Tiki drinks have the reputation of being intricate, difficult-to-make cocktails featuring esoteric ingredients and elaborate garnishes. Sometimes that is true. But often, Tiki drinks get their complex flavors from lesser-known ingredients that are easy to obtain or even to make yourself. Add orgeat to that list.
Orgeat is a sweet, creamy and opalescent syrup that is essential in Tiki classics like the Mai Tai, Scorpion and Fog Cutter. It was originally made with barley, but eventually, people discovered that almonds lent more flavor than the grain, so barley was retired. Exact proportions vary by the maker, but the typical orgeat recipe includes almonds, sugar, water, orange flower water and a fortifying spirit like brandy or overproof rum.
This recipe calls for blanched almonds. If you prefer to use bitter almonds, find them online or at a Mediterranean grocery store. Note that you can use the ground almonds more than once to make multiple batches, but after a couple uses they will lose their potency.
Of course, you don’t have to stop at almonds. Other nuts, including pistachios and hazelnuts, also produce delicious orgeats that will spruce up your cocktails with nutty flavors and rich textures.
- 2 cups blanched almonds
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 ounce brandy
- 1/2 teaspoon orange flower water
Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Set aside.
Combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Boil the syrup for 3 minutes, then add the ground almonds.
Turn the heat 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 2 layers of cheesecloth, discarding the ground almonds for another use.
Stir the brandy and orange flower water into the syrup.
Use a small funnel to portion the orgeat into bottles or a jar. Seal and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.