Horchata is nothing new. It helps us take down those spicy dishes and top off a wet burrito. Made of milk, rice, cinnamon and sometimes almonds, horchata is a staple ion Mexican beverage menus, but can sometimes be too watery, too cinnamon-y, or too milky.
But when it's executed perfectly, it is a moment to be celebrated. Gulping down fresh horchata that is off the beaten path makes it even better. La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop and Cartel Coffee Lab in Phoenix both use creativity to give us two new options of the delicious drink.
Which was better? Stay tuned.
In This Corner: La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop
The Setup: Formerly known as La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop, the intimate eatery is on 16th Street with a mosaic Dia de los Muertos figure on the building. Their menu lists gourmet tacos such as the Sonoran carne asada taco, and street tacos like al pastor with pineapple chunks. The extensive salsa bar has something for every level of spice.
The Good: First, the horchata is not made from a mix, making it better than many other restaurants' offerings. It comes with chunks of strawberries and canteloupe, adding another dimension of sweetness. Their cinnamon is sprinkled on top, unlike others where the cinnamon rests on the bottom, so there's no need to worry about taking a gulp of cinnamon. Having so many flavors created the potential to be in competition with each other in a bad way, but this horchata was balanced perfectly.
The Bad: Having chunks travel up your straw isn't always the best thing. Kind of like boba: either you like chunks or you don't. The flavor enhancement added by the strawberry and canteloupe was refreshing, but the chunks dampened the mood a bit.
In The Other Corner: Cartel Coffee Lab
The Setup: With a huge red chandelier hovering above and a wall divider made of old bicycle wheels, it's easy to get entranced in the vibe of the coffee lab. Their straightforward, no frills approach to coffee is what sets them apart from many others in the city.
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The Good: The Espresso Excellente is Cartel's version of horchata, made up of the Mexican drink and espresso. Try to name all the places you can get this beverage. Exactly. Because Cartel is coffee first, the horchata is more of an aftertaste, with the espresso at the forefront. Cartel's creative take is so intruiging and new that the conception itself is enough to keep us sipping.
The Bad: There's a hit of espresso with every drink, so if you're not a coffee lover, then forego this horchata creation. If you're willing to give it a try, the horchata smoothes the bitter taste.
The Winner: We love Cartel's creative take on horchata, but La Santisima wins this battle because of their refreshing horchata and the sweetness of the fresh fruit.