What's the secret to making a good Mai Tai? Almonds. One of the drink’s key ingredients is orgeat, made with chopped nuts. The nutty concoction has grown in popularity in recent years among bartenders across the country, and while the syrup is most often made with almonds, these enterprising drink-makers have found it can be made with a range of nuts, such as peanuts or pistachios or even with red beans and rice.
No matter which nut you choose, the syrup makes an excellent match with complex brown spirits as well as Tiki drinks. These 11 cocktails show off orgeat's range.
1. Mai Tai
The best-known of orgeat cocktails is the Mai Tai, a Tiki drink credited to "Trader Vic" Bergeron in the 1940s. Many variations have evolved in the meantime, including the versions served at Smuggler's Cove and Latitude 29, but this most classic form calls for white rum mixed with orange curaçao, lime juice and orgeat, plus a float of dark rum.
2. Tender Nob
Cognac, rye, two amari and walnut orgeat come together in this stirred cocktail created by Kevin Diedrich of San Francisco's Pacific Cocktail Haven. Here, the orgeat acts as the sweetening element, also adding nutty body to the drink.
3. Trinidad Sour
This decidedly unconventional cocktail has an ounce and a half of Angostura bitters as its base, rather than the dash or two called for in most cocktails, and orgeat as its second-largest measure, accented by a bit of rye whiskey and lemon juice. It may look strange on paper, but it's delicious in the glass.
4. Holy Water
The flagship cocktail at Seaworthy, in the Ace Hotel in New Orleans, this drink sees infused Jamaican gold rum shaken with cognac, orgeat, and lemon, lime and grapefruit juices, with a float of Angostura bitters on top. A festive half-lime garnish gets filled with green Chartreuse and a sugar cube, then lighted aflame.
Mezcal and bourbon become fast friends, joined by orgeat and Angostura and Aztec chocolate bitters, in this riff on an Old Fashioned from California bartender Jeremy Lake. A festive garnish of an orange twist, a cranberry and grated cinnamon adds flair to the drink.
Inspired by the Southern tradition of adding peanuts to a can of Coke, this cocktail combines Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey with peanut orgeat, topping the mix with Coca-Cola and a garnish of salted peanuts.
7. Bourbon Lift
Like an adults-only version of a New York egg cream, this frothy cocktail shakes together bourbon, coffee liqueur, heavy cream and orgeat before topping it all with club soda.
8. Early Start
This unusual twist on a Gin Sour pulls together aquavit, lime juice, orgeat, an egg white and a French sorrel leaf, adding an additional sorrel leaf as a jaunty garnish for the mix.
This classic French cocktail is a simple combination of pastis and orgeat, topped with sparkling water. It couldn't be easier to mix up an elegant drink.
This classic, elegant and eminently drinkable Tiki cocktail combines gin with lemon juice, passion fruit syrup, orgeat and falernum, garnished as festively as possible.
11. Across the Pacific
In this drink from Meaghan Dorman, the bar director of Dear Irving and The Raines Law Room in New York City, two Jamaican rums and rich orgeat find balance with lime juice and a gentle amaro.