Make/Do: 3 Inspiring Ways to Make the Quintessential Tiki Syrup Orgeat

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You’re just a few nuts away from a better tiki drink.

Ever wondered what magic shimmers beneath the surface of your Mai Tai?

The answer lies in a scoop of nuts. Orgeat is the French almond syrup that fortifies iconic tiki cocktails like the Scorpion and Fog Cutter with silky sweetness. Creamy and opalescent, orgeat was originally made with barley instead of almonds. When it was discovered that almonds lent much more flavor, barley dropped from the recipe for eternity. The exact proportions of modern orgeat vary by maker, but the syrup generally relies on a combination of ground blanched almonds, sugar and a delicate thread of orange blossom or rose water.

Almond orgeat has found favor in multiple formats during its long history: A rich sweetener for lemonade, a vital flavor in Jerry Thomas’ historic punches and the Japanese Cocktail and a crucial component in multi-layered tiki creations. Its undisputed success might make you wonder: Why stop at almond?

Pecans; walnuts; macadamias; cashews: the nutty possibilities are vast. While the traditional almond version stands the test of time, there’s always room to tinker. Don’t fancy the sweet marzipan quality of almond orgeat? Try roasted hazelnut or pistachio orgeat on for size.

For such a fancily-named syrup, you’d think that orgeat would be difficult to make. It’s not. The hardest part? Feigning patience while straining the syrup through a barrier of ground nuts. Some claim that bitter almonds—the ones used to make almond extract—are essential for almond orgeat. But even that famous 19th century bartender Jerry Thomas opted for a combination of sweet and bitter almonds in his orgeat recipe—and a much higher ratio of sweet almonds at that.

After a hasty grind, your nuts are ready to steep in hot simple syrup. Then? Wait. Let them infuse for three to eight hours before straining—and don’t throw those nutty dregs away. Give them a rinse to remove the sugar and send them off to a second life as almond milk. Once you’ve strained the nutty syrup, all that’s left to do is add orange flower water and an ounce of brandy or vodka, which acts as a preservative.

The same concept applies to any type of nut but slight variations can be made depending on the kernel you use. Hazelnuts benefit from a slight toasting to bring out their depth, and there’s nothing wrong with leaving the skins on before grinding. It’ll just result in a darker orgeat. Pistachios lend their hunter green hue to orgeat, and you might find that you prefer vodka to brandy as the preservative: That mostly neutral spirit will interfere slightly less with the nuts’ essence.

Now, how to feature these experimental orgeats in cocktails? If you can stop yourself from slurping the sweet nectar straight, shake your almond orgeat into a classic Mai Tai or frothy Bourbon Lift, the cocktail equivalent of a New York egg cream. Pair the sultry roasted hazelnut with cognac in a new-age Japanese Cocktail or the Tender Nob. Finally, go green with your pistachio orgeat by marrying the syrup with tequila, lime and orange bitters for the punny Orange You a Pistachio? See? Nuttin’ to it.

Almond Orgeat

Yields 1.25 cups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups Blanched almonds (If prefer to use bitter almonds, find them online or at a Mediterranean grocery store)
  • 1.5 cups Sugar
  • 1.25 cups Water
  • .5 teaspoon Orange flower water
  • 1 oz Brandy

PREPARATION:

Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves completely. Boil the syrup for three minutes, then add in the ground almonds. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for another three minutes, then slowly increase the temperature to medium high. Just before it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and cover with a lid.

Allow the covered nut mixture to infuse for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours. Then, strain it through two layers of cheesecloth, discarding the ground almonds for another use. Stir the orange flower water and brandy into the nutty syrup. Use a small funnel to portion the orgeat into bottles or a jar. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Hazelnut Orgeat

Yields 1.25 cups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups Roasted hazelnuts
  • 1.5 cups Sugar
  • 1.25 cups Water
  • .5 teaspoon Orange flower water
  • 1 oz Brandy

PREPARATION:

Pulse hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves completely. Boil the syrup for three minutes, then add in the ground hazelnuts. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for another three minutes, then slowly increase the temperature to medium high. Just before it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and cover with a lid.

Allow the covered nut mixture to infuse for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours. Then, strain it through two layers of cheesecloth, discarding the ground hazelnuts for another use. Stir the orange flower water and brandy into the nutty syrup. Use a small funnel to portion the orgeat into bottles or a jar. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Pistachio Orgeat

Yields 1.25 cups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups Raw, shelled pistachios
  • 1.5 cups Sugar
  • 1.25 cups Water
  • .5 teaspoon Orange flower water
  • 1 oz Vodka

PREPARATION:

Pulse pistachios in a food processor until finely ground. Combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves completely. Boil the syrup for three minutes, then add in the ground pistachios. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for another three minutes, then slowly increase the temperature to medium high. Just before it starts to boil, remove it from the heat and cover with a lid.

Allow the covered nut mixture to infuse for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours. Then, strain it through two layers of cheesecloth, discarding the ground hazelnuts for another use. Stir the orange flower water and vodka into the nutty syrup. Use a small funnel to portion the orgeat into bottles or a jar. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

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  3 Comments.

Discussion

  • christhomasbusinessyahoocom213 posted 1 year ago

    Just made my first batch and it's a beautiful thing. Tastes great and looks great. I was curious about something. Since Brandy or Vodka are simply there primarily to act as a preservative, would a light rum (Flor De Cana, Cruzan) or Jamaican work as the preservative? Mostly curious if there's a particular reason it's typically Brandy or Vodka. Thanks!

  • haveastrongday.8a60 posted 2 years ago

    Just made the almond version. I'd definitely up the water by at least 1/4 cup to be able to yield more of a final product. I barely got a cup after squeezing the hell out of the mixture by hand (with the cheesecloth) and after adding the orange flower water and brandy. And I'm sure I lost some of the final product by having to start and stop the squeezing a few times and having to rinse my hands each time. And it's a bit cumbersome at first while the mixture is so oily and syrupy. I was squeezing so hard with the first cheesecloth that I had a blowout, though there was a strainer between the cloth and the bowl to keep the almonds themselves from falling into the final product.

    @pambraun, you should be able to get it at any reputable liquor store. It's definitely at BevMo if you have that store in your area.

  • pambraun@frontiernet.net posted 2 years ago

    What is orange flower water and where do you buy it / or how do you make it?


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