Agua Fresca 12: Horchata de Cebada (Barley)

Continuing with the complicated horchata family, let’s go on to horchata (or agua) de cebada, that is horchata of barley. Technically this is redundant because the word “horchata” comes from the Latin “hordeum” which means barley.

This horchata differs from English barley water. In England today barley water is lemonade made with the water in which barley has been boiled.

In Mexico, the barley is put in the blender to make a milky liquid flavored with (say) lime juice. It’s one of those shifts of emphasis that makes a great difference to the final product.

This simple recipe is adapted from one in El Gran Libro de la Cocina Mexicana: La Práctica (Larousse, 1993) by two of the great exponents of Mexican cooking, Alicia Gironella de’Angeli and Jorge De’Angeli. It uses lime to heighten the flavor.

For 2 quarts of agua de cebada, cook 4 tablespoons of barley in water until it is tender. Blend with half a cup of water. Add 1/3 cup of lime juice and sieve. Add water to make up 2 liters and add sugar to taste. Chill and serve cold.

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8 thoughts on “Agua Fresca 12: Horchata de Cebada (Barley)

  1. Judith Klinger

    I was recently doing a little research on orgeat syrup (essentially an almond syrup with a little orange or rose water), and some of the sources site orgeat as originally being French ‘barley water’, and somewhere along the line, the French started adding almonds for flavor and eventually eliminated the barley altogether.
    So, is English barley water different from French barley water?

  2. Rachel Laudan

    Judith, no it’s not. They are both part of the same tangled story but English barley water is still barley and French orgeat is as you say now an almond-flavored syrup.

  3. Alex

    It’s interesting because at the biggest Super here in San Diego – they offer prepared Agua de Cebada that is tinted red. Almost the same color of the horchata you seem to get in GDL. In their aisles they have a Central American section with a cebada instant powder from El Salvador, again red.

    The best agua de cebada I have had comes from my favorite restaurant in the world – a Mariscos puesto in Ensenada – but it seems much more milky-er than your photo, Rachel.

  4. arana

    red horchata?????
    now that seems odd since rice is white :s
    i wouldnt dare to try anything called horchata in red color!!!

  5. brit

    where I’m from in Long Island there is a restaurant which has pink cebada. (it’s incredible!!) Definitely not red but…definitely pink! haha

  6. Robyn

    So do we in Malaysia (and Singapore) drink barley water thanks to the English? Here it’s the water from boiling the barley, with some cooked barley at the bottom of the glass. Served hot or iced, with or without lime.


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