For thousands of years civilizations have made nutritious beverages by soaking grains in water. The word orgeat has its basis in Latin hordeata, made with barley, and was borrowed into Spanish horchata and French orgeat. Historically, this grain was barley, and while the English still make a barley water drink, it is now much more common to use almonds.
To put it simply, orgeat is a sweet, almond flavored syrup, typically with accent notes of orange flower water and rose water. While there are many commercial brands (some simply labelled as almond syrup), orgeat is easy to make at home.
24 oz raw whole almonds
2 liters mineral water
About 4 lbs. white sugar
1/8 tsp. Rose water
1 Tbsp. Orange flower water
1 tsp. good almond extract
1 extra clean, empty liter bottle
3 oz Cognac
Time: 2 days (mostly for the overnight rest).
1. Take 6 oz of almonds and 3 Tbsp sugar and pulse them in a food processor until they become a powder. This should take 8-10 pulses.
2. Blanch the remaining 18 oz of almonds: Fill a large saucepan half full of water and bring it to a boil. Add the whole almonds and remove the saucepan from the heat. Wait one minute. Drain the almonds and rinse with cold water. Slip the skins from the almonds (pinch them in the middle like a watermelon seed and the skin should come right off). Roughly chop the almonds.
3. In a large Dutch oven add the chopped almonds, the almond powder, 14 ounces of sugar, and the mineral water. Bring this mixture to a boil, stir well, put the lid on, and remove it from the heat. Let this sit overnight.
4. Take a potato masher and mash the almonds in the Dutch oven. Wet two layers of cheesecloth and ladle the mixture through it into a large bowl. Bring the cheesecloth together into a bag and wring the almonds out, extracting all the liquid you can from them. What you’re looking for is white liquid dripping out of the bag – that’s almond oil. When you’re done, discard the cheesecloth and almond solids.
5. Weigh the liquid – I set a small pitcher on a kitchen scale, tared it, then added the liquid in batches, keeping a running total. Multiply this number by 1.3 – that’s how much sugar you need. For example, my liquid weighed 72 ounces, and I added 93.6 ounces of sugar.
6. Rinse the Dutch oven, add the almond liquid to it and however much sugar you need from the previous step. Heat this mixture to 170 degrees (use a candy thermometer, and do not let this boil). Remove from heat, and let cool to 110 degrees. Add flavorings and Cognac.
7. Heat 3.5 liters of water to a boil. Remove the tops of the bottles (if you can), and use a kitchen funnel to fill the bottles completely with boiling water. In a small pitcher, add the bottle tops and cover with boiling water. Wait 10 minutes. Empty the bottles and pitcher (use an oven mitt – they’ll be very hot!), and remove the bottle tops from the pitcher with a clean kitchen towel. Add 1 Tbsp of Cognac to each bottle and shake. Funnel Orgeat syrup into each bottle, filling them to as close to the top as you can. Let cool to near room temperature, then store in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks. This will separate into a milky layer and a syrup layer – just shake them back together.
Makes 3 liters of Orgeat – one for you and two to give to friends.
While orgeat is fantastic over crushed ice topped with sparkling water, there are a few classic cocktails that utilize the mouthfeel and perfume of orgeat to fantastic results: Japanese Cocktail #1, Mai Tai, and Fogcutter
Some popular cocktails containing Orgeat
- Gold Cup (Clio version) — Demerara Rum, Maraschino Liqueur, Absinthe, Lime juice, Simple syrup, Orgeat
- Royal Pearl — Old Tom Gin, Pineapple juice, Lime juice, Orgeat
- Booster Gold — India Pale Ale, Apple brandy, Pimm's No. 1 Cup, Grapefruit bitters, Lime juice, Orgeat, Grapefruit peel
- Pressgang Swizzle — Old Tom Gin, Jamaican rum, Bitters, Peychaud's Bitters, Grapefruit juice, Lime juice, Orgeat, Ginger syrup
- Cradle of Life — Light rum, Spiced Rum, Herbal liqueur, Bitters, Orgeat, Lemon juice, Lime juice, Orange juice