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 recipe is a simple formula consisting of almonds, sugar, water, and orange flower water.
While it isn’t a particularly complicated ingredient, orgeat syrup is hugely important for binding together the otherwise fairly powerful and self-centered flavors in tropical cocktails. 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 the stuff (less so these days than ten years ago), we’re lucky that it’s really, really easy to whip up at home.
Orgeat Syrup Recipe
Combine all ingredients in a Mason jar and shake vigorously until mixed. That’s it! This stuff 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, and you don’t have to deal with the solids separating as it sits.
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 recipe. It’s quite possibly the easiest thing you’ll ever cook in your life.
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 escape to the beach!
Photos: Will Shenton, Bevvy