Horchata Is Your New Best Friend This Summer

There's a lot more to this refreshing beverage than meets the eye.

If you've never had horchata, and even if you have, listen up. There's a lot more to this sweet beverage than you might think. Horchata is a milky, but dairy-free, drink that originated in Valencia, Spain (also the birthplace of paella). It was originally made with tiger nuts (which are not actually not nuts at all, but tubers that grow in the ground, much like potatoes). Confused yet? We're just getting started.

Spanish colonists brought horchata to Mexico, where it spread to the rest of Latin America and became a popular agua fresca, which literally translates to "fresh water." In Mexico and the rest of Latin America, horchata looks a lot different than the tiger nut horchata from Spain. In Mexico and Guatemala, horchata is typically made with rice and cinnamon, and in parts of Honduras and El Salvador, it's made with seeds from the morro fruit, which has a hard shell and resembles a coconut. In other parts of Hondurus and Nicaragua, horchata is made with jicaro seeds and spices. In Puerto Rico, the drink might be made with sesame seeds, evaporated milk, and even coconut milk. The variations don't stop there -- some horchatas are more watery than others, and some are really creamy. Horchatas can be subtly sweet or dessert-like, and they could include a wide variety of spice blends.

While there are many variations, the basic process of making horchata is similar across the board. First, you pulverize the rice or nuts, whichever you are using, then soak them -- preferably overnight -- blend them with cold water and, finally, strain the mixture.

Did you get all that?

We need a drink. And nothing could be more refreshing than a cold glass of horchata. The milk-like base, with a touch (or a tad more) of sugar, isn't only rejuvenating on a hot summer day, it is cooling from the inside, making it a perfect pairing with a spicy Mexican meal.

Here are eight ways with horchata that you're going to want to get to know this summer.

Horchata With Sweetened Condensed Milk
Martha Stewart
Get the Horchata With Sweetened Condensed Milk recipe from Martha Stewart
Date Sweetened Horchata
Minimalist Baker
Get the Date Sweetened Horchata recipe from Minimalist Baker
Brown Rice Horchata
Skinny Taste
Get the Brown Rice Horchata recipe from Skinny Taste
Horchata de Coco
Sweet Life
Get the Horchata de Coco recipe from Sweet Life
Horchata With Agave Nectar
Get the Horchata With Agave Nectar recipe by Cookie and Kate from Food52
Horchata With Almonds And Rice
Nosh On It
Get the Horchata With Almonds And Rice recipe from Nosh On It
Horchata With Cashews
Averie Cooks
Get the Horchata With Cashews recipe from Averie Cooks
Horchata With Rum
Stir and Scribble
Get the Horchata With Rum recipe from Stir and Scribble

Want to read more from HuffPost Taste? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.

Before You Go

Jackson Punch

50 Summer Cocktails