Dallas has no shortage of horchata. If you've been to a Latin market or taqueria, you've seen this sweet milky beverage, usually chilled in one of those dispensers on the counter, along with tamarind and hibiscus drinks.
Horchata is a popular drink in many Latin cultures and has a variety of recipes, but it generally contains rice milk, almonds, sugar, and spices. With the increasing number of people eschewing dairy products and the proliferation of "alternative" milks, horchata's profile is on the rise.
Horchata is not hard to make yourself. The worldwide web has oodles of recipes. You can even buy it in a powdered mix. But isn't there something luxurious about having a drink already made?
Traditionally, horchata is a non-alcoholic drink. But some restaurants are giving it a twist by making it the base for an exotic cocktail.
Here are some new and/or horchata drinks in town:
RJ's Mexican Cuisine — Borracha Horchata
Mexican restaurant in the West End began making its own horchata as a kind of healthy drink, combining rice milk, cinnamon, and sugar. Their mixologist Michael Alandis recently devised a horchata-based cocktail, adding Christian Brothers brandy, Frangelico, and a cinnamon stick garnish. "It's great for wintertime," says RJ's owner Jay Khan. "Winter is upon us."
Bar Stellar — Pumpkin Spice Horchata
Henderson Avenue bar takes a page out of Starbucks' book and combines its uber-popular trademark pumpkin spice flavor with the horchata idea. Its Pumpkin Spice Horchata includes vanilla vodka, pumpkin puree, and cinnamon sticks.
Resident Taqueria — House-made Horchata
After serving it as an occasional special, Lake Highlands' upscale taqueria just added house-made horchata as a permanent menu item. They soak rice and almonds, blend it with cinnamon and spices, and sweeten it with condensed milk. You can get it as a solo drink for $3. Give it a little pow by doctoring it with their nitro coffee for $5, or get it with a shot of tequila.
Coco Andre Chocolatier - House-made Horchata
Bishop Arts chocolate maker helped fuel the horchata buzz this summer with its house-made horchata, which you can get in three ways: original, vegan, and "dirty." To make it, they soak rice for a minimum of six hours, which enhances the creamy texture. The regular has condensed milk. Vegan has almond milk with cacao nibs. "Dirty" has a shot of espresso, and has become one of their most popular items.
Mesa — Horchata Cocktail
Mesa, the authentic Mexican restaurant in Oak Cliff with a grand spinoff in Grapevine, was probably the first to "upscale" horchata when it put this horchata cocktail on its menu for its opening in 2011. Some find the superb house-made horchata - laced with rum, coconut, and vanilla - too sweet for predinner, and prefer it as a postprandial treat. Horchata is a sweet drink, no doubt.
Taqueria La Ventana — House-made Horchata
The taqueria sibling of Meso Maya recently added two aguas frescas - horchata and hibiscus - which they make in-house. The horchata has rice, vanilla, cinnamon, and condensed milk. Yelpers have pronounced it to be "delicious" — not too sweet and with a judicious but not overwhelming dose of cinnamon.
Starbucks — Horchata Almondmilk Frappuccino
Inspired by the popular Horchata beverage, which varies by culture and region, Starbucks Horchata Almondmilk Frappuccino blended beverage starts with almond milk, cinnamon dolce syrup, coffee, and ice blended together. It never being enough, Starbucks tops it with whipped cream, a swirl of caramel, and cinnamon and sugar sprinkles.
Rice Dream — Packaged Horchata
For one of the easiest horchata options, Rice Dream - the alternative milk brand from Imagine Foods/Hain Celestial - has a shelf-stable traditional Horchata Rice Drink you can buy at places like Natural Grocer and Sprouts. Made from milled brown rice, cane syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla, it's creamy, quick, and refreshing.