Mai Tai with Homemade Orgeat Syrup from Shake, Stir, Pour

Serves about 6 cups     adjust servings

Orgeat (OAR-zhott) is a much under-appreciated cocktail flavoring. Once an essential ingredient in tiki drinks, it seems to have fallen out of fashion. Orgeat is the defining ingredient in the Mai Tai and is also used in several other classic drinks. Although commercial versions of orgeat are readily available, making your own is fairly straightforward and yields a far more fresh and flavorful result. Orgeat would be a great gift for your cocktail-enthusiast friends. Make a big batch and pour it into attractive bottles with a recipe for a Mai Tai tied around the neck of each bottle. - printed from Shake, Stir, Pour by Katie Loeb with permission from Quarry Books

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces (453 g) raw sliced almonds
  • 2 ounces (60 ml) overproof vodka
  • 5 cups (1.2 L) hot filtered water
  • 4 1/2 cups (1 L) sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) brandy or cognac
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) rosewater
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (8 ml) orange flower water
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 ml) organic almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (177º C). Spread almonds in a thin layer on a nonstick cookie sheet (a).
  2. Roast the almonds in 2-minute intervals (set a timer to remind yourself!) for a total of 8
  3. minutes, stirring every 2 minutes to keep from browning. The goal is not to toast them, but
  4. to “loosen” up the oils they contain, so they’ll extract more easily.
  5. Remove the almonds from the oven immediately and pour the hot almonds into the blender
  6. container so they do not continue to brown on the hot cookie sheet. The almonds should
  7. only be very lightly toasted around the edges, if at all (b).
  8. Pour the 2 ounces (60 ml) of vodka over the hot almonds and steep for 10 minutes.
  9. Add 5 cups (1.2 L) of hot filtered water to blender container (c) and pulse until the almonds
  10. are chopped into small bits, about the size of peanut bits in chunky peanut butter (d).
  11. Soak the almond bits overnight.
  12. The next day, strain the almond bits and liquid in small batches through a cheesecloth-lined
  13. fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, squeezing the almond bits in the cheesecloth to extract all of
  14. the oils and flavor (e). Don’t be afraid to really wring this out hard. You need to get out the
  15. almonds’ oils so your orgeat will taste strongly of almond (f).
  16. Measure the liquid; there should be approximately 4½ cups (1 L).
  17. Gently heat the almond liquid in a saucepan (g).
  18. Add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat immediately. Allow almond syrup to cool slightly.
  19. Add the brandy, the rosewater, the orange flower water, and the almond extract (h). Stir vigorously to incorporate all the ingredients you’ve just added.
  20. Add a small amount of the mixed orgeat to xanthan gum in a small cup. Stir or whisk gently to incorporate without any lumps. Add xanthan gum slurry back into the full batch of orgeat and stir to combine thoroughly.
  21. Funnel into clean glass bottles for storage. This syrup keeps refrigerated for several months.

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