This article is about the beverage. For the song by Vampire Weekend, see Horchata (song).
Two large jars of aguas frescas in a taquería in Seattle, Washington, USA. On the left is a jar of Jamaica and on the right is a jar of horchata. Restaurant employees serve the drinks by ladling them from the jars into glasses.
The name derives from Catalanorxata, probably from ordiata, made from ordi (barley) (Latin *hordeata < hordeum). The Italian orzata, the French and English 'orgeat' and the SurinameseDutchorgeade have the same origin, though the beverages themselves have diverged, and are generally no longer made from barley.
Various false etymologies exist – one legend links the origins of the name to James I of Aragon, who after being given the drink for the first time by a local in Alboraya, was said to have exclaimed in Valencian "Açò és or, chata!" ("That's gold, darling!")
Originally from Valencia, the idea of making horchata from tigernuts comes from the period of Muslim presence in Valencia (from the eighth to thirteenth centuries).
It has a regulating council to ensure the quality of the product and the villages where it can come from, with the Denomination of Origin. The village of Alboraia is well known for the quality of its horchata.
While in some countries the drink is usually tan and "milky", some recipes call for milk, and others do not. Other ingredients often include sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Though horchata was once typically homemade, it is now available in both ready-to-drink (shelf-stable or refrigerated) and powdered form in grocery stores. Horchata, together with tamarindo and jamaica, are the three typical drink flavors of Mexicanaguas frescas.
The horchata found in the south of Honduras and in El Salvador is primarily made from morro seeds, not rice. Other common ingredients include ground cocoa, cinnamon, sesame seeds, nutmeg, tigernuts and vanilla. Other nuts that may also be used include peanuts, almonds and cashews. Because of these ingredients, the horchata is usually strained before serving.
In Nicaragua and Honduras, horchata refers to the drink known as semilla de jicaro, made from the jicaro seeds ground with rice and spices. The drink is made with cold milk and sugar, and is very popular nationally. Recently, Nicaragua has begun exporting this product, primarily to the United States.
In Puerto Rico, horchata is called horchata de ajonjolí and made with ground sesame seeds. Water is boiled with sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon sticks. When done the water is poured over the ground sesame seeds and left over night. The water is then squeezed through a cheese cloth; when done evaporated milk or milk is added. Some recipes call for added ground rice, ground almonds, coconut milk, allspice and rum. Horchata with barley and lime zest is also popular, but mainly in homes.
In Venezuela, horchata is made with sesame seeds, water and sugar in the western area, Zulia. There is also chicha, made with rice flour, milk and sugar. The alcoholic variant is called chicha andina which is made with fermented corn flour.