You think you know what orgeat tastes like? Do you really? – See, most of the orgeat or almond syrups you can buy don’t taste like almonds. They are made out of apricot kernels and taste like marzipan. Real almonds taste different. So if you have never tasted real orgeat and you are making it for the first time you might be disappointed. At least I was. I was so used to the marzipan taste in my Mai Tais that at first I thought that there was something missing. Even world famous bartender Jim Meehan writes in his PDT cocktail book that he prefers bought orgeat over homemade. He notes that homemade orgeat is “too rich and too nutty” for his taste. Guess what? I agree with him, although I was a little upset when reading this, because one thing I always like to postulate is: homemade is always better! Should I be wrong?
Yes and no! If you just make plain almond syrup without any extras you end up with a nutty syrup that isn’t really suited for a proper Mai Tai. (Yes I am rambling on about the Mai Tai again!) However, with a few tricks you end up with a delicious combination of real almond flavor with just enough marzipan taste.
The first trick is to roast the almonds before soaking them in water. This is done best in the oven. I just set mine to 200 °C (approx. 400 °F) and coat the almonds with some neutral vegetable oil. The almonds need between 15 to 20 minutes to get the proper roast. You will know when they are ready when the color has turned to medium brown, but be careful don’t burn them!
The second trick I stole from Christian is to add orange flower water, no surprise here, and rose water. It just gives the whole syrup a more exotic and fresh taste. But the real secret to getting it right lies in adding bought almond syrup. Now you could get the marzipan taste from other things like apricot kernels or… ehm marzipan, but you probably still have an open bottle of almond syrup standing around. I do and this is the best way to get rid of it. Just add a small amount to each batch of orgeat. The amount of added syrup is up to you, just adjust to taste!
300 ml Water
150 g Sugar
4 ml Orange Flower Water
2 ml Rose Water
20 ml Giffard Orgeat Syrup (Or any other bought almond syrup)
20 ml Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum
10 fl oz Water
2/3 cup Sugar
1 tsp Orange Flower Water
½ tsp Rose Water
¾ fl oz Giffard Orgeat Syrup (Or any other bought almond syrup)
¾ fl oz Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum
Some Neutral Vegetable Oil
- Add almonds to pan with water – bring to boil – strain off almonds – peal them
- Add pealed almonds to baking tray lined with baking paper – coat almonds with neutral vegetable oil – roast in hot air circulating oven at 200 °C (approx. 400 °F) for 15 to 20 min until medium brown
- Take out of oven – add to pan with 300 ml cold water – let cool down and soak for 10 minutes
- Purée almonds and water
- Add to pan – bring to boil while constantly stirring – let cool to room temperature
- Strain through cheese cloth – get as much liquid as possible
- Add as much sugar in gramm/cups as you have ml/oz of liquid – stir to combine
- Add flower waters, rum and almond syrup
- Wash out bottle with boiling water – bottle syrup
- Keep refrigerated and agitate every once and a while
Now this syrup will not last very long, even with the added overproof rum. That’s because there will be a layer of oily almond solids floating on top of the syrup. Don’t be alarmed just shake it before using it, but you should try and use the homemade orgeat within two weeks.
Another thing to keep in mind is, that while those roast flavors are desired in a Mai Tai, they can overpower other drinks. For instance the La Mejor Ola needs a lighter orgeat without the roasted almonds. Just skip this step when making it, to get a lighter syrup.
Of course I am not the first to make orgeat at home so here are some other sources: Art Of Drink, Kaiser Penguin, Post Prohibition and Savoy Stomp;