Drink Your Way Through Hispanic Heritage Month!

September 13, 2012

Posted By: Three Kitcheneers

If you thought Cinco de Mayo was worth celebrating, then you are going to lose your ever-loving mind over National Hispanic Heritage Month which starts on September 15th and runs clear on through to mid-October.  Forget one wild night of drinking beer, wearing sombreros and pretty much doing everything BUT celebrating the importance of Mexican heritage and pride.  Now you can have a whole month to really absorb the Hispanic culture and recognize their contributions to our nation.  

But why start in the middle of the month, you ask?  Well, it stems from the fact that September 15th is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, followed closely by the independence of Mexico, Chile and Belize on the 16th, 18th, and 21st, respectively.  Just put that little nugget of information into your hat and wait for Alex Trebek to ask about it.  You will sweep the whole category!

So, what better way to celebrate a culture than through food and drink?  Right?  Right!!

We Three Kitcheneers have decided to focus our Latin culinary prowess on three distinctly different but equally addicting beverages common in Hispanic cuisine. Added bonus: these tasty drinks can go from kid-friendly to adult beverage in an instant.  We figured with so many Latin countries being honored this month, you’d have a vast selection of cultural dishes to choose from.  We beg of you to think outside of just tacos and enchiladas, which are, for sure, scrumptious, and to realize that Latin culture provides a plethora of vibrant, bright, bold, fresh and all-around overwhelmingly delicious dishes worth preparing.  Be inspired!  Grab a cookbook -- oh, who are we kidding?  Google some great recipes from the aforementioned nations, gather the family, make our drinks and then spend the month creating menus from all over the world.  

Speaking of our drinks - they come with a warning: you are going to fall madly, deeply, out-of-control in love with these beverages.  Please warn friends and family that your new diet consists of rice milk, hibiscus flowers and hot chocolate.  And possibly an indecent amount of rum.  

Horchata is a creamy but refreshing crowd-pleaser.   Made with rice milk, this drink usually reserved for kids, is just as addicting for adults.  Especially if you toss in some rum and turn this into a sweet afternoon cocktail.   Aqua fresca de Jamaica is the Hispanic answer to iced tea, but way better.  Way, way better.  In fact, it will soon be difficult to drink boring, stupid, brown iced tea after downing this herby, tart and crisp libation which just so happens to be the most gorgeous shade of deep magenta.  Add a little sparkling wine and bring this to a party for the best ever hot weather cocktail, or just serve it to your family as is and revel in the exorbitant amount of praise that they will finally give you once they are done gulping down this beautiful bevvie.   Champurrado is similar to hot chocolate but the addition of masa makes it pretty thick.  The added spices are so aromatic and warming, one sip and you will be as relaxed as if you just took a vacation to Belize. Especially if you add rum to it.

We hope you like these drinks as much as we loved making them and, of course, testing them out.  

HORCHATA (Cinnamon Rice and Almond Milk)

We prefer the flavor and nutrition to almond milk over cow's milk, but feel free to substitute. Rice and almond milks are found in most larger grocery stores in the health food section.

makes 4 cups

2 cups unsweetened rice milk
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
sea salt
1/4 cup dark rum (optional)

Combine milks, cinnamon, sugar, and pinch of salt in pitcher. Whisk until sugar dissolves and frothy. Adjust sweetness if necessary and stir in rum, if using. Serve over ice.

AGUA FRESCA FLOR dE JAMAICA (Hibiscus Flower Iced Tea)

Dried hibiscus flower, or flor de Jamaica, can be found at specialty food stores or Hispanic markets.

makes 6 cups

2/3 cup dried hibiscus flowers (flor de Jamaica)
3 cups water
3 cups ice
1/3 cup raw agave nectar

Combine hibiscus and 3 cups water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in ice and agave. Pour through fine mesh strainer into large pitcher and refrigerate until chilled. Serve over ice.

CHAMPURRADO (Mexican Hot Chocolate)

If you can find Mexican chocolate use it in place of the semisweet chocolate. Masa harina is corn flour, it can be found in the ethnic section of most larger grocery stores or at Hispanic markets.

2 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 cups whole milk
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup masa harina
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup raw agave nectar
sea salt

Combine milks, star anise, and cinnamon stick in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring just to a simmer, remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Return to low heat and gradually add masa harina, whisking until combined. Whisk in chocolate, agave, and pinch salt; bring to a simmer. Simmer mixture, whisking, for 2 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and star anise. Serve hot, but it tastes just as good chilled.


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