Orgeat ~ What is that?

Orgeat ~ What is that?

ORGEAT – the drink with the odd pronunciation (I will explain in a moment), is never mentioned by Jane Austen, either in a letter or her novels, but surely would have been known to her. Mentions of Orgeat being served at Almacks and other Society gatherings are scattered throughout letters and commentaries dated during the Regency Era, and long before.

So what exactly is it?

Prior to refrigeration, people could not store milk for long periods so it either needed to be used immediately – usually in a recipe rather than drank straight – or turned into cheese that did store better. Additionally, milk was not always easy to come by unless one was a farmer, and without milk and milk products, a great number of recipes could not be cooked.

The solution from hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago was to use a stable oil/water emulsion that could substitute for milk fats and not spoil. An emulsion is simply a mixture of two unblendable substances that, when shaken together, form very small droplets that appear to “blend” into a cloudy liquid. The droplets of each substance are so tiny that they do not easily separate into layers. Butter, hollandaise, mayonnaise, and even milk itself are examples of emulsions.

Originally barley proved perfect for this, but later almonds were more commonly used since they produced an emulsion with a better taste in recipes. The composition of the emulsion made it possible to whip into a cream or churn into a butter. Somewhere along the line clever, experimental cooks added sugar to the almond emulsion, along with other flavorings such as orange blossom and rose water, to create a syrupy cordial. This is what became known as Orgeat.

Fresh, homemade, pure Orgeat

Served by itself, Orgeat is tasty… depending on one’s palate since it is a sweet drink. In the past it was often served without alcohol, especially to the very young, and used as a base with fruit juices, tea, and coffee. A Regency Era Starbucks amaretto latte! However, Orgeat was most commonly laced with brandy, rum, gin, vodka – you name it.

The name – ORGEAT – is a derivative of a French word meaning “made with barley” – hordeata – and is pronounced: or-zat.

A tidbit of more recent history: The original Mai Tai was created in 1944 by Victor Bergron, the founder of Trader Vic’s tiki bar in Oakland, California. Orgeat was a key ingredient to that classic recipe. So, if you want to test a bartender’s authenticity and knowledge, tell him you want your Mai Tai with pure Orgeat. Trader Vic’s Mai Tai history

Today Orgeat can be purchased ready made in specialty liquor stores like Bev Mo or stores like Trader Joes and World Market. However, it probably isn’t “real” orgeat, but instead an almond-flavored syrup. It is actually easier to find as an almond syrup, and will often be in the coffee sections of most stores as a mixture for the flavored coffees we like today. Online pure orgeat can be purchased at Okole Maluna and Small Hand Foods, but it isn’t cheap and since it is easy to make, why not do that instead?

The recipe is below, as well as on the image which you can download and save to your computer for better reference. Orange Blossom Water and Rose Water can be easily purchased on Amazon and other online places. Orange flavoring can be substituted and will taste okay, but not as perfect.

Orgeat Syrup

2 1/4 cups raw almonds, sliced or chopped
3 1/2 cups water
3 1/2 cups distilled water
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 oz. vodka, brandy, etc.
1/4 tsp. orange blossom water (can substitute with other flavors)

  1. Place sliced almonds in a medium-sized, metal mixing bowl. Cover with tap water and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain, discarding water.
  2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the almonds until they are coarsely ground.
  3. 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.
  4. Strain liquid, which is similar to an unsweetened almond milk, into a glass jar with tight-fitting lid through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, squeezing to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the almonds.
  5. Add sugar to the liquid, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  6. Add liquor and orange blossom water and stir thoroughly. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Makes 3-4 cups of syrup.


31 Comments for Orgeat ~ What is that?

  1. I noticed in Chapter 11 of P&P as Bingley was preparing for his ball. He stated, “…as soon as Nicholls has made white soup enough I shall send round my cards.” There was a note that it was Gravy, egg yolks, almonds, cream, and negus (sweet and spiced wine with water), commonly served at a ball.

  2. Awesome I didn’t know that about orgeat 🙂 Thanks for the recipe too I may have to try it! Love trying new things 😀

  3. Must try this almond milk of yours – but I’m a tea person and rarely go anywhere without some tea. For summer, i do cooled green tea – and I like it additionally spiced with rosé pepper and why not some chiliflakes and lime. Makes for a refreshing sting.

  4. An iced mocha coffee from Starbucks or another coffee shop would be my favorite summer beverage. A blended coffee like a Frappuccino would also be good. I also like water and diet cherry cola.

    I don’t like iced tea, just hot tea.

    • You would LOVE it around our house, Michelle. My husband is a SERIOUS espresso man. I mean very, VERY serious. Roasts his own beans, and the whole nine yards. Let me assure you that Starbucks – or “CHARbucks” as we call it – has nothing on his coffee. 🙂

  5. Great article Sharon! Sounds interesting, might have to try it one day 😉
    In summer ( which by the way it’s not 😉 brrr, I have tea on the brain at the moment hehe
    Best summer drink is water with a dash of lemonade Icy cold!

    • It really is quite yummy, Vee. I was actually surprised. Drunk plain it is a tad too sweet, even for me, so that is saying a lot. But with brandy mixed in, and then on ice — quite delicious indeed.

  6. I’d have to go with iced tea, unsweetened, and maybe with a bit of mint. I liked this post a lot – almonds and almond milk were important to medieval cuisine, too, even extending to almond “cheese” and almond butter (all those fasting days, you know, when people couldn’t eat animal products).

  7. Very interesting post, Sharon. It’s hard to imagine life without a refrigerator. Wow.

    My favorite summer time drink is lemonade. I’m a wild woman, I know. 🙂

    • Southern sweet tea, Cyn? Or regular variety? I have to admit, whenever I am in the South visiting family, the addiction to sweet tea takes over. Then I come home and go back to basic tea with Splenda. Hard to switch over though! 😉

      • Cynthia is a “Yankee,” Sharon. I am not certain she has had “Sweet Tea.” It’s odd, I live in the South, but have no desire for “Sweet Tea.” I can’t say that aloud so my neighbors will make me a candidate for stoning. LOL!

        • Is she a Yankee? I thought she was in Tennessee? Better brush up on my Southern/Civil War history before we relocate!

  8. I love lemonade in the summer; also margaritas or spiced rum & 7up. My mom also makes a whisky slush that’s great. (I swear I’m not a lush lol).

    • Sure Monica, sure. 😛 Don’t worry tho, your secret is safe with us. 😆

      Not a fan of whisky in any way, but the spiced rum and 7Up sounds great! And one can never go wrong with a well blended margarita, IMO.

  9. I make up Italian Cremosas for my family in whatever flavors I have on hand, but when we’re all really hot its lemonade in chilled glasses.

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity.

  10. My favorite summer drink is a drink my mom made for me when I was little. Its a combination of Apple, Orange and Pineapple juice that you mix together. So cool and refreshing on a hot summer day!

    • Ooh, that does sound yummy! Especially good if blended with ice. Almost like a mai tai or something! 🙂

  11. I think I must be boring as all I ever drink during the summer is ice cold water. I haven’t managed yet to make any home made drinks and everything in the shops seem to contain ingredients which are bad for you

    • Hey, good old fashioned H2O is the best, so you go for it! Me? I like liquids with all the bad stuff in them! LOL!

    • I read your comment while still half asleep, and for a minute thought you were saying to substitute cranberry juice for the water in the orgeat recipe! LOL! I was like, “No! That is just wrong!” 😯 😛

      Then I got some coffee in me and figured it out. Whew!

      Yep, cranberry juice is a favorite of mine too. Also great mixed with 7Up or Sprite.

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