Tiki bars have been working their way back into popular drinking culture in recent years (ironically at first, until people realized that a Scorpion in a volcano bowl is genuinely fantastic), and we couldn’t be happier. There’s something wonderfully self-deprecating about kicking back with a frilly, umbrella-laden drink in a novelty ceramic highball, basking in the faux-bamboo paneling and ambient ukulele music of a place with “Trader” in the name. Suddenly, you’re on vacation in the fifties.
What Is Orgeat Syrup?
In order to make most of those fantastic tiki cocktails, like the perennial favorites Mai Tai, Fog Cutter, or Planter’s Punch, you’re going to need a little something called orgeat syrup (pronounced “or-zha”). The name comes from the French word for barley, which it used to contain, but the contemporary almond orgeat syrup recipe is a simple formula consisting of almonds, sugar, water, and orange flower water (also known as orange blossom water).
While it isn’t a particularly complicated cocktail ingredient, orgeat syrup is hugely important for binding together the otherwise fairly powerful and self-centered flavors in tropical cocktails and other tiki drinks. The almond and orange flower blends nicely with rum and fruit juices alike. And since it can be difficult to track down a good bottle of orgeat syrup (less so these days than ten years ago), we’re lucky that it’s really, really easy to whip up at home.
Homemade Orgeat Syrup Recipe
Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar and shake vigorously until mixed. That’s it! This homemade orgeat syrup will last for about a month in the refrigerator.
If you search for homemade orgeat syrup recipes online, you’ll find that most call for sugar, water, crushed raw almonds, almond extract, and orange flower water, but we’ve found that using almond milk makes for a better finished product. Commercial almond milk is made from bitter almonds, which contain much more almond flavor than normal almonds due to higher benzaldehyde levels. Plus, it imparts that characteristic orgeat cloudiness—that milky-white orgeat goodness—and you don’t have to deal with the solids separating as it sits.
Of course, if you would rather boil ground almonds and strain out the liquid mixture, go for it. You can’t go wrong with this tried-and-true method, but we like to save time, especially when we find the end result is similar or, in this case, even better.
If you don’t want to buy the orange flower water we linked in the ingredients list, you can usually find it at Middle Eastern or Indian grocers and other specialty food stores (we even found some at BevMo). And as far as the simple syrup is concerned, you can’t go wrong with our homemade simple syrup recipe. It’s quite possibly the simplest thing you’ll ever “cook” in your life.
Alternate Orgeat Recipes
While the above almond-based orgeat recipe will serve you well, especially in classic drinks like the Mai Tai, modern orgeat recipes have taken to using a variety of nuts, like pistachios, cashews, and hazelnuts. We’re all for progress, so by all means, experiment to your heart’s content, and you can whip up a whole batch of orgeats in different nutty flavors.
Now that you’re kitted out with some fine orgeat syrup, the keystone of tiki cocktails, it’s time to put it to work. Take a look at our list of tropical drink recipes, and enjoy a liquid escape to the beach.
Photos: Will Shenton, Bevvy