Eamon Rocky, Betony | New York City

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.


Yield: Approximately 1 quart

  • 1 pound bitter almonds (see Editor's Note)
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water

  1. In a pan over medium-low heat, toast the almonds until the oils begin release, and a light color has been achieved.
  2. Add the almonds to a large ziplock bag containing the water.
  3. Hack a sous vide: Set a colander or a steaming basket inside a larger pot of water set over the lowest heat possible.
  4. Drop the bag inside the colander (it should be completely submerged), and cook in the hot water bath for 4 hours.
  5. Strain and discard the almonds, reserving the warm liquid.
  6. Add sugar and salt, and stir to dissolve.
  7. Seal in an airtight container, allow to come to room temperature and then cool in the refrigerator.
  8. Add the rosewater and orange blossom water to finish.
  9. Store, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Editor's Note

When sourcing bitter almonds, look for something labeled as “bitter almond seeds,” which are opaque and white. Your best bet is an Asian or Middle Eastern grocery.