What is Orgeat Syrup?

Diane Goettel

Orgeat syrup is a kind of sweet syrup that is most commonly used to flavor drinks. Originally, the syrup was made with barley, though that is not commonly used as an ingredient any longer. The name of the syrup comes from the Latin word "hordeata," which means "made with barley". In French, the word for barley is "orge." Spanish "horchata" also has similar connections to this original Latin term.

Orgeat syrup was originally made with barley.
Orgeat syrup was originally made with barley.

The most identifying feature of orgeat syrup is the almond flavor in the drink. In addition to almonds and sugar, orgeat syrup is also often flavored with either orange flower water or rose water. These ingredients, which may alter the flavor profile of the drink, are secondary to the powerful almond flavor. One of the most common drinks that calls for orgeat syrup is a cocktail, the Mai Tai.

Almond is the predominant flavor in orgeat syrup.
Almond is the predominant flavor in orgeat syrup.

There are a number of cultures that use orgaet syrup to flavor their drinks. There are also many variations on the theme of orgeat syrup. Across cultures and through culinary translation, orgeat syrup is used in Italy, Tunisia, Greece, and Suriname. Orgeat syrup seems to have as many uses, variations on its recipe, and names as it has places where it is enjoyed.

Although orgeat syrup is traditionally made in home kitchens, there are now companies that bottle it. In fact, some companies that specialize in syrups to flavor drinks include this kind of syrup in their product lines. Some of these companies offer their products for purchase online. This can be an important resource for people who enjoy drinks that are made with this syrup or for bar or restaurant owners who specialize in drinks that call of the syrup.

Despite the fact that orgeat syrup is available for purchase online and in some stores, it is not especially common in bottled form. For those who prefer not to purchase items online, it can be very difficult to find the syrup locally. Luckily, there are a number of recipes for the syrup, most of which are relatively simple. The only difficulty with the process is that it involves quite a bit of time to soak, chop, and strain the almonds. There are quite a few recipes for this kind of syrup that yield different results, which is to be expected given the amount of variation that has occurred across the culinary cultures that use this syrup in their drinks.

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