Cocktail Spotlight } Room 11's Iris in Mexico

I’m a big fan of horchata, the traditional beverage made from rice and cinnamon that can be found throughout Latin America. For some time, I have searched for a local bar or restaurant to serve an alcoholic rendition. Thankfully Room 11’s Iris Ho read my mind and came up with a brilliant mix of housemade horchata, Corsair Wry Moon rye whiskey, and a housemade Vietnamese spice syrup.

Inspired to create this “boozy milkshake” after an evening of horchatas and pupusas, Iris scoured the internet for recipes, paying particular attention to common ingredients and portions. What emerged is bigger on cardamom and more savory, but still features the traditional cinnamon hint that truly distinguishes horchata.

After sampling several rye whiskeys, Iris discovered unaged Corsair Wry Moon rye and knew she had found what she was looking for. The spiced syrup, created especially for this drink, is a mix of brown sugar, green cardamom, star anise, cloves, ginger and cinnamon and makes for the perfect addition.

Since the beverage is calming on the stomach and light on alcohol, she suggests pairing the concoction with something spicy from Room 11’s brunch menu — such as the savory chili french toast.

The name Iris in Mexico was coined by co-workers Eddie Kim and Jess Woods and involves Iris in stick figure form taking imaginary trips to New York City. Confused? You should be. Be sure to get the entire story the next time you’re at Room 11.

The delicious concoction can be found regularly on Room 11’s brunch menu, and if you’re lucky, may also be available on a Monday or Tuesday night. If you’d like to mix up a batch at home, here’s the recipe:

Iris in Mexico
Recipe courtesy of Iris Ho, Room 11

1 ounce Corsair Wry Moon Unaged Rye Whiskey
3 ounces Housemade Horchata
1/4 - 1/2 ounce Spice Syrup

Pour rye into a highball glass, add ice and top off with horchata. Add spice syrup to taste, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Housemade Horchata
makes 8 servings

1 3/4 cups Arborio rice
3 cinnamon sticks
7 green cardamom pods, cracked
2 star anise
10 cloves
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped out
4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a large container with a resealable lid. Let soak 24 hours, or at least overnight. Blend the rice, milk and spices in small batches and filter out the solids with a fine mesh strainer.

Spice Syrup
makes 1 cup

1/2 cup demerara brown sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
3 green cardamom pods, cracked
1 star anise
5 cloves
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and chopped

Combine water, cinnamon, cardamom pods, star anise, cloves and ginger into a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add sugar, and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool. Strain out spices and ginger before using.

More Cocktail Spotlights
* Tabard Inn's Old Hickory
* Great Spots for Warm Cocktails 

Ashlie Hughes is pursuing her longtime dream of writing about food and travel. During her free time she enjoys trying new restaurants, searching for the perfect cocktail, and daydreaming about traveling the world. She currently writes a column titled The Aperitif and other articles for