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Red Beans & Rice Orgeat

A small glass bottle with a flip top cap rests on a light blue backdrop. The bottle is filled with a dark brown syrup.
Image: / Tim Nusog

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I did some research and learned that orgeat was originally made with barley as an alternative to dairy that would not spoil.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 (the 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 nut-free 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 the summer of 2019 and, best of all, I can enjoy one myself.


  • 2 cup dry red beans
  • 4 cup white rice
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces orange blossom water
  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 8 cup sugar


  1. In a large rondeau pot, toast beans and rice until lightly browned.

  2. Add vodka, orange blossom water, vanilla beans and 8 cups water and bring to a boil.

  3. Remove from heat, strain liquid and reserve liquid.

  4. Put resulting mash back in pot, add 8 cups sugar and 8 cups water.

  5. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, strain and reserve liquid.

  6. Combine mash and both reserved liquids.

  7. Keeps in refrigerator for up to one month.