Orgeat syrup is an almond-flavored syrup commonly used in tiki cocktails like the Mai Tai. If you don’t have orgeat syrup on hand, there are a few good substitutes you can use:
- Homemade orgeat syrup – Make your own by blending almonds, sugar, and orange flower water
- Almond extract – Use a small amount of almond extract to add almond flavor
- Amaretto – The almond liqueur works well in cocktails calling for orgeat
- Almond milk – For a non-alcoholic option, try unsweetened almond milk
When substituting, consider the specific cocktail recipe and balance of flavors. Adjust sweeteners or extra ingredients as needed. Homemade orgeat is the closest match, but the other substitutes can work in a pinch!
What is Orgeat Syrup?
Orgeat syrup is a sweet almond-flavored syrup used to add rich nutty notes and subtle floral aroma to cocktails and non-alcoholic drinks. Traditionally made from almond milk, sugar, and orange flower water, it has a creamy, velvety texture. The name “orgeat” comes from the French word for barley – “orge” – referring to one historic method of making almond milk by grinding almonds with barley.
This versatile syrup became a key ingredient in tiki cocktails when Donn Beach (aka Don the Beachcomber) started experimenting with tropical drinks in the 1930s-40s. The Mai Tai, one of the best known tiki cocktails, combines rum, lime, orange curaçao with orgeat syrup for a balanced sweet and sour flavor profile.
Beyond cocktails, orgeat syrup can be used to flavor coffee drinks, milkshakes, Italian sodas, fruit smoothies, and more. A little bit goes a long way to lend a subtle almond richness. It’s a handy ingredient for any home bar.
Why Substitute for Orgeat Syrup?
There are a few reasons you may need a substitute for orgeat syrup:
- You’re out of orgeat – If you’ve run out of orgeat and a cocktail recipe calls for it, you’ll need a quick fix.
- Hard to find – Specialty syrups like orgeat aren’t always easy to find. Not all liquor stores or grocers carry it.
- Avoid almonds – For people with nut allergies, almond-based orgeat is off limits.
- Make it from scratch – You may want to DIY your own orgeat syrup rather than buying it.
Having a few backup options helps when your orgeat supply runs dry or you need a homemade version. The ideal substitute will mimic that sweet, nutty, orange blossom taste.
Homemade Orgeat Syrup
The best orgeat substitute is homemade orgeat syrup. With a simple recipe, you can replicate the flavor of orgeat with ingredients you likely have in your pantry and fridge. Here is one approach:
- 1 cup raw almonds
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup orange flower water
- In a pot, combine almonds and water. Bring to a boil then remove from heat. Allow to sit for 1 hour to soften almonds.
- Drain almonds, reserving soaking liquid. Transfer almonds to a blender.
- Add 1 cup of the soaking liquid, sugar, and orange flower water to blender. Blend on high until smooth and creamy, at least 2 minutes.
- Strain syrup through a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or fine mesh strainer to remove any almond solids. Squeeze cloth to extract as much liquid as possible.
- Transfer orgeat syrup to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
The resulting homemade orgeat has an authentic nutty and subtly floral flavor. Adjust the almond ratio, sugar, or orange flower water to suit your tastes. And feel free to experiment with almond extract or different nuts like macadamia.
This from-scratch version allows you to avoid artificial or high fructose corn syrup found in commercial brands. You can control the quality of ingredients. While it takes some effort, homemade beats store-bought when crafting cocktails.
When you’re in a pinch without orgeat or the time to make it from scratch, almond extract can work in some cocktails. Made from bitter almond oil combined with alcohol and water, almond extract packs concentrated nutty flavor without the syrupy texture.
Use a very small amount of almond extract in cocktails – start with 1/4 teaspoon. This tiny volume won’t affect the drink texture or make it too thin. But it will provide the critical almond taste that defines an orgeat cocktail.
Almond extract has a much more concentrated flavor than orgeat, so a little goes a long way. Too much can overpower a cocktail and lend an artificial, chemical taste. Start with a couple drops and adjust as needed.
While not a perfect 1:1 match, almond extract can be handy when you’re completely out of orgeat and want to roughly mimic the almond essence in certain drinks. Due to the high concentration, it may throw off the balances in some recipes, so taste as you go.
Another option for orgeat cocktails is amaretto liqueur. Made from almond oil and apricot pits, amaretto has a sweet almond flavor reminiscent of orgeat. However, amaretto also brings a stronger cherry and stone fruit taste from the apricot kernel oil.
Because amaretto is an alcoholic spirit rather than a syrup, you’ll need to account for how it impacts the ABV of the drink. You may choose to slightly increase the sweetener or use less amaretto than the recipe calls for in orgeat.
