When I first began bartending at Seaworthy, the oyster bar at Ace Hotel in New Orleans, I was asked to make sure it retained its Tiki vibe. As someone with a severe nut allergy, I was immediately alarmed. Orgeat, the staple sweetener used in Tiki drinks, is made with almonds.
I did some research and learned that orgeat was originally made with barley as an alternative to dairy that would not spoil. I also learned that the popular rice drink horchata is derived from the Catalan word for barley, “orxata.”
My initial thought was to make an horchata orgeat. But it lacked depth, playfulness and a true New Orleans feel. Then the idea of a red beans and rice orgeat came to me. The red beans give it the feel of adzuki (sweet red bean mash popular in Chinese pastries). And I chose orange blossom water instead of rose water, as the citrus complements the vanilla beans better and makes the orgeat a little more versatile for classic Tiki drinks.
The cocktail on Seaworthy’s current menu that contains this nutless version of orgeat is called the Curiouser & Curiouser, a nod to “Alice in Wonderland.” This drink is made with sweet-pea-flower-infused gin, cucumber juice, lemon, and the red beans and rice orgeat. It was our bestseller for this past summer season. And best of all, I can enjoy one myself.