Can amaretto be substituted for orgeat?

Quick Answer

Amaretto can be substituted for orgeat in some cocktail recipes, but it is not a direct 1:1 substitute. Orgeat has a unique almond-forward flavor and sweetness that amaretto lacks. For best results, use a combination of amaretto and almond extract when substituting for orgeat. Adjust the proportions to achieve the desired flavor profile.

What is Orgeat?

Orgeat is a sweet almond-flavored syrup used in cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages. It originated in France and has been used in traditional cocktails like the Mai Tai for decades. The name “orgeat” comes from the French word for barley – “orge” – dating back to early versions made with barley water.

Modern orgeat is made by infusing sugar syrup with almond extract, orange flower water, and rose water or orange blossom water. It delivers a distinct sweet, floral, nutty flavor that is quite unique. High quality brands use actual almond meat in the infusion process. Lower quality versions rely solely on artificial flavors.

Here are some key characteristics of orgeat syrup:

  • Sweet with moderate viscosity – similar to simple syrup.
  • Distinct almond/marzipan flavor.
  • Floral aroma from orange flower water or rose water.
  • Slightly milky/hazy appearance.

Quality orgeat imparts cocktails with a delicate, perfumed almond profile and subtle background sweetness. It is indispensable in vintage tiki drinks and some classic cocktails.

What is Amaretto?

Amaretto is an Italian almond-flavored liqueur with origins dating back to the 16th century. It gets its signature almond taste from apricot pits, almond extract, and other natural flavors. The name means “a little bitter” in Italian, referring to the lightly bitter notes from the apricot kernels.

Here are the main characteristics of amaretto:

  • Sweet with a syrupy viscosity.
  • Almond and stone fruit flavors.
  • Aromatic with a distinctive cherry-almond scent.
  • Rich, warm slightly bitter almond finish.
  • Dark brown color.
  • 28-30% ABV alcohol content.

Amaretto’s almond profile makes it a popular choice for cocktails seeking a sweet nutty flavor. However, it lacks the complex orange blossom nuances and more pronounced almond intensity of orgeat.

Key Differences Between Orgeat and Amaretto

Orgeat Amaretto
Subtle, refined almond flavor Bolder, brighter almond flavor
Orange flower/rose water aromatics Lacks floral aromatics
Moderately viscous, like simple syrup Thick, syrupy viscosity
Non-alcoholic 28-30% ABV alcohol content
Opaque, cloudy appearance Dark amber color

While both share dominant almond notes, orgeat is more delicate and complex than the bolder amaretto. The lack of alcohol also gives orgeat a lighter profile.

Can You Substitute Amaretto for Orgeat in Cocktails?

You can substitute amaretto for orgeat in cocktails, but the flavor profile will be quite different.

Here are some guidelines for substituting amaretto for orgeat:

  • Use a 1:1 ratio of amaretto to simple syrup to balance the sweetness.
  • Add a few drops of almond extract to enhance nutty flavors.
  • Consider adding a touch of orange flower water or rose water to recreate subtle floral notes.
  • Back off on other sweet ingredients in the recipe.
  • Shake or stir vigorously to emulsify, since amaretto is thicker.
  • Taste and adjust ratios of amaretto to simple syrup as needed.

The altered flavor may be noticeable, but the amaretto will provide enough almond character to work in most orgeat cocktails. Adjusting ratios and adding extracts can help bridge some of the flavor gap.

Always taste and tweak the proportions as needed. The ideal ratio of amaretto to simple syrup can vary quite a bit depending on the specific cocktail recipe.

Best Cocktails for Amaretto Orgeat Substitution

These classic cocktails work best with an amaretto substitute for orgeat:

  • Mai Tai – The strong rum and lime juice help balance the amaretto.
  • Japanese Cocktail – Gin interacts well with the nutty amaretto.
  • Beachcomber – Vodka highlights the almond flavor.
  • SC Piscine – Spiced rum pairs nicely with amaretto’s vanilla notes.

Cocktails with citrus juices also help brighten the amaretto and add freshness. The Mai Tai is probably the single best cocktail for successfully swapping in amaretto for orgeat.

