Almond Syrup (Orgeat Syrup)
Almond syrup has a cloudy milk-like color and an extraordinarily intense, aromatic flavor.
In addition to its English and Italian names, one finds it often listed in recipes as “Orgeat” or “Orzata”. Orgeat, sometimes called “French Orgeat”, is simply a sweetened almond syrup with a little orange flower water. The origins of this syrup are quite interesting and the taste and versatility in drinks is impressive. Orgeat (pronounced “or-zat”) is the French form of the word which originated from the Italian word orzata which means almond. The Spanish word Horchata or orxata has a similar origin. This syrup is basically an oil water emulsion of the oils in the almond. This makes orgeat very similar to milk. Prior to using almonds, these emulsions were made with barley.
Note: an emulsion is simply a mixture of two unblendable substances. Basically, the two substances are separated, but because they form very small droplets, they do not easily separate out, so instead of forming layers, they form a cloudy liquid. Milk, butter, hollandaise and mayonnaise are all emulsions.
Prior to refrigeration, people could not store milk because it would spoil very quickly. The only people who may have drank milk would have been farmers, but for the most part milk was turned into cheese, because it could be stored for a long time and sold as a commodity. Now if you pulled milk and butter out of your recipe book, there wouldn’t be much left to cook, especially breads and pastries. The solution hundreds of years ago was to use a stable oil water emulsion made from barley and eventually almonds. The oils in barley and almond are relatively stable at room temperature, and higher temperatures, so they don’t spoil very quickly. This makes them perfect for a milk like substitute. In the old days, a persons kitchen would contain a store of barely or almonds, depending on the climate, and when you needed a source of fat, you would use these. As time progressed and food became more of an art, the use of water/oil emulsions increased. The basic process was to take a quantity of almonds and crush them up in a mortar, while adding water. This would extract the oils in the almonds and emulsify it with the water. After, letting the mush sit for a while it was filtered through muslin cloth and the resulting cloudy liquid was used in place of milk. It could even be whipped or churned to make a butter like substance. Plus, it didn’t go rancid and there was no need for refrigeration. As time progressed and modern amenities arrived, like fridges and fast transportation, the use of almond milk diminished. However, a cordial was made using the same process, but sugar and some flavouring (orange flower water) was added and hence forth it was known as orgeat. It is obviously used in cocktails, but also in coffees, fruit drinks like lemonade and food and desserts.
It’s irreplaceable in a Mai Tai and essential to the classic Japanese cocktail. Orgeat syrup, with its rich almond flavor and exotic touch of orange water, is matchless among cocktail mixers. You can pick it up at a well-stocked spirits shop, but serious almond lovers often prefer to make it in their own kitchens, where they can control sugar content and flavor. “There’s a brightness that fresh ingredients bring to it,” says Daniel Shoemaker, owner of Portland, Ore.’s Teardrop Cocktail Lounge. “In a cocktail, the almond and viscosity of homemade orgeat syrup shine through in ways that a store-bought product never would.” Shoemaker started making his own orgeat after being disappointed by the artificial-tasting flavors and high-fructose corn syrup he found in some store-bought brands. Inspired by a recipe that was originally conceived by Darcy O’Neil, keeper of the Art of Drink blog, Shoemaker eventually settling on what would become Teardrop’s house orgeat recipe.
Homemade Orgeat Syrup Recipe #1
2 1/4 cups raw almonds, sliced
3 1/2 cups tap water
3 1/2 cups distilled water
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 oz. vodka
1/4 tsp. orange blossom water, or to taste
Medium-sized stainless steel or glass mixing bowl
1-liter glass jar or bottle, with lid
Food processor, blender or rolling pin
Place sliced almonds in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Cover with tap water and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain, discarding water.
In a food processor or blender, lightly pulse the almonds until they are coarsely ground. (You can also do this with a rolling pin—to reduce mess, put the almonds in a plastic bag first.)
Return ground almonds to the bowl, cover with distilled water and soak for 4 to 5 hours, stirring the mixture well every hour or so. Strain liquid into a 1-liter glass jar through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, pressing to extract as much as possible. Discard the almonds.
Add sugar to the liquid, close the lid tightly and shake the jar vigorously, repeating several times over 15 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved.
Add vodka and orange blossom water and stir thoroughly. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 to 3 cups of syrup.
Homemade Orgeat Syrup Recipe #2
Using better quality products, such as quality almonds and filtered water, will make a better orgeat syrup.
This recipe for orgeat makes about 1½ litres
500 grams blanched almonds
800 ml water
700 grams table sugar
100 ml Vodka or Brandy
2 Tbls Orange or Rose Flower Water (optional)
Place the almonds in a bowl and cover with cold water and allowed them to soak for 30 minutes. Drain and discard this water, then crush the almonds using a rolling pin, or you could use a food processor to chop them to a fine grind. If you need to, you can add some of the water to the food processor. Transfer the crushed almonds to a large bowl and mix them with the water, let stand for one to two hours. Place a damp cloth or cheese cloth in a mesh filter, over another bowl, and strain the almond and water mixture squeeze the cloth to extract all the liquid.
Put the chopped almonds back into the almond water, let it stand for another hour and then strain again. Repeat a third time if you wish. This is will get all the oils out of the almonds.
Note: To speed up the process you can gently heat the almond water to 50°C (125°F). If you do this, you can cut the soak times to about 15 minutes.
Pour the strained liquid into a pan, discard the almond pulp, add the sugar and cook over gentle heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat when the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then add the brandy or vodka and the orange flower water. Store the orgeat in a clean glass bottle.
Once the orgeat has cooled down it is ready to use. Shake yourself a Mai Tai or try a Momisette. The Mai Tai called for “French Orgeat” and this orgeat recipe will work fine, if not better, than commercial orgeat products.