The non-alcoholic, opalescent-white almond syrup known as Orgeat has a thick, creamy consistency and a rich, sweet, almondy flavor. The recipes and flavor profiles vary slightly between brands.
Yet, Orgeat (pronounced Or-zha) goes back much further than mixology and modern Tiki culture - its roots are in the Middle Ages.
We will address the most frequently asked questions about Orgeat and show you how to make this beautiful and versatile syrup at home.
Ingredients of Orgeat
Modern-day, Orgeat contains almonds, sugar, and water. These three components make the base for every quality version of this syrup. Then, there are other, additional flavorings that give the syrup its unique, complex taste. These are optional and vary from brand to brand and recipe to recipe.
Common optional ingredients are:
- rose water
- orange water
- other nuts like, for instance, hazelnuts
- vanilla bean
- all sorts of spices
How Does It Taste?
Orgeat has an overall sweet, sweet and marzipan-like nutty almond flavor accompanied by slightly bitter and citrusy notes from orange flowers or rose water. These additions bring an extra depth of flavor, making the syrup extremely attractive for mixology.
Most syrups we use have a very straightforward, one-dimensional taste of sugar only, berries, floral flavorings, etc. Orgeat is different and falls in line with other Tiki ingredients like Falernum, Gardenia Mix, and the like.
What does Orgeat mean?
The name "Orgeat" is derived from the Latin word hordeata, which translates to barley water. While the ancient, original recipe indeed was made of a 100% grain base and contained barley water, the modern version has almonds as the primary element.
The Latin word hordeata was turned into orge (barley) by the French and eventually evolved into the English term Orgeat. Also, the Catalan word for a plant-based drink orxata is closely related.
Depending on the region and the brand, Orgeat contains additional flavorings and ingredients.
I mentioned common additions like vanilla, rose water, and orange flower water above. But you can also find Orgeat made with cinnamon, cloves, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and bananas.
Unfortunately, some brands use cheap corn syrup and artificial flavorings to cut costs. Stay away from those by carefully checking the list of ingredients.
When and How to Use Orgeat?
In the world of mixology, it's best known for its use in flavorful Tiki cocktails. Of course, it also works in non-alcoholic drinks. For instance, you can pour a bit into a glass of seltzer or tangy citrus juice.
Now, when you look a little further, there are plenty of other possibilities and interpretations:
For example, in Tunisia and Libya, a variation called rozata is served during weddings as a symbol of joy. And in Suriname, they even have an almost identical drink with a closely related name - orgeade- made of almonds and sugar.
And in European countries, Orgeat variations are well-known, too. For instance, a closely related product is a traditional delicacy in Malta, Greece, and Cyprus.
And Orgeat is not only great for drinks. You can use it as a sweetener for fresh fruits and desserts or pour it over a few scoops of ice cream.
Almond Syrup vs. Orgeat - The Difference
Orgeat is more like a particular type of almond syrup, enhanced with a variety of additional ingredients. Still, the base of those two products is the same. Generally, almond-based syrups are quite versatile, and Orgeat is not the only product that makes use of this:
Falernum, for instance, is also an almond syrup, but very different from Orgeat. However, while regular almond syrup makes a reasonable substitute for Orgeat, it does not work as a replacement for Falernum.
How to Make the Perfect Orgeat Syrup
Making your own Orgeat for cocktails is easier than you might think. You need almonds, sugar, water, a bit of orange flower water, plus optional vodka or brandy to make the syrup last longer.
Buy peeled, chopped almonds, or if you can't get those, blanch your almonds in boiling water for a minute or two before peeling and dicing them.
Now add sugar and water into a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil while gently stirring it. Once the mix starts to cook, add your almonds. Now, wait until the almond-sugar mix is about to boil again, and remove it from the heat before it actually does.
Add orange flower water and Brandy to it and stir thoroughly before letting the mix steep for a few hours. Once your Orgeat is cooled down, double strain it with a cheesecloth and fill it in a sealable container or bottle.
Depending on the recipe, your Orgeat can turn out any color between a pale shade of beige to a darker brown.
Why make it at home? The products you'll find in your local supermarket often aren't good quality but use cheap ingredients and artificial flavorings - some even use corn syrup as a base. Thus, we recommend homemade versions or sticking to renowned syrup brands.
How to Store it?
It is best to keep an opened bottle of store-bought Orgeat in your fridge and use it up within a few months. Unopened, you can keep it for much longer - easily up to a year.
Many store-bought options recommend using up an opened bottle within four to six weeks, but in our experience, it keeps much longer but might lose a little of its intense taste. Still, use your common sense. If your syrup looks or smells off, don't use it.
Properly stored homemade Orgeat lasts not quite that long, usually about four weeks. It does only contain natural ingredients and no preservatives, hence the difference in shelf life.
Note: Before using your Orgeat, shake the bottle gently.
- 2 cups chopped almonds
- 1.25 cups Water
- 1.25 cups Sugar
- 0.5 tsp Orange flower water
- 1 oz Vodka - optional
- Bring water and sugar to a boil while gently stirring.1.25 cups Water, 1.25 cups Sugar
- Add the almonds and wait until the mixture is just about to boil again. Take off the heat and let the mixture cool down.2 cups chopped almonds
- Add orange flower water and Vodka (optional) and stir the mix thoroughly.0.5 tsp Orange flower water, 1 oz Vodka
- Let it steep for a few hours until the raw orgeat mix reaches room temperature.
- Strain through cheesecloth and store in sterilized bottles inside your fridge.
- The homemade orgeat syrup will last for 1 to 2 months when stored in a cool place.