Why Orgeat Syrup No Longer Contains Barley

If you don't already know how to say it, try to pronounce "orgeat" in your head. In English phonetics, we would break this up into two syllables: org-eat and pronounce it as such. However, since orgeat is a French word, it is not pronounced anywhere close to our English rendition. According to Bon Appétit, the proper pronunciation for orgeat is either "or-zha" or "or-zhat". Now that our little French lesson is out of the way, let's get into what orgeat actually is.

Almond orgeat syrup, as described by producers Liber and Co., is a combination of sugar, toasted almonds, orange blossom water, and a hint of bitter almond oil. This syrup is mildly floral, nutty, and somewhat milky. Its primary use is as a syrup for cocktails, one of which is the popular mai tai. Orgeat compliments the rum and gives the mai tai that almond, tropical kick. If you're not into cocktails, you can add it to lemonade or seltzer as a sweetener. 

Originally, orgeat was used as a shelf-stable milk substitute, almost like how almond milk is used today (via The Spruce Eats). However, almonds were not always the star ingredient of this syrup. Returning quickly to our French lesson, orgeat is derived from the word "orge" which means "barley."

Out with the barley, in with the almonds

Barley tends to be a grain we associate with either whiskey or beer. The primary ingredient in almost all single malts, barley sets the benchmark in terms of what flavors we think of when we think of whiskey, according to Distiller. Malted barley, specifically, provides that nutty and smoky flavor so indicative of scotch whisky (via The Whiskey Wash). Logically, when you put two-and-two together you'd think that a combination of almonds and barley into a sweet syrup would yield a wonderfully nutty solution. And you would be right, except for the fact that, for the purposes of orgeat, almonds are the better ingredient.

Though orgeat began as a simple syrup derived from barley, as The Spruce Eats explains, the steady evolution of the syrup led to the introduction of almonds. Almonds, as it turns out, added more flavor. Making orgeat is basically making almond milk with extra steps: Instead of the milk being cooled, the solution is heated with sugar and reduced into syrup. Orange blossom or rose water are often added for extra flavor. Plus, this floral syrup can be used in more than just cocktails. According to Bon Appétit, the complexity of the nutty sweetness pairs well with ice creams, pound cake, or drizzled over some fresh fruit.