A Blasphemously Easy Recipe for the Best Homemade Orgeat

almonds

courtesy healthaliciousness

I’m posting this info on orgeat because I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from people who have tried the technique and found that it saves a ton of effort and time over doing everything by hand. Enjoy!

Orgeat (a French word pronounced or-Jah) began as a syrup made with barley, but the barley was eventually replaced with almonds.

I will skip the history lesson and go straight to the more important question:

What makes the best-tasting homemade orgeat?

David J. Montgomery (perhaps better known as his online moniker Professor Cocktail) performed a taste test between eight different orgeat formulas, from coffee syrup to fancy concoctions sold in wine bottles. His two favorites:

  1. B.G. Reynolds Orgeat: “rich, nutty, and delicious”
  2. Small Hand Foods Orgeat: “rich, balanced flavor and texture”

I hurriedly ordered a bottle of the B.G. Reynolds orgeat, but I couldn’t find Jennifer Colliau’s (owner of Small Hand Foods) orgeat anywhere. *Since this writing, her products have become widely available online at smallhandfoods.com

The obvious question then becomes:

How could I imitate the best orgeat recipes at home?

I almost teared up with joy when I finally settled on my favorite orgeat recipe. I had been messing around with almonds for nearly a year, having thrown out gallons of terrible syrup, before I finally found one worth sharing.

The fact that the best-tasting orgeat I was able to create also happened to be the simplest was nothing short of beautiful:

Simply Awesome Orgeat
Yield: 1 Cup

184 g Pacific brand Almond Milk
88 g Sugar
8 drops (1/8 tsp) Almond Extract
4 drops (1/16 tsp) Orange Blossom Water

Combine ingredients.

Of course, a ton of testing and research went into the development of such a simple recipe. Here are the highlights:

  • How does orgeat differ from almond syrup? Orgeat contains orange flower water and almond solids, while syrups use nothing more than almond flavoring (extract).
  • Using normal almonds to make almond milk for orgeat actually doesn’t do the flavor justice. Commercial almond milk is made with bitter almonds, which contain significantly more benzaldehyde—the key contributor to almond flavor. Unfortunately, bitter almonds can be poisonous when handled incorrectly. Why not just use good-quality extract that already contains benzaldehyde?
  • Most homemade orgeat recipes call for blanching, steeping, or blending fresh almonds. As it would turn out, so do most almond milk recipes. Buying good-quality retail almond milk saves a tremendous amount of work while maintaining the critical fats and proteins of almond solids.
  • Not all almond milks are created equal. Look for almond milk with minimal sodium and make sure one of the first ingredients listed is almonds.
    • SO Delicious contains 90 mg sodium and 1 g of sugar.
    • Most commercial almond milk contains a substantial amount of sodium. Keep in mind the suppressive effect this will have on finished drinks: adjust accordingly.
    • Some almond milk brands contain more sugar than others. Make sure to adjust your sugar levels accordingly.
  • Do not heat the milk and sugar when combining. Heat will make the almond solids separate and also cause a foam to form.
  • Almond solids quickly separate out of solution. Commercial almond milk contains thickeners and emulsifiers to keep the solids in solution.
  • I preferred the unsweetened organic Pacific brand because it was the least viscous of the brands I tried (less hydrocolloid-based taste suppression) and it had a nice roasted flavor, but any almond milk will work in a pinch, as long as you properly tweak sugar levels, above.
    • *I also tested SO Delicious, Silk, homemade nut milk, homemade roasted nut milk, and almond extract-only formulations.

If you have any question as to whether a specific brand of almond milk will work with this technique, leave its nutrition facts in the comments and I’ll do the calculations for you.

27 Comments

  1. drinking_ribbons April 30, 2013 at 12:55 am #

    where does one find orange blossom water?!

  2. Rick April 30, 2013 at 2:38 am #

    Most grocery stores have it in the baking aisle, near the peppermint and almond extracts.

    • Rebecca June 17, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

      I am trying to reproduce your orgeat. I have all the ingredients including the Pacific Almond Milk but I am a bit confused about your measurement and just want some clarification. Then I did a gram to ounces conversion, it appears that the amount of almond milk comes close to 8 oz and based on 88g of sugar, that would be close to eight tablespoons. I find this to be a lot of sugar, and was hoping you would provide me with the actual amount of both almond milk and sugar in ounces rather than grams. Thank you so much.

      • Kevin June 17, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

        Hi Rebecca,

        Your estimates are about right. 184g should be just under 8 oz of almond milk and 88g of white granulated sugar should come to just over 7 tablespoons of sugar. Keep in mind that orgeat is a syrup so it will very sugary and sweet. The final product will be as thick and sweet as a 2:1 simple syrup.

