Orgeat, pronounced OR-ZHA (soft ‘zh’ sound), is not as fancy as it sounds. It’s a key ingredient in the classic Mai Tai, but really is pretty much just almond milk in syrup form. Now, before you go racing off trying to dump sugar into your carton of almond milk, be aware that your commercialized almond milk is likely extremely diluted and doesn’t have nearly the level of almond oils that make orgeat so richly flavorful and delicious.

Ever wonder how almond+water even make a white cloudy “milk”? This is due to the concept of emulsions, where small particles of normally unblendable substances bind together after agitation (same concept that give you thick salad dressings, mayonnaise, hollandaise sauce, and the like) – in this case the two substances being almond oils and water.

Orgeat starts out as a very concentrated almond milk, and then is finished by the addition of sugar and a bit of floral flavors with orange flower or rose water. If you’re looking for something to use in your cocktails, avoid the super commercialized coffee-syrups labeled “orgeat”/”almond” flavor (those are usually chemically infused with artificial flavors) and seek out small artisan brands like Small Hand Foods or BG Reynolds, or just make your own! After going thru my Small Hand Foods bottle over the weekend, I made my first homemade batch and am excited to experiment!

For homemade orgeat recipes, the Internet is your friend. But here’s the recipe I used:

  1. Blanch 2 cups of raw almonds with 2 cups of water (boil and drain, reserving water), then peel the skin off the almonds.
  2. Add the almonds to a blender or food processor and process it until it’s rice sized, then slowly add in about a cup of the water to form a paste.
  3. Let it sit for an hour, then strain with a cheesecloth or nutmilk bag (find on amazon, really good investment for making all sorts of things like nut milks and yogurt!).
  4. Add the pulp back and repeat strain after another hour (the more times you do this the more oils you’ll be able to extract from the almonds).
  5. Take the strained almond milk and warm it up with about 2 cups of sugar until all sugar is melted.
  6. As it cools, add a couple drops of orange flower water and/or rose water.
  7. Strain once more and bottle, adding a tsp or vodka or rum to help preserve.