Food and Drink

The Origins of Horchata May Surprise You

Image by Chelsea Marotta for Thrillist
Image by Chelsea Marotta for Thrillist
Image by Chelsea Marotta for Thrillist

It’s no secret that nowadays horchata is a trendy drink in the U.S., with chains like Starbucks creating their own spin on the beverage, to local restaurants across the country making their own versions. You can visit Walmart and buy everything from horchata protein drinks to the classic recipe by the carton. In 2019, horchata became one of the most popular flavours in the country, with a 257% spike in sales growth. You could say it became the drink of the summer. And of course, the icy beverage has long been a staple at a variety of Latin American restaurants across the states.

But what exactly is horchata? The delicious, creamy drink was originally made from dried and ground tiger nuts. The milky results are combined with water and sugar, then filtered to create a taste similar to rice pudding. This version is called horchata de cufa, and it was made popular in Spain.

You may be more familiar with the Mexican version. It’s made from rice milk, cinnamon, and sugar, and has a more milky texture.The truth is, there is no one way of making horchata. Other countries have their own unique spin on the drink, all using different plant-based ingredients.

In Puerto Rico, the drink is known as horchata de ajonjoli, which usually consists of ground sesame seeds, rum, and coconut milk. In Central America, countries like El Salvador and Honduras call it semilla de jicaro, and it’s made using the licorice-flavoured seeds from the calabash (a gourd that grows on a tree). In Ecuador, horchata lojana is more of a red herbal tea made from flowers.

While horchata de chufa was popularized in Spain, it originated in North Africa, specifically present-day Nigeria and Mali, as far back as 2400 B.C. The Moors brought it to Spain during the Muslim conquest. In Valencia it got its name, “horchata.” Before that, it was known as “kuunu aya,” as it’s still popularly known in Nigeria.

African countries have a long history of influencing Latin American culture. You can see it in the music, the languages, and most importantly, in the food. From the ingredients to the spices to the cooking techniques, Latin cuisine is a fusion of multiple cultures, including those from Africa.

This is largely because many Latin American countries have significant populations of people of African ancestry, due to the slave trade and other migration movements. In fact, Brazil has the largest concentration of people of African ancestry outside of Africa. Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela also have sizable populations of people of African descent, notwithstanding years of colourism in those countries, even to the point of attempts at ethnically cleansing. Horchata de chufa is a tribute to the resilience of Black Latin American culture. People have found ways to preserve their African traditions, especially in their food. And these traditional dishes are still beloved both within and outside the Latin community.

No matter what version of horchata you choose to indulge in, the famous Latin American drink is now part of North American food culture as well, whether it’s the classic recipe or a flavour of ice cream. Latin American cuisine has always been a beautiful melange of cultural influences, and its African roots are an essential part of that mosaic.

Dana Givens is a Thrillist contributor.

Food and Drink

Red Rooster Is Serving Free Chicken and Piping Hot Cash This Christmas in July

Get your early dose of festive cheer.

Red Rooster Christmas in July
Instagram / @redrooster_au

The cold weather in most parts of Australia coinciding with EOFY celebrations is the closest thing that we’ll get to snowy Christmas vibes. And if you’re in dire need of some festive cheer after the first six months of 2023, grab your ugly sweater and head to your nearest Red Rooster for Xmas in July deals.

From June 29 – July 31, 2023, Red Rooster is serving up free food items, a chance to win $10,000 or one of 10 merch packs valued at $400 and other fun prizes. All you have to do is sign up as a Red Royalty member and spend $5 on at a location near you or online.

Each week there’ll be new delicious deals and prizes to win. The week one deals have already dropped and they’re looking pretty tasty. You can get access to them via your Red Royalty account. The more you purchase, the more chances you have to win.

Spoiler alert: you can get 10 chicken nuggets for free, right now. Brb running to Red Rooster.

Terms and conditions apply. Visit Red Rooster’s Christmas in July to see all the deals.


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