An opaque, sweet almond syrup often laced just slightly with orange blossom or rose water, or both, orgeat first started making regular appearances in bar manuals in the 1860s, but was consumed outside the realm of cocktails long before then. As early as the 1300s, orgeat was served as a delicacy—then a savory barley water, without a trace of the almonds it’s made with today. Eventually it made its way into tiki drinks in the 1940s when Trader Vic rediscovered orgeat as a sweetener.
Commercial orgeat brands vary widely from syrupy-sweet to nutty. This housemade version by Eamon Rockey of Betony in New York City is pure marzipan. He uses bitter almonds in a sous-vide preparation to capture the true essence of the nuts, which is then sweetened to become a cordial. Use it in a Mai Tai, a Japanese Cocktail or any tiki drink as a sweetener with its own personality.