In the heat of the summer, there are few cocktails that are more refreshing than a tall, well-made Tiki drink. With loads of ice and just the right mix of rum, they can be just thing to transform wherever you are into a blissful oasis.
There are, however, a few barriers to entry into this tropical Tiki paradise for the home bartender. The primary one — beyond locating suitably festive glassware, of course — is the esoteric ingredient list. In addition to the numerous varieties of rum (Puerto Rican white, Rhum Agricole, dark rum, aged rum, etc), you have to contend with such exotic-sounding ingredients as Velvet Falernum or, the subject of today’s post, Orgeat.
What is Orgeat? Orgeat (or Orzata) is an almond-flavored syrup, tempered with a little orange blossom water. I was inspired to learn how to make my own after talking with the legendary Brother Cleve for a PRK Meet Your Bartender profile. Cleve currently hosts a Tiki Night every Monday throughout the summer at ThinkTank and he made me a lovely version of that Tiki classic, the Suffering Bastard. A key ingredient of the SB, as it is affectionately known, is Orgeat. As he mixed the drink, he mentioned that, while you could buy Orgeat in most Italian specialty stores, he made his own. So, after doing a little research, I decided I’d give it a try myself. While it takes some time to make, it turns out it’s dead easy. So easy, I feel I might up the ante and make some falernum, but now I’m getting ahead of myself.
The Orgeat recipe I chose is from Imbibe magazine. It is in turn inspired by Darcy O’Neill’s formulation in the Art of Drink blog. It takes a little longer than some of the other recipes that I saw, but the extra steeping time for the almonds yields a really nicely flavored syrup. And it makes a beautiful Suffering Bastard (find Cleve’s recipe here). But, whatever you do, don’t skimp on the ice. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot out there!
Here is the recipe:
2 1/4 cups raw almonds, sliced or chopped
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 (I used a bit more)
- Place sliced almonds in a medium-sized, metal mixing bowl. Cover with tap water and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain, discarding water.
- In a food processor or blender, pulse the almonds until they are coarsely ground.
- 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, which is similar to an unsweetened almond milk, into a 1-liter glass jar with tight-fitting lid through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, squeezing to extract as much liquid as possible. Remove 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 3-4 cups of syrup.