Sept. 24 marks the second annual National Horchata Day that celebrates horchata as a staple in a variety of Hispanic cultures.
According to Sarah Portnoy, a USC Spanish professor and an expert in food and Hispanic culture, horchata originated in the Iberian Peninsula in the 13th century but its recipe varies depending on the region.
“The way that they make horchata in Oaxaca is gonna be different than in Sinaloa, or in Sonora,” said Portnoy. “Just like with tamales, or many other Mexican dishes, every region has its own specialty, and every region is unique in some way.”
Guisados, a family-owned Mexican restaurant in Boyle Heights, is known for its traditional homemade horchata and its variety of tacos.
“I think it goes even beyond horchata, the entire Guisados menu is a reflection of our history,” said owner Armando De La Torre Jr..
De la Torre Jr. says that one of his fondest childhood memories was when his grandmother made him a chilled homemade horchata with a banana on it, after getting out of the pool on a hot summer’s day. Now, he is sharing his traditional family recipes and creating a nostalgic experience for customers who dine at the restaurant.
“It’s always brought people back to their mom or their grandmother or the way they used to cook,” said De La Torre Jr. “It takes them back and I hope that’s what our menu continues to do for however long Guisados is open.”
While Guisados' specialty is homemade and traditional flavors, De La Torre Jr. said that they have created some other variations of horchata. On Dodgers home game days, they dye their horchata blue at their Echo Park location and called it “Dorgerata.”
They also made a Valentine’s Day horchata edition, which included strawberry among other ingredients. He also said that Guisados customers can even purchase an horchata powder solution that they can easily make for themselves at home.
“You’ll be able to buy the bottle at a location, take it home and all you have to do is add milk,” said De La Torre Jr. “It will have other recipes on there, including my grandma’s recipe I was talking about with the banana and it has all the directions on there.”
Some other businesses in L.A. have also made their version of horchata.
Michefresca King, an agua fresca stand in South Los Angeles, has given horchata a unique twist.
“We take the horchata to a whole other level,” said Guilver Lopez, the owner of Michefresca King. “We turn it into a dessert Michelagua form of it.”
Guilver Lopez and his wife opened up their business about six months ago on the corner of Avalon Boulevard and 51st Street and have been serving their signature dessert drinks ever since.
“We put a little whip cream on there, little straws, a little wafer candy, and these little marshmallow candies too,” said Lopez. “We do the regular horchata, strawberry horchata or the coffee horchata.”
They offer a total of 16 specialty aguas frescas and Lopez said they are planning to buy a food truck so they can continue to expand their business and share their drinks with more people outside of L.A.
“When your mom or someone makes it, you try to recreate that flavor every single time and I feel like what we do, you know, is kind of the same concept,” said Lopez. “When you try it, you wanna come back for more. You get that simple feeling of the comfort of your home.”
Both locations share their version of horchata, but they also share the same core of Hispanic values.
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and National Horchata Day with an ice-cold horchata.
This story was done in collaboration with ABC7 News. See the full ABC7 Story with Eric Resendiz here.