Alcohol-Free Drinks

A Brief History of the New Starbucks Horchata Frappuccino

August  9, 2017

Starbucks is introducing its newest flavored drink: the Horchata Almond Milk Frappuccino. The product will be the brewing behemoth’s first ever all almond milk beverage.

It's prepared by blending almond milk, cinnamon dolce syrup, coffee and ice, with a topping of whipped cream, a caramel swirl, and cinnamon sugar sprinkles. Note: There's not any actual horchata in it.

The drink’s title, however, didn’t just emerge from the brain of some Starbucks exec. Horchata has a lengthy transatlantic history that reveals colonial pathways and historic trade routes.

The drink is said to originate in Valencia, Spain, where residents soaked tiger nuts—introduced to the Iberian peninsula by Arab traders—in water to produce a frothy milk substitute. Spanish invaders then brought the drink to the Americas, where it’s taken on a variety of interpretations. In El Salvador it’s made with morro seeds, while in Puerto Rico they add sesame seeds. But the rendition consumed in the U.S. is inspired by the Mexican preparation made by blending soaked rice with cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar.

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To honor this drink’s epic history, don’t just wait in line. Experiment with similar techniques at home with these recipes:

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Veronica
  • judy
Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


Veronica August 9, 2017
I'm glad we're talking about the culture and history around Horchata! So often the rich cultural background of recipes gets lost when big brands like Starbucks pick them up (and typically modify them heavily).

TIL: I hadn't realized that there was quite so much diversity in the core ingredients from place to place.
judy August 9, 2017
more free advertising for starbucks!