Valencia is Spain’s undisputed capital of horchata. But once upon a time, Madrid was no slouch in the horchata department, either. In the 1960s, some 300 aguaduchos, or refreshment kiosks, offered up cooling drinks to Madrileños, from quenching lemon slush to the requisite horchata. But now, only one such stand remains.
Since 1944, the Kiosko de Horchata Miguel y José has served up tasty drinks to passersby. The stand is unmistakable, painted in pristine blue and white. (Its perfection might be a bit too tempting: Recently, the stand’s owners put up a sign begging local graffiti artists to leave off.)
The Kiosko serves up Valencia-style horchata, which is made with water, sugar, and tigernuts, an almond-flavored tuber. In Central and South America, horchata is made by soaking other ingredients, such as rice or sesame seeds, in water. The name horchata, though, gives a clue to its ancestry. Refreshing, sweet drinks made with soaked barley (hordeum in Latin) were once enjoyed across the ancient world. Barley is still used in drinks today (the Kiosko also sells barley water), but when it comes to horchata, usually people turn to a different grain or nut entirely.
While horchata is ancient, the Kiosko de Horchata Miguel y José may not be around for much longer. The brothers who own it (Miguel and José, of course) predict that they will be the last generation of their family to run the Kiosko.