What Is Horchata?

This traditional Mexican beverage is sweet and refreshing

Agua de Horchata in a pitcher and glass
 Kimberlee Reime/Getty Images

Horchata(pronounced or-CHAH-tah) is a Mexican drink made with rice and is flavored with cinnamon and sweetened with sugar. The rice, sometimes along with some nuts or seeds, is ground and mixed with water to make a milky looking drink. It is served over ice as a cooling beverage in Mexico's hot climate.

Horchata's Journey

The roots of this drink stem from Egypt where they originally used the chufa nut to make horchata. During ancient times, the drink made its way to Spain, where it is called horchata de chufa. When the Spaniards brought the drink to Mexico, the natives replaced the chufa nut with rice (although you can find the alternate chufa version in Mexico as well).

Drinking Horchata

This drink can be found in most Mexican restaurants and is often sold by street vendors in Mexico. Since it does not contain milk, it will not spoil as easily as a dairy-containing beverage. 

You can buy a horchata syrup, where you just need to add water, but it is easy (and will taste better) if you make your own horchata. You only need white rice, a cinnamon stick, sugar, and water, along with a blender and fine-mesh strainer. Although not the traditional version, you can add different flavors to the rice mixture for an interesting twist on this Mexican classic.