“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” Shakespeare
The first thing I would like to try to clarify is that the terms orgeat and horchata are derivatives of the same Latin root word for barley, hordeum. The French word for barley is orge. Without getting too involved, I think it is relatively apparent that those root words were transformed into the two above terms that we are familiar with for a beverage originally made from barley.
It isn’t a far reach to see how this style of beverage could easily be applied using other grains and even nuts and tubers (chufa for example). Orgeat is typically almond based or fake almond flavored and a main ingredient in many tiki cocktails. Horchata is generally rice based and often flavored with fruit or cinnamon and is mostly used as a non-alcoholic refreshing drink. My opinion is that these terms are interchangeable, even though they each have different connotations. I also sometimes call this an oatmeal cream. But, in common parlance, the term orgeat means a sweet almond syrup, and if one uses the term horchata, then it is a sweet rice/cinnamon based syrup or refreshing drink. There are different techniques or recipes for making all of them.
I love this syrup in cocktails and N/A refreshing long drinks. I have read some recent articles using orgeats in similar ways. I have also been making a variety of alternatively based orgeats/horchatas for many years now but the one I use most is the steel cut oat based version.
This horchata consists of steel cut oats, cane sugar, water with hint of cinnamon.
It adds a creamy texture to drinks and cocktails without the use of dairy. The grain and cane sugar are clean on your palate and the flavors are both subtle and apparent.
Oats are naturally gluten free for anyone who suffers from celiac and they also do not present dangers to people with nut allergies that an almond orgeat may.
Since this oat horchata is made into a base syrup, it needs some dilution from spirits and/or water. It can be used in place of almond orgeat in Tiki drinks, but it also works wonderfully in many other classic and original drinks that may not be considered Tiki.
I would like to share a few successful and popular ways I have used this steel cut oat horchata to make cocktails.
I am using the name Horchata Margarita for this drink, even though I am not a fan of using a classic as a descriptor for cocktails…like putting the suffix “tini” at the end of drinks, but the following use of the term, Margarita, seems to have stuck here. But I am open to suggestions for a better name.
2 oz BLANCO TEQUILA
1.5 oz STEEL CUT OAT HORCHATA
.5 oz FRESH LIME JUICE
Add to shaker tin full of ice, shake very hard, and then strain into fresh iced rocks glass or into a chilled cocktail glass. Lime garnish.
The oatmeal and cinnamon work wonderfully with a good young tequila. The hint of lime brings them together and adds freshness and balances the sweetness in the horchata without making it an acid bomb. It is very similar in build to a classic Mai Tai, that being rum, orgeat, lime and triple sec/orange curação.
This cocktail was mentioned in the Playboy Magazine summer feature on the Best Bars in America 2015 at the bar Best Intentions. Owned by my good friends Chris and Calvin Marty, Best Intentions is located in Logan Square, Chicago where I have made it often on their patio and where they feature it on their current menu (2015-2016).
The Steel Cut Oat Orgeat (switching to orgeat now) is also at home with brown spirits. Bourbon, Cognac, other brandies, and rum are natural base spirits for this orgeat and can be made hot or cold. This one uses Clyde Mays Alabama Whiskey which has a hint of dried apple in it that makes it exceptional when mixed with oatmeal and cinnamon.
2 oz CLYDE MAYS WHISKEY
1.5 oz STEEL CUT OAT ORGEAT
.5 oz FRESH LEMON JUICE
Pour all ingredients, except the bitters, into a shaker tin full of ice and shake hard. Strain into fresh iced rocks glass. Top with a couple dashes of Angostura.
This drink can easily be made hot by simply heating all the ingredients, except the spirits, together and then pouring over the spirits in a warmed mug. Bitters are optional. Lemon twist is also an option.
APPLE CIDER OATMEAL CREAM
The Apple Betty can also be made with an apple cider based oat orgeat to make it an APPLE BROWN BETTY. Instead of using water as the base of the regular orgeat, we substitute apple cider to add another dimension of flavor.
This Apple Cider-Oatmeal Cream (yes, another term) is wonderful as the base mixer for a hot buttered rum.
One Last Observation
I looked for other versions of horchata and tequila drinks online since this doesn’t seem like a drink that hadn’t been tried before and I came across many simply awful recipes that aren’t even using real horchata of any kind and use ingredients like fireball and sweet condensed milk in them…I saw one entirely covered in powdered cinnamon…gross.
I plan to write some reviews of drinks like these that are tragic messes and uncomfortable to drink because they are not balanced and/or have garnishes that are idiotic and oppressive.