Do you like almonds? I love almonds! Do you like Amaretto? So do I! But have you ever had a cocktail with Orgeat in it? For a lot of you the answer is probably ‘no’. There isn’t anything wrong with that. But you might be surprised to hear that you’ve probably had Orgeat and not even realized it – especially if you’re a big fan of Tiki style drinks.
Orgeat Syrup is an extremely tricky ingredient to work with and it can either make a cocktail blissful and into an experience of a lifetime or it can destroy the drink and the bartender’s reputation along with it. (OK, destroying their reputation might be a bit exaggerated but it can definitely cause a patron to lose a bit of their trust in their bartender if they make a bad drink!)
What is Orgeat?
To start off, Orgeat is pronounced “OR-ZHA” or “OR-ZAT and not “OR-GATE”. It’s a French word originating from the latin “hordeaceus” which means “made with barley”. (Back in the day, Orgeat was made with a barley-almond blend.)
So, what is Orgeat Syrup? To put it simply, Orgeat syrup is almond syrup with a decent amount of sugar and a touch of orange flower water. Orgeat syrup is what is referred to as an emulsion meaning that it is a mixture of oil and water based ingredients so the ingredients don’t mix completely together, but they also don’t completely separate either! That is the beauty of science!
Earlier I mentioned that you might be surprised to find out that you may have already tried Orgeat syrup in your cocktails without knowing it, and that is the case if you’ve ever ordered a Mai Tai.
Here is a simple Mai Tai recipe for you to try for yourself:
- 2-ounces Aged Rum
- 3/4-ounce freshly Squeezed Lime Juice, (Keep the juiced half-lime)
- 1/2-ounce Orange Curacao
- 1/4-ounce Simple Syrup
- 1/4-ounce Orgeat Syrup
- 1 cup Crushed Ice
- 1 Mint Sprig, for garnish. (I love to soak my mint leaves in blue curacao if I plan on using them for garnish. You will see that the color will complement the Mai Tai also.)
Bartenders Tip – I like to muddle a slice of ginger and a few mint leaves together to give it a refreshing boost and the spiciness of the ginger complements the citrus extremely well!
Orgeat Syrup is an extremely strong ingredient so make sure to use it sparingly. The flavor and intensity of Orgeat syrup is mellowed by pairing it with a citrus cocktail like the Mai Tai. The two flavors combine perfectly and dance tantalizingly on your taste buds – so keep that in mind if you’re planning on making your own signature cocktails. (This is also why Orgeat is relatively common in Tiki drinks and less frequently used in other styles of cocktails.)
The Midnight Margarita
In my old bar we had something called a Midnight Margarita. (This is the first time I am ever putting this recipe out there but since I don’t have a bar any longer it should be okay, right?) This was one of my top sellers. This is a great example of mellowing out the Orgeat with citrus.
Start off with crushed ice in a shaker with 1 ounce of seltzer.
- 2 Mint Leaves
- 1½ ounce of Espolon Reposado
- 1½ ounce of Patron Silver
- Juice from Half of an Orange and Lime
- 1½ ounce of Triple Sec
- ½ ounce of Orgeat Syrup
- 1 ounce of Blue Curacao
- 1 ounce of Sweet Red Wine
Shake until outside of shaker is frosty and serve over ice with a cucumber slice and orange wheel garnish.
The beauty of that drink is that you get so many ‘layers’ of flavor that combine almost fluently. You get sweetness, tartness and earthiness all in a single mouthful, but they don’t take away from each other. This is another great example of Orgeat playing nicely in a drink – the strong flavor is contrasted by the many other ingredients, balancing the drink while creating layers of flavor. I always instructed my patrons to take a bite from the cucumber before taking their first sip to make sure their palate is cleansed and refreshed.
By the way: because Orgeat is an emulsion, it has a tendency to separate when stored. Be sure to give your orgeat a good shake before using it in cocktails to make sure it’s well mixed.
Stocking & Sourcing Orgeat
In the past, Orgeat was among the ever growing list of ingredients that a lot of local bars or taverns didn’t bother to stock. But as more and more people are searching to find a perfectly crafted cocktail, more and more smaller establishments are honing their skills with more unique ingredients, like this one. This means it’s easier to come by from your local spirits distributor.
More good news – if you’d rather make it yourself, Orgeat syrup is fairly easy to make from scratch (and tastes way better if homemade). You should know that homemade Orgeat will only last about a month or less, depending on the recipe you use. (Some recipes add a bit of spirit to help extend its shelf life.)
Otherwise you can find off-the-shelf syrups from companies like Torani Syrups or Finest Call, which have a much higher shelf life (but, of course, don’t taste as good!)
Do you make your own Orgeat syrup at your bar, or do you buy it? Is it worth making yourself? Let us know in the comments, especially if you have a favorite recipe!