How to Make Orgeat and the Original Mai-Tai

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In the world of craft cocktails, it’s always been a personal delight when I get to make the ingredients used in cocktails. Sure, you can squeeze a lime or slap on some mint and call it a day but syrups (shrubs and bitters, too) are among those highly versatile cocktail ingredients that will always taste better when you’re behind the wheel.

For that reason, we’re making orgeat (pronounced OR-zha ’cause it’s French), a rich syrup made of almonds and sugar, elevated by rose and orange blossom water, which you can put in coffee, ice cream and donuts  … but today, you’re putting it in some booze.

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Things you will most definitely need:

  • 1 cup roasted, unsalted almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar
  • 4 cups mineral water
  • Organic (if you can) bitter almond extract

Things I highly advise you collect for greater results:

  • Orange blossom water
  • Rose water
  • Cognac

Directions:

Add the almonds (1 cup of each) into a pot along with 1/2 cup of sugar. You’re going to boil this with 4 cups of filtered/mineral water, stirring occasionally. Once it’s boiling, kill the heat and put a lid on it (not you, the pot).

Let it steep overnight or about 8 hours (I have no hard science to support this, but if you’re anything like me, you’re making this at like 1 a.m., so really, just go to bed and pick up where you left off in the morning with a big ol’ cup of coffee).

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Transfer the contents from the pot, which you will now rinse and put to the side. Strain this weird looking liquid (almond oil) with a cheese cloth & strainer into a measuring cup (to be precise in how much you actually have because this will be important later). You should have at least 2 cups of the liquid at this point.

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Whatever the quantity ends up being, add 1/2 that amount of sugar to the pot (1 cup in this case). Then pour the strained almond oil back into the pot as well and heat it back up but do not bring to a boil (you don’t want the sugar to caramelize!). The goal here is to incorporate the sugar and make it into a nice syrup.

Lastly, add 1/2 teaspoon each of rose water and orange blossom water and 1 teaspoon of almond extract, along with 2 ounces of cognac (to preserve it a bit and give it a smoothness). Stir it up and give it a taste.

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Bottle the mixture and keep it refrigerated, where it will hold up for about 1 to 2 weeks.

But because we’re friends, I wont just give you an easy orgeat recipe. Oh, no. Here’s one of the tastiest cocktails that features orgeat as a primary ingredient, which is perfect because you just made a bunch of it:

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The Original Trader Vic Mai Tai

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces premium Caribbean rum (preferably two kinds of rum, 1 ounce each)
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce orgeat
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup (if your orgeat is very sweet, this isn’t needed)
  • 1/2 ounce orange curaçao liqueur

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with some ice and give it the best shake of your life.
  2. Strain into a glass full of crushed ice and garnish with some limes.

Photo Credit: Raul Zelaya

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