Orgeat (pronounced "ohr-zhat") syrup is an almond-flavored syrup commonly used in classic and tropical cocktails, including the original mai tai. The milky syrup is made out of almonds, water, sugar, and orange flower water. Primarily used in drinks—both with and without alcohol—and prized for its sweet, nutty flavor, orgeat syrup can also be used in desserts and baked goods.
- Ingredients: almonds, sugar, orange flower water
- Shelf Life: 1 to 2 months
- Storage: refrigerate open and homemade syrups
- Substitutes: almond syrup, amaretto
What Is Orgeat Syrup?
Orgeat comes from the French word orge ("barley") and has roots in the Latin word hordeaceus, meaning "made with barley." The syrup was originally made from barley or a blend of barley and almonds. Barley was no longer used once it was discovered that the almonds allowed the syrup to soak up more flavor.
Before modern refrigeration, orgeat syrup was used as a shelf-stable milk substitute in food and drinks. It is an emulsion—which accounts for its milkiness—of water and the oil extracted from blanched and ground almonds (also often roasted). Making orgeat is rather similar to almond milk, but the extracted milk is cooked down with sugar into a syrup and flavored with orange flower water (sometimes rose water). Orgeat syrup is nonalcoholic; some syrup makers include a small amount of brandy or vodka and citric acid to increase shelf life. Xanthan gum may be added to thicken the syrup.
Orgeat syrup is also called "French orgeat," though many countries use a version of the syrup. In Italy, it is called orzata and a popular syrup base for an Italian soda flavor by the same name. Greek cuisine includes soumadha, Suriname has a drink called orgeade, and in Tunisia and Libya, rozata is popularly enjoyed during celebrations. Horchata is similar and most often made from ground almonds, rice, or tiger nuts, depending on the country. Though almond is the most popular and widely produced, pistachio orgeat and a few other flavors are available as well.
Orgeat Syrup Uses
In recent times, orgeat syrup has been most often used in drinks as a sweetener, both in the bar and old-fashioned soda fountain drinks. Depending on the recipe, only about 1/2 to 1 ounce is needed.
Orgeat syrup is often found in classic cocktail recipes. It was one of the first almond-flavored ingredients used in cocktails well before amaretto became common. For drinks like the brandy daisy, it was an alternative sweetener to gomme syrup or granulated sugar. When tiki bars became popular in the United States, orgeat and falernum were often employed to give the elaborate tropical rum and fruit cocktails a flavor boost. The popular French drink momisette combines pastis, orgeat syrup, and mineral water.
Orgeat syrup is also a rich sweetener for nonalcoholic drinks like lemonade and fruit punch as an alternative to or along with simple syrup. Top the syrup with soda water for an almond-flavored soda, or use it to sweeten coffee or add flavor to milkshakes.
Traditionally, orgeat would have been used instead of milk for baked goods and other foods. Food recipes with orgeat are rare because of the varieties of milk available today. However, it can be used in pie filling, sorbet, and similar sweets or drizzled over fruit salads and desserts.
What Does It Taste Like?
The flavor of orgeat syrup is multi-dimensional when compared to other almond syrups. The sweet, nutty taste is accented with a delicate bitterness and floral notes from orange flower water. The flavor is very similar to marzipan.
Almond syrup is the best substitute for orgeat syrup; it's typically sweeter, and the taste is nuttier without the floral aspects of orgeat. In alcoholic drinks, amaretto liqueur makes a decent substitute. It is equally sweet and has a slight bitterness, though it lacks the floral flavor and will increase a cocktail's alcohol content. With either substitution, an equal measure can be used.
Orgeat Syrup Cocktail Recipes
Orgeat syrup is rather versatile in cocktails. It pairs well with aged distilled spirits like brandy and whiskey, all rum styles, and can be an interesting addition to some tequila and mezcal mixed drinks. You'll find orgeat as an ingredient in a variety of classic and modern drink recipes.
Where to Buy Orgeat Syrup
Orgeat syrup is not the most common ingredient. It has seen a growing interest in the bar in recent years, thanks to a renewed interest in classic cocktail recipes. This has made it easier to find online and in well-stocked liquor stores. Be sure to read labels carefully because some use real almonds while others rely on artificial flavorings. It is a specialty ingredient, so orgeat tends to cost a little more than other drink mixers.
It is not difficult to make orgeat syrup at home from almonds, water, sugar, and orange blossom water (with vodka or brandy if you prefer). This is a perfect way to control how much sugar and flavor is going into your cocktails.
Once rarely produced commercially, several companies now make orgeat syrup. Many specialize in syrups and other mixers designed specifically for cocktails.
- BG Reynolds
- Fee Brothers
- Liber & Co.
- Small Hand Foods
In general, orgeat syrup will keep well for one or two months in the refrigerator after opening. Homemade orgeat may only last for a couple of weeks unless a stabilizer (e.g., liquor, citric acid) is added.