Eggnog, Chai Eggnog Cheer, Tangerine Eggnog, and Brûléed Pumpkin Eggnog. But, this year, I wanted to change things up and serve a plant-based alternative that would likely be a fun new culinary adventure for my readers.
The recipe I’ve created here is very much in the Mexican style of horchata and it seemed only fitting to pair it with a spirit exclusively produced in Mexico, tequila.
This post is sponsored by Tequila Tromba.
Tequila is a designation of origin product, which means it can only be produced in Mexico, and is recognized as such in more than 40 countries, including Canada. Specifically, the Mexican government dictates that tequila can only be produced in the state of Jalisco and limited municipalities in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas.
It is made from the blue agave plant exclusively (unlike mezcal which can be made from a wide array of agave species) and the flavour varies greatly from producer to producer depending on where the blue agave are grown, the speed and methods of fermentation employed, and the aging period. Typically, tequila boasts a strong fruity or vegetal aroma, a touch of spice, with woody and smoky notes.
For this recipe I wanted to use a tequila that I always keep stocked on my home bar – Tequila Tromba Reposado (which also happens to be owned by an Ontarian). Tromba Reposado is aged for six months in American whiskey barrels for added smoothness. Look for flavours of cacao, toasted nuts, orange and pineapple, followed by a long finish that develops into a smoky woodiness. Well-crafted and harmonious.
There are four primary categories of tequila, depending on the aging time:
- Blanco (“white”) or plata (“silver”): white spirit, unaged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels
- Reposado (“rested”): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size
- Añejo (“aged” or “vintage”): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in small oak barrels
- Extra Añejo (“extra aged” or “ultra aged”): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels.
I opted for Tromba Reposado because the six months spent in American whiskey barrels lends subtle vanilla and brown sugar flavours that pair beautifully with the cinnamon and vanilla in this homemade horchata recipe. The lime and clementine cordial brings bright acidity and some heat (from the Thai chilies therein) to accentuate the orange and pineapple flavours in the Tromba Reposado.
Horchata originated in North Africa more than a millennium ago. It’s thought that the recipe began circulating throughout what is now Spain and Portugal in the 11th century and was subsequently exported to the Americas – taking on new twists and base ingredients as it traveled the world.
In Spain, where it’s maintained popularity for over 1,000 years, it is made with soaked, ground, and sweetened tiger nuts – as it is in West African countries such as Nigeria and Mali but bears the name kunnu aya there. In Latin America, and other parts of the Americas, the base is jicaro, melon or sesame seeds, or white rice, along with other spices. Different varieties can be served hot or cold.
The Mexican version, known as horchata de arroz, can be found in Latin grocery stores in either ready-to-drink (shelf-stable or refrigerated) or powdered form. In Ottawa, you can find it at La Tiendita on Merivale Road.
Whether you’re picking up store-bought horchata or making it from scratch, I hope you’ll try this recipe and join me on my Instagram stories tonight at 5 pm Eastern for a step-by-step walk-through.
Horchata is a rice and cinnamon beverage popular in Latin America. This version is a riff on the style of horchata prevalent in Mexico but assorted recipes come from West Africa and Spain. The Mexican style horchata often employs ground white rice, cinnamon, and almonds. With the addition of tequila and a spicy, acidic lime clementine cordial, this is a delicious drink served either hot or cold.
- 2 oz Tequila Tromba Reposado
- 4 oz horchata homemade recipe follows OR 4 oz coconut or almond milk & 2 tbsp store-bought horchata mix
- ½ oz lime clementine cordial
- Garnish: cinnamon stick
- 1/3 cup long grain rice uncooked
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 strips lime zest
- 1 cup whole blanched almonds lightly toasted
- 1½ cup sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 8 limes peeled and juiced (approx. 4 oz lime juice)
- 4 clementines peeled and juiced (approx. 4 oz clementine juice)
- 2- inch piece of fresh ginger peeled and chopped
- 6 cracked cardamom pods
- 1-2 Thai chilies diced
- 1½ cups sugar
Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a short glass over ice.
Garnish with a cinnamon stick.
Pulverize the rice in a blender or spice grinder to a flour-like texture. Transfer to a large container with cinnamon, lime zest, and almonds. Stir in 2 cups water, cover, and let stand overnight.
Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Add 2 more cups of water, stir. Strain through fine-mesh sieve into a large pitcher. Stir in the sugar and vanilla, taste and adjust sweetness as needed.
Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan (including all citrus peels) over medium heat.
Simmer, stirring often, for 20 minutes until syrup is slightly thickened.
Cool to room temperature and strain off solids.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.