Horchata is a white-ish drink often seen in Mexican restaurants in those giant beehive-shaped containers. It’s pronounced or-chah-tah, and it’s really fun to say. Try it. Or-chah-tah. Or-chah-tah. Sorry, cellar door. There’s a new best word. It should be a celebrity child’s name, except if people don’t know how to pronounce it correctly and it was a girl, it kinda looks like it starts with “whore.” It’d probably work ironically, like a boy named Sue. Yeah, probably. “Horchata Cruise.” “Horchata West.” Let’s all make a pact. We all agree to name our first (or next) born “Horchata.” Reading this review is an implicit binding contract. Too late, you started already. It’s done.
Back to the drink. While regional variations exist, the version I am familiar with tastes like it’s made of rice, sometimes steeped in nuts, with a healthy dose of cinnamon up on top and over ice. The refreshing beverage goes particularly well with tacos and burritos, though you’re eating tacos and burritos. You could say garbage water goes particularly well with tacos and burritos. Ever had a Jarritos with Mexican food? It’s way too sweet. But still had that burrito. So it’s still a win. Not just a win. A Seahawks over Broncos win. Though I will say, the first time I drank horchata I thought it tasted a little like watered-down milk.
McDonald’s is taking advantage of the fact that Southern California’s immense Hispanic population and pumping out a McCafe coffee version of the horchata drink. Additionally, I noticed that between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., if you buy one frappe, you get another free. They’re calling it a “social hour.” I remember reading somewhere that McDonald’s décor is made to be unpleasant, because they have such a strong brand and they know we will all eat at the restaurant, but they want you to leave quickly so they can serve more customers. Make up your mind, Ronald. You want book clubs and Algonquin roundtable meetings between two and five, but when I cannonball into the Play Place ball pit you tell me to “put back on my shirt.” How do you know I’m not just an overgrown eight year-old? Stop putting hormones in your meat.
The horchata frappe is pretty decent, but it’s complicated. Imagine the taste of rice and nuts. Not the most in-your-face flavor bombs. But coffee? Coffee is the beast of the taste world. They use coffee in lab tests to reset smell-buds. I think they use coffee to defeat Godzilla in that new movie. Everybody rolls around in coffee grounds and it can’t smell humans anymore. It would overpower poor Nuts and Rice. Thus, there is little coffee flavoring in the frappe. It’s basically an horchata milkshake. And you know how cold tends to strangle certain flavors? Cold is so powerful I think that’s how they defeat Godzilla in that new movie. They freeze dry the lizard. This frappe is cold. Real cold. And honestly a lot of the flavor in the drink is overpowered by how numbingly cold it is.
Near the end of the frappe, when the whipped cream melts into the liquid and the ice is drank away, there is the real drink. It was in there the whole time, like a loved one possessed by the devil. It has a light cinnamon-vanilla flavoring (the drink is made with vanilla syrup), and maybe a small hit of rice-milk flavor, like barely detectable. It does not taste like it’s been steeped in nuts. You know what’s been steeped in nuts, though? I’ve held your hand this far. Write your own joke.
The attempt at subtle flavoring is admirable on McDonald’s part, and it was a pretty nice treat at a good price point. It’s thick like a milkshake so it might be hard to sit there and wait for it to heat up to the exact point when it would be ideal to drink it for maximum flavor. Maybe that’s why two to five is social hour. It takes three hours to get peak frappe. Like standing on a boat at 5 a.m. on vacation watching glaciers fall apart.
With the whipped cream mixed in, the fats boosted the flavoring and I would recommend trying to get a side of whipped cream or bringing your own can. That recommendation extends to all restaurants, however. I’m not sure this flavor is going to be launched nationwide but the unfamiliarity of horchata will probably keep it a regional item. But when she’s old enough, you can put Baby Horchata on a plane for a birthright quest to grab it, if it’s still around.
(Nutrition Facts – Unavailable on website or anywhere else.)
Item: McDonald’s Horchata Frappe
Purchased Price: $2.89
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Interesting, pleasant flavor. Works well in frozen treat format.
Cons: Coldness overpowers the subtler horchata flavoring. Not enough rice, nutty taste.