Amaretto’s viscosity is also thinner than thick, sugary orgeat. To compensate, try adding a small splash of simple syrup or agave nectar to balance the texture.
While not an exact match, a bit of almond-forward amaretto can work well in Mai Tais, Zombies, or other tropical cocktails calling for orgeat. Just adjust proportions as needed to achieve the right flavor balance.
For a non-alcoholic or vegan orgeat substitute, try almond milk. Look for unsweetened almond milk to avoid extra added sugar. The nutty flavor of almond milk contains the same key tasting notes as orgeat, though significantly diluted.
When using almond milk in cocktails, add a pinch of salt to amplify flavor. You can also combine it with a bit of simple syrup or agave to add sweetness and viscosity closer to orgeat.
Since nut milks have a thinner, more neutral profile than thick syrups, adjust the proportions or other ingredients to maintain the right textural and flavor balance.
As a bonus, almond milk pairs very well with the tropical fruit juices commonly used in orgeat cocktails. The subtle nutty creaminess complements citrus, pineapple, mango, and berry notes.
For another plant-based option, coconut milk can work in some orgeat cocktails. Like almond milk, unsweetened coconut milk contains rich, creamy texture with subtle tropical flavor.
Coconut milk on its own is too thin and neutral to match orgeat’s strong almond taste. Combine it with a bit of almond extract or amaretto to reinforce the key almond notes. A splash of cream of coconut also boosts sweetness and viscosity.
The coconut flavor pairs especially well with rum and tropical juices. It makes a nice orgeat alternative in tiki drinks using those ingredients. Adjust proportions of coconut milk and sweeteners to achieve the right balance.
As a slightly more neutral substitute, rice milk can provide creaminess without added flavor. On its own, rice milk won’t mimic any almond taste. But combined with almond extract or amaretto, it can round out the texture of syrup.
Rice milk has a thinner consistency compared to orgeat. Mix in simple syrup or agave to increase viscosity. You can also add a small amount of coconut milk for extra richness.
With the right combination of rice milk plus almond flavoring and sweetener, you may be able to approach the mouthfeel of orgeat, while letting other ingredients shine.
In some cocktail recipes, you may be able to omit orgeat syrup and replace its sweetness with honey. Due to the unique floral flavor of honey varietals like orange blossom, it contains subtle citrus and flower notes reminiscent of orange flower water in orgeat.
When using honey, you’ll need to thin it out with hot water to make it pourable. Try a 2:1 ratio of honey dissolved in hot water. Let it cool before mixing drinks.
Honey brings its own distinctive flavor rather than true orgeat flavor. But in drinks like the Mai Tai that include orange juice and orange liqueur, the orange blossom honey profile can complement the other ingredients well. Adjust sweetness and proportions to taste.
In certain cocktails, you may be able to omit orgeat entirely and use simple syrup instead. Simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) won’t provide any almond or flower flavors, but does add general sweetness needed in many recipes.
With simple syrup, you’ll miss the nutty, creamy mouthfeel of orgeat. But in drinks with rich dairy ingredients like cream of coconut, simple syrup can work in a bind.
To give simple syrup a hint of almond essence, try adding a few drops of almond extract or amaretto. You can also use an almond-flavored simple syrup if you have it on hand.
Simple syrup is too neutral to sub for orgeat in most cases. But in some recipes focused on fruit flavors, the sweetness alone may be enough to balance tart citrus or tannic tropical fruits if no better option is available.
Grenadine syrup may seem like an unlikely sub for almond orgeat, but its sweet-tart berry flavor can work well in certain tiki cocktails. Made from pomegranate juice, grenadine brings vivid red color and fruity taste.
In a classic Mai Tai recipe, for example, grenadine can replace both the orgeat and orange curaçao. The tangy berry profile balances the rum, lime, and orange juice nicely.
For an added almond layer, try supplementing grenadine with a few drops of almond extract. Or use an almond grenadine recipe combining pomegranate and almond ingredients.
While it won’t mimic orgeat directly, grenadine can creatively sub in some recipes needing sweet-tart balance. Adjust other ingredients like citrus or pineapple juice to compensate for the different flavor profile.
While nothing perfectly replicates the exact taste and texture of orgeat syrup, homemade orgeat or almond extract come closest for cocktail recipes needing that signature almond profile. Amaretto and nut milks can provide complementary flavors as well. Simple syrup, grenadine, honey and coconut milk offer more neutral or fruit-forward substitutes in a pinch, with some adjustments needed.
Getting creative with combinations of these syrups, extracts, liqueurs and nut milks can help craft a “faux-geat” to use in place of orgeat. With a well-stocked bar and some improvisation, you can mix up delicious cocktails without the exact specialty syrup. But when you have the chance, try drinks made with real orgeat syrup to appreciate its unique creamy, floral almond essence.