        Hope that helps,
        Kevin

        • Rebecca June 22, 2013 at 9:39 am #

          Hey Kevin,

          Thanks so much for your reply. I will move forward with those measurements. I am trying to avoid sugar due to all the bad press as of late. I discovered a new drink while visiting Boulder called 76.5 French which has vodka, sparkling wine, lemon juice and orgeat. I have been unable to find orgeat locally, so went online to find a recipe when I discovered yours. Happy Cocktails, Rebecca

  3. Perry May 11, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    I am preparing to make a batch of this orgeat (love the Japanese Cocktail). After looking for Pacific brand in my area, I’ve had little luck. I went to compare sodium and sugar for an altenative. Checking the sugar and sodium content for the Pacific brand you used, I noted the sodium was 190 mg. Above you posted it as 90 mg. Would you please clarify or adjust your number for future readers? Sugar seemed different as well. If you are halving based on amount used, I apologize for misreading.

    http://www.pacificfoods.com/our-foods/nut-grain-beverages/organic-unsweetened-almond-original-non-dairy-beverage

    BTW: Thank you for your excellent book. I’m a former high school chemistry + biology teacher and current cocktail enthusiast. Your approach to analysis and application with the home mixer in mind is a perfect fit for my interests.

    • Perry May 11, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      Sincere apologies. I re-read the post and you were referencing “So Delicous” for comparison. Please disregard previous post except for the praise.

  4. Andrew May 13, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Thank you so much, Kevin! I’ve been scouring the web for easy orgeat recipes. Yours is by far the simplest. I just whipped up a batch in less than five minutes, and I have to say it’s delicious. I’m also grateful that your version does not call for alcohol — most include vodka (as a preservative, I assume). I bartend at a restaurant and co-design the bar menu there. I’m in the midst of creating some n/a cocktails (no easy task), including a mock Mai Tai, so this homemade orgeat is a godsend.

    Oh, and I need to add that your book is all kinds of awesome! I’ve recently bought a second hard copy to keep behind the restaurant’s bar. Cheers!

    • Kevin May 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

      Hey Andrew,

      Thanks for the feedback. Super-stoked that this recipe works in a restaurant setting. Hope your customers enjoy it :-)

      Kevin

  5. Perry May 13, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Kevin,
    I just made my first batch of your Orgeat. It is wonderful. I used Blue Diamond brand which has more fat than Pacific brand. Can’t wait to try Pacific and compare. I’m labeling it “T.K.O.” for “Technically Kevin’s Orgeat”

    Made a simple cocktail to highlight the orgeat.
    2 oz Ansac Cognac (inexpensive stuff)
    1/2 oz T.K.O.
    1 dash Angustora bitters (going to try my homemade stuff later)
    Shaken with ice and strained.

    Was drop-dead delicious. Thank you so much for this.

    • Kevin May 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

      Perry,

      Sorry I forgot to respond to your previous comments. I’m really glad you took the time to look at the nutrition facts and figure out how to tweak the recipe to make it work. That cocktail looks delicious!

      Cheers,
      Kevin

  6. Gwen006 September 1, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Thanks for the great recipe. I couldn’t find the orange water, so I used Cointreau instead. Delish.

    • Kevin September 1, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      You’re very welcome, and thanks for the tip about cointreau. That’s my favorite orange liqueur for a reason :-)

  7. Sheila Lankford September 30, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    Hi Kevin, can’t wait to try making this – I have seen quite a few recipes from Chow and TheSpir.it that contain orgeat. I’m curious as to how long this will keep in the fridge?

    Thanks -
    Sheila

    • Kevin September 30, 2013 at 9:28 pm #

      Hey Sheila,

      Honestly the syrup should keep in the fridge for something like 2 months, what with the high sugar content and the preservatives in the almond milk. But, it’s really hard to predict these things and a lot depends on the microbial conditions in your area and your refrigerator’s temperature. You should be absolutely safe with a refrigerated storage time of a week. Past that, just taste the syrup and if it tastes good, it is good. Any bitterness, chuck it.

      Oh, and don’t be afraid of some separation – that can happen with real nut milks and is not a sign of spoilage.

      Kevin

  8. T L Wilson November 7, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Do you have a recommendation for orange blossom substitution?

  9. T L Wilson November 7, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Can you recommend a substitution for orange blossom water?

  10. Gil November 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    Hi. Nice recipe btw. How long does the orgeat lasts in the fridge?

    • Kevin November 20, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      @Gil,

      Hi please see my answer to this question above.

      @T L Wilson,

      Rose water is the closest substitute that I know of, but I’m not a fan. I much prefer orange blossom water.

  11. David March 12, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    I am wondering about the use of Marcona Almonds in the old fashioned Orgeat recipes rather than CA almonds (Marcona almonds we’ve tried have a much sweeter, more delicate taste closer to the flavor we associate with almond extract is one person’s take on the difference in flavor).

    Almonds are very high in protein, fats and carbs but there are more than 25 different varieties grown in California alone and they all have different flavor profiles and different levels of fat and sweetness. The Nonpareil variety is most common for blanched almonds used in marzipan and almond milk production while many of the shelled almonds sold to consumers are hard to blanch and have a less pronounced almond flavor and much firmer texture. So using almond milk that has been carefully processed with high speed homogenizer equipment to keep the almond fats and proteins suspended is a smart way to go unless you have access to canned blanched almonds and expensive homogenizers at home.

    Vitamix and Blendtec blenders, while expensive and high performance, are not even close to a commercial homgenizer that costs thousands of dollars and can rapidly produce micron sized almond milk dispersions that wont rapidly settle out when standing for a couple of hours. So using a nice tasting almond milk for your orgeat is a smart thing to do. Of course the obsessed drink mixoligist will want to investigate used IKA homgenizers on eBay and almond seedlings from various growers…. It’s only a 5 year wait for the seedling to start to crop….

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