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Quick and Easy Orgeat, almond syrup for cocktails

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I love a cocktail made with a good orgeat, the classic almond syrup that’s essential to a Mai Tai, the Japanese Cocktail, and a staple of any tiki bar.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s pronounced or-zhat in English. If you want to go full-French, leave off the t sound at the end.)

You can buy the stuff commercially (my favorite is Small Hand Foods), but the good stuff is not cheap, and the cheap stuff is mostly corn syrup and artificial flavors that doesn’t even taste good.

The good news is that making your own is very doable. I’ve made my own orgeat many times, sometimes even including cherry pits for the bitter almond flavor.

Overhead view of open almond milk bottle and canister of sugar

The bad news is that most orgeat recipes I’ve come across require the almonds to steep in syrup for several hours, which isn’t difficult, but it’s not very helpful if you were hoping to make a bunch of tiki drinks, like, now. 

Enter a great little hack from Jamie Boudreau, whose Canon Cocktail Book is a great asset for anyone (especially those looking to create their own Amer Picon).

Instead of starting with almonds, he starts with almond milk, makes a syrup with that, and punches it up with some almond extract and some orange flower water

(It’s almost as easy as making your own grenadine.)

It comes together in a few minutes on the stove. Like any syrup, it’s a matter of dissolving sugar in liquid. So you just have to heat the almond milk and sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Then stir in the almond extract and orange flower water and cognac at the end.

Pouring sugar into saucepan

Be sure to measure the orange flower with care. Like most floral flavors, a little goes a long way and too much will make your orgeat taste like a mouthful of perfume.

The cognac helps to extend the life of the syrup, but you can leave it out if you prefer. (There’s a small amount of alcohol in almond extract, which is essential to the flavor here, so the orgeat won’t be completely alcohol free, but the amount will be negligible.)

Overhead view of jar with handwritten label that says "orgeat"

And it’s ready to use as soon as it’s cool (you could even use on the warm-ish side if you’re in a rush).

And this quick and easy orgeat is nearly as good as other versions I’ve made. It’s not quite as complex as the results I get when I’ve steeped my own almonds, but the reward to effort ratio tough to beat here.

It’s worth noting this orgeat is on the sweeter side. It’s more like a rich simple syrup with a 2:1 ratio of sugar to liquid. It gives the syrup more body and means you don’t have add as much to a drink.

If you’re used to using other versions of orgeat in your drinks, you may want to use a little less of this at first and play around to find the balance you like.

In addition to cocktails, it’s a nice syrup to add to coffee or even to hot chocolate.

It’s a nice trick to have in your back pocket, and a nice syrup to have in your refrigerator. 

Jar of quick and easy orgeat, vertical orientation
Yield: 24 fluid ounces

Quick and Easy Orgeat

Jar of quick and easy orgeat, vertical orientation

Most orgeat recipes involve steeping almonds for several hours. This one cuts out that step by using plain unsweetened almond milk. Be sure to look for a high quality almond milk with good almond flavor (I'm a fan of Califia Farms). This comes together in a few minutes and keeps in the refrigerator for several weeks. 

Prep Time 1 minute
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 6 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain unsweetened almond milk
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp orange flower water
  • 1/3 cup cognac

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the almond milk and sugar over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the almond extract, orange flower water, and cognac. Let cool. Transfer to an airtight bottle or jar and keep refrigerated.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

24

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 140Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 0gSugar: 33gProtein: 0g

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George

Tuesday 2nd of February 2021

I hope you dont mind but I read between the lines a little.

You mention using more sugar for added body.

I'm partial to a nice, not super sweet almond flavor without the apricot kernel sweet aroma of sweet almond extract.

My mods: I simmered 4 cups of unsweetened almond milk (never past medium heat to prevent scorching) until I had 2 cups. This concentrated the almond flavor and texture and enhanced the sweetness that was already present. The only other mod was using drastically less almond extract as I think I have sweet almond extract at home.

I use orgeat almost exclusively in tiki drinks, specifically a Mai Tai. I use the Smugglers Cove version which uses their own diy recipe for orgeat with is a 2 to 1 syrup (I tried that recipe and it took a long time, made a mess and didn't really yield what I expected) . I tested that recipe with my variation above and after needing a dash of extra orgeat to compensate for the lime sourness, it came out great. Body, texture, hint of slight nuttiness on thr back of the palate.

Thank you for your recipe and inspiring my quest!

Mary Kasprzak

Tuesday 2nd of February 2021

Glad you found something that works for you! The Smuggler's Cove book is generally great, but some of their methods work much better for a bar than someone making drinks at home.

John

Saturday 9th of January 2021

I'd really like your input. I tried this, but used less sugar and used Amaretto as a substitute for the almond extract and the cognac. It seemed to turn out fine. But you seem adamant about the almond extract and the extra sugar. Am I missing something? Thanks, John

John

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

@Mary Kasprzak, Thank you. This a fantastic recipe. Much better than any of the store-bought Orgeats. I live in Thailand so almond milk is easy to come by. I plan to do your recipe as written next time. It is nice to know that in a pinch Amaretto can replace the almond extract and some of the sugar. I’m interested to see what difference the brandy makes. Thanks again.

Mary Kasprzak

Saturday 9th of January 2021

It's intended to be a syrup that holds up when mixed in cocktails, and it should have a distinct almond flavor.

Amaretto has a lot in common with almond extract and is also a sweet liqueur, so that would have an effect on the overall sweetness of the syrup.

The amount of sugar can be changed and you'll still have a syrup, it just depends on how you're using it. Sugar is a preservative, so reducing the sugar may mean the syrup doesn't keep as long.

Nathan

Monday 4th of January 2021

The recipe says “2 tbsp almond extract”... that’s a ton! Is that right or was it meant to be “tsp”?

Mary Kasprzak

Monday 4th of January 2021

It is a lot of almond extract! It's the key flavor in the syrup, and it's correct!

Lynn

Friday 19th of June 2020

I don't have almond milk, but I have lots of almonds and lots of time (thanks, quarantine!). What is your favorite 'classic' orgeat recipe?

Mary Kasprzak

Friday 19th of June 2020

It's this one: orgeat.

Aislinn

Monday 11th of May 2020

How long will this last in the fridge?

Mary Kasprzak

Monday 11th of May 2020

It keeps for several weeks.

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