Cocktails to Avoid

Some cocktails rely so heavily on the delicate almond flavors of orgeat that amaretto will overpower the drink. Avoid substituting amaretto in these cases:

  • Nui Nui – Delicate blend of rums would clash with amaretto.
  • Fog Cutter – Tart, light profile would be thrown off.
  • Three Dots and a Dash – Many subtle spice flavors that amaretto would overwhelm.

In general, tiki cocktails with blends of multiple rums and tropical juices will not work as well with amaretto substituted for orgeat.

Making Your Own Orgeat Syrup

For the true taste of quality orgeat in cocktails, the best option is to make your own homemade orgeat syrup. It only takes about 30 minutes active time.

Here is a simple 5-ingredient recipe:


  • 2 cups raw almonds
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup orange flower water or rose water
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract


  1. In a food processor or high-power blender, blend almonds with 1 cup water until smooth, at least 2 full minutes.
  2. Strain almond milk through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer, squeezing out as much liquid as possible.
  3. Discard leftover almond pulp.
  4. Add strained almond milk back to blender, along with remaining 1 cup water, sugar, orange flower water, and almond extract.
  5. Blend until fully incorporated and sugar has dissolved, about 1 minute.
  6. Transfer orgeat syrup to an airtight glass jar or bottle.
  7. Refrigerate up to 1 month.

Be sure to use blanched almonds, not raw. The skins add tannins that create bitterness.

This easy homemade orgeat has bright almond flavors and floral aromatics. Refrigeration allows the flavors to fully meld.

Make a batch to have true orgeat on hand for vintage tiki drinks!

Substitution Ratio

As a general guideline, use a 1:1 substitution ratio when swapping amaretto for orgeat:

  • 1 oz amaretto + 1 oz simple syrup = 1 oz orgeat
  • 2 oz amaretto + 2 oz simple syrup = 2 oz orgeat

This balances the sweetness and liquifies the amaretto. Adjust to taste based on the specific cocktail. Adding a few drops of almond extract can help boost nutty flavor.

For non-alcoholic drinks, omit the amaretto and use a small amount of almond extract in simple syrup instead. Start with 1/4 tsp almond extract per 1 cup simple syrup. Add more to taste.

Flavor Profile Comparison

Here is a detailed flavor profile comparison between orgeat syrup and amaretto:


  • Aroma: Orange blossom, rose, almond
  • Flavor: Marzipan, sweet almond, toasted nuts, orange, delicate floral
  • Mouthfeel: Moderately viscous, smooth
  • Sweetness: Medium to high
  • Alcohol: None
  • Finish: Lingering sweet almonds


  • Aroma: Cherries, toasted almond, vanilla
  • Flavor: Sweet burnt sugar, ripe stone fruit, bitter almond
  • Mouthfeel: Thick, syrupy
  • Sweetness: High
  • Alcohol: 28-30% ABV
  • Finish: Warm, lingering toasted nutty

While both share dominant almond flavors, amaretto is richer, boozier, and lacks the subtle floral complexity of orgeat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does amaretto taste like orgeat?

Amaretto and orgeat both have dominant almond flavors, but they are quite different. Orgeat is more delicate and floral while amaretto is bold and syrupy sweet. Amaretto lacks the refined subtlety of a good orgeat syrup.

Can I replace orgeat with almond extract?

Almond extract alone is not an ideal substitute, but it can be used to boost the almond flavor of amaretto when substituting for orgeat. Add 1/4 tsp almond extract to each 1 oz amaretto.

Is amaretto sweeter than orgeat?

Yes, amaretto is significantly sweeter than orgeat. Amaretto’s thick syrupy texture also contributes to it seeming sweeter on the palate. When substituting amaretto for orgeat, cut back on other sugars in the recipe.

Should I use almond liqueur instead of amaretto?

Almond liqueurs are another option. But they are quite hard to find compared to ubiquitous amaretto. The flavor profile still won’t be an exact match for orgeat, but almond liqueurs work well in some cocktail recipes.

Can I make my own orgeat with amaretto?

You can make a homemade orgeat syrup using amaretto as the almond base. Simmer 1 cup amaretto with 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup orange flower water, allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight before using.

The Bottom Line

Amaretto makes a decent substitute for orgeat syrup in many classic cocktails. It provides much of the core almond flavor. However, for the true complexity of orgeat, it works best to make your own using raw almonds, sugar, and orange flower water. With a quality homemade orgeat on hand, you can easily whip up perfect vintage tiki drinks!

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