Orgeat on My Mind

Need more almond joy in your life? Look no further than a bottle of orgeat, a syrup made from almonds, sugar, and either rose or orange flower water, that—hey!—is also an ingredient in one of next month’s Campari Hard cocktails.

“Or-what?,” you may be asking. That’s “ohr-zhat,” with a second syllable that sounds like “Jacques,” or either of Zsa Zsa Gabor’s first two names. The bit of French flair pronunciation-wise comes from orgeat’s roots: the sweet syrup developed from a (pre-refrigeration) shelf-stable substitute for milk that was originally made with barley and almonds; orge means barley in French.

almonds via @m_chiara_giangrande

Orgeat appears most famously in a Mai Tai, invented in 1944 at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco at a time when tiki bars were popping up all around the country. Vic himself supposedly created the cocktail for a friend visiting from Tahiti, who exclaimed “Maita’i roa ae!” (literally “very good!,” figuratively “out of this world!”) when she tasted it. The original recipe is a bit of an international affair, calling for aged Jamaican rum, French orgeat, Dutch curaçao, and fresh lime juice, but modern variations often stray a bit from the classic, depending on where you’re imbibing.

Mai Tai via Johnny Silvercloud

Tropical cocktails often include orgeat as an ingredient because of its ability to tie together the many spirits and juices that characterize tiki drinks. But more minimalist libations showcase its flavor, too. There’s the simple cognac-based Japanese Cocktail, or the more complicated and ready-to-party Scorpion. Teetotaling? Try a splash of orgeat in club soda, or consider adding it to a milkshake or cup of coffee.

Quality orgeat made with real almonds and sugar is available for purchase from small-batch producers like BG Reynolds and Small Hand Foods, but those can get a bit pricey. And other “almond” syrups that market themselves as orgeat and are cheaper than the small-batch stuff might not even include almonds as an ingredient! So if you’re willing to get a little hands on, it’s worth it to make your own. This Serious Eats recipe is a great reference if you’re down to DIY.

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