Orgeat is an almond syrup. You simply cannot make a Mai Tai without this ingredient. If you ever see a Mai Tai on a menu and orgeat or almond syrup is not in the list of ingredients, it is not a Mai Tai, save your money and order something else.
The ingredients are not so simple, and the process to make it can be quite complex, but here is the simplest recipe that will save you hours of work and taste better than any of the bottled syrups on the shelf.
If you want to take the long way around, that is fine, but it involves blanching raw almonds, straining through cheesecloth, allowing the mixture to sit for hours, or even days, and then you might still end up with grit from the small almond bits that still slip through the strainer or cheesecloth. And, while it does taste good, I am not overly impressed. The only time I was impressed was when I visited the upstairs rooftop tiki bar of Jack Rose in Washington DC. They had a 4-nut orgeat that included almonds, pistachio, peanut and macadamia. It did taste incredible on its own, but in a cocktail with fruit juice, rums, ice and other mixers.
If you do decide to buy it, here is my list of favorites, but I still prefer my own, which not only costs less, but tastes better, and does not have any artificial ingredients or preservatives.
- Fee Brothers: I know it has high fructose corn syrup, no sugar, but it still tastes the best in my opinion, and is almost half the cost of the “gourmet” brands.
- Liquid Alchemist: A great small craft syrup company
- Latitude 29 Formula: No one is going to dispute Beachbum Berry on this one, but it is not cheap.
- Liber & Co.: Small batch, good, again, expensive.
- Small Hands: Another small batch company, good, but shipping costs more than the bottle.
- Monin: Many aficionados do not like Monin, but they are better than Torani.
- Torani: A top commercial brand, you can find in any Italian cafe, ice cream shop or even in supermarkets.
- Tea Zone: Made with high fructose corn syrup, its very inexpensive but does taste good.
The problem with all the above listed, is that they are easily $15 each in most cases. This is not a lot, but if you cannot find them locally, you can expect to pay another $15 on top of the price of the bottle for shipping. This is not their fault, post office and shipping fees have jumped a lot in the last year or so, due to many factors. $30 for a bottle of orgeat which you can easily make at home for less than $1 seems to be an obvious choice. Sure, the raw ingredients will cost you around $10, but those ingredients will make a gallon or more. You are not going to use it all at once, probably only an once at a time. But if you do make a small batch like this below, be sure to use it within a month, or discard the rest. Even then, you still have the leftover ingredients to keep you going for a year or more unless you are having a big luau.
- 4 ounces unsweetened almond milk
- 3 ounces sugar (you can use white but I like Demerara for a more complex flavor)
- 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon orange flower water
- 1/2 teaspoon rose water
- 1/4 teaspoon cognac or Grand Marnier (this is optional, but this will give it longer shelf life)
They key here is not to boil the almond milk to dissolve the sugar. Just gently heat it until all the sugar is dissolved. Add in the other ingredients once it has cooled. Store in a bottle and keep it in the fridge for up to a month or so.
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