Skip to main content

Orgeat: The Tiki Drink Ingredient You Need to Know

Orgeat Mai Tai cocktail.
Image used with permission by copyright holder
While the name might not look familiar, if you’re ever had the tiki classic Mai Tai, then chances are you’re already at least a tiny bit familiar with orgeat. Pronounced or-zha, orgeat is an almond-flavored syrup that has the potential, when used properly, to elevate your cocktail game to the next level.

The name orgeat is French and derived from the Latin “hordeaceus,” which means “made with barley.” In French, barley is called orge and the syrup, while it doesn’t have barley in it now, used to be made from a mix of barley and almonds and used as a substitute for milk because of its stability and the fact that it did not need to be refrigerated. Nowadays, because refrigeration is a thing and there are more milk substitutes than states in the union, orgeat (which is made with almonds, sweetener, and a bit of orange or rose water) is used almost exclusively in cocktails and, of those cocktails, most are tiki style, because the sweetness and nuttiness from the orgeat blends incredibly well with the citrus flavors you’ll find in the drinks.

You can buy high-quality orgeat from producers like Small Hands Foods, but it can end up being pricey if you intend to buy a lot of it (remember, though, that you don’t need a lot per drink—orgeat is intense and powerful in even small amounts). The cheaper stuff, such as that made by Torani (you know, the syrups that go into every Italian soda ever) is readily available in most grocery stores but with those syrups, most do not even contain real almond and you will sacrifice flavor for price.

Who wants to buy, though, when you can show off and make the stuff? The recipe doesn’t call for that many ingredients, and it’s pretty easy to make. This recipe by Marcia Simmons, author of DIY Cocktails is a great place to start.

Editors' Recommendations

Sam Slaughter
Sam Slaughter was the Food and Drink Editor for The Manual. Born and raised in New Jersey, he’s called the South home for…
What’s Moldovan Wine? Here’s What You Need to Know
A red wine glass and wine.

We know full well that Europe does a lot of wine. And that extends beyond the usual cast of characters such as France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and Portugal.
The continent is full of smaller countries that are having their say in the global wine conversation. Many, like Moldova, have simply slipped through the cracks due to a relatively small production scale, abstract varieties, historical strife, or some combination of all these factors. Yet, there’s much to pay attention to wine-wise coming out of this East European nation wedged between Ukraine and Romania.

Moldova is among the top 12 countries in Europe and the top 20 worldwide in terms of wine production. Relatively small but touting a good number of vineyards, the country is one of the densest by viticultural standards on Earth. And the majority of its wines are exported, with a good parcel landing in various U.S. markets.
Winemaking as a trade began here around 5,000 years ago. Trade with the Greeks and Romans only bolstered an interest in the stuff and soon the region had a thriving industry. By the reign of Stephen the Great in the 15th century, neighboring East European countries relied on Moldova for a steady stream of wine.
Moldova is among the top 12 countries in Europe and the top 20 worldwide in terms of wine production.

Read more
The Most Interesting Drinks From Around the World You Can Try Today
most interesting drinks in the world bilberry wine

We may not have tried them firsthand, but we’ve at least heard the stories. Legends illustrating the most interesting drinks from around the world, ranging from the utterly absurd to the ultra-extravagant.
Sure, most standup bars feature an overpriced cocktail with a weird mix of things you can barely pronounce. But that’s not what this particular story is about. We’re focused instead on the bizarre and the unexpected, like wine made from moss or a beer made from ingredients that spent some time in outer space.
Raise a glass to these other-worldly beverage phenomena:

Space Beer
Back in 2014, Ninkasi Brewing started an actual space program. Their Ground Control Imperial Stout is brewed with a few intriguing ingredients, like cacao nibs, star anise, and Oregon hazelnuts. But its most out-there inclusion is brewer’s yeast that’s been to outer space and back.

Read more
Become a Tiki Garnish Master With These 6 Expert Tips
tik garnish tips yaki tiki 2

Indulging in a strong, tropical cocktail is the ultimate form of escapism, whether you’re enjoying it at an authentic Tiki bar or making drinks for friends at home. Tiki garnishes are known for being elaborate and often over-the-top, which is one of the reasons these drinks are so fun to serve. To learn more about how to master the Tiki garnish, we chatted with bartenders Brian Evans and Yael Vengroff. Evans is the bar director at Sunday Hospitality and the brains behind one of our favorite summer pop-ups, Yaki Tiki. Vengroff oversees the beverage programs at Los Angeles favorites Winsome, Genghis Cohen, and The Spare Room, the latter of which hosts a yearly event called Evening of Tiki where guest bartenders team with Vengroff to serve their most over-the-top tropical creations. We chatted with both bartenders to get some expert tips on how to become a Tiki garnish master in your own right.
Transform Fruit Scraps Into Elaborate Garnishes
Bar waste is a real problem. For example, most establishments use citrus juice, but then toss the rest of the fruit if they have no use for the peel. But tiki drinks can benefit greatly from these so called scraps. “I like to utilize lime shells,” Vengroff says. “The shells can be used as boats to hold either floating booze (like in a Dark and Stormy), or [you can] add a sugar cube in the lime shell and set the shell on fire.”

While a pineapple slice perched on the rim of a glass is a no-brainer, Evans also makes use of the fronds and skin. “I really enjoy cutting the skin off in strips and lining the opening of a tiki mug to look like a collar — just make sure to clean the yeasts off of the skin first!” he says. “Also, pineapple slices work tremendously well and [are] visually striking when dehydrated as a garnish, then flame-torched to order.” On a recent Yaki Tiki visit, Evans garnished a frozen shochu drink with a fan of pineapple skin and fronds that looked like a mohawk of sorts.
Make Your Garnishes Come Alive
You’ve likely seen a banana dolphin balanced on the rim of a tiki drink, whether it was in a photo or in-person. Turning a garnish into a cute, edible character is always a fun way to serve a tropical drink, and it makes the libation extra photogenic. “One of the most recent and funny items I garnished a cocktail [with] was fresh passionfruit,” Vengroff says. “I sliced the passionfruit open halfway horizontally so it looked like Pacman with a mouth, and then scooped the insides of the passionfruit out and put googly eyes on it. It's all about being fun and playful.”
Don’t Forget the Inedible Garnishes
We love it when our tiki drink comes with a snack, but the inedible garnishes are just as important. Branded stirring sticks used to be everywhere, and many people collected them as souvenirs to use at their home bars. While not every bar has jumped back on this bandwagon, some of our favorite tiki bars — like Pittsburgh’s Hidden Harbor with their branded sharks — are creating signature garnishes for their drinks. When you come across one, make sure to take it home, as it’s a great way to tell a story while you’re garnishing tiki drinks for friends.

Read more