Why You Should Always Read The Label Before Buying Orgeat Syrup

A serious bartender, even a home bartender, will have a bottle of orgeat on hand, even though it's not the most common ingredient on the planet. Why? Because there's simply no replacement for the unique flavor in the cocktails that call for the almond-based syrup. Orgeat, which used to contain barley, rather than almonds, probably dates to about the 1300s, according to Cocktails Distilled, though it didn't become commonplace as a cocktail ingredient until the mid-19th century when legendary bartender and author of the first cocktail recipe book Jerry Thomas created the Japanese Cocktail, which featured orgeat, along with cognac and bitters.

Orgeat's heyday began in the 1940s, when tiki culture became popular as a celebration of "exotic" tropical locales and ingredients. Tiki classics like the mai tai and the Scorpion rely on orgeat for sweetness, as it pairs beautifully with flavorful, powerful rum and fruity flavors. No true tiki party is complete without orgeat, but not all orgeat is created equal.

What should you look for on a bottle of orgeat syrup's label?

You can, of course, make your own orgeat at home. Liquor.com has a fairly simple recipe that calls for blanched ground almonds, sugar, water, brandy, and orange flower water. However, homemade orgeat syrup doesn't keep forever — only about two weeks in the refrigerator — so you might want to purchase a bottle that's shelf stable.

The best, real-deal orgeat is flavored with real almonds. Some inexpensive syrups rely on artificial flavorings, cautions The Spruce Eats, so you need to check the label. When you're assembling high-quality ingredients for your cocktails, you don't want to mar that fabulous flavor with fake almond extract from a cheap orgeat. Yes, you may have to pay a bit more for an orgeat that's made with real almonds, but you'll be able to tell a difference in your cocktails. For reference, Liber & Co.'s 9.5-ounce bottle of orgeat made with whole roasted almonds sells for about $18 on Amazon. 

And if you're wondering what to do with the rest of your orgeat after you've tired of mai tais, know that some orgeat syrups don't contain alcohol, which opens up great mocktail or non-alcoholic options for a tiki-themed gathering.