As read in Imbibe! by David Wondrich, in 1860, diplomats from Japan made a few weeks stay in New York City. While there, they stayed at the Metropolitan hotel, about a block away from Jerry Thomas’ Palace bar. The likelihood of the legation stopping in was about 100%, given their penchant for cocktails, and The Professor’s renown.
Created to commemorate this occasion was the Japanese Cocktail. A tender and delicious little concoction of Orgeat, Brandy, and Bitters.
Somehow, years later in Harry Johnson’s Bartender’s Manual (1934 edition), the recipe changed dramatically. This version adds a good dallop of shaved ice and Maraschino Liqueur, and replaces the Brandy with Eau Celeste (Himmels Wasser), which in searches shows as a sort of plant fungicide.
Seeing as I don’t appear to have a ready supply of large quantities of Copper Sulfate, Ammonia, and whatever the heck Sal Soda is to make the eau celeste, I think we’re going to have to go with the original good Professor’s recipe, adapted by David Wondrich, with some further adaptation of technique.
- 1 Tbsp Orgeat
- 1/2 tsp Bogart’s Bitters (sub Fees or homemade Boker’s)
- 2 oz of Brandy
Stir with Ice, strain into champagne saucer. Garnish with 1 or 2 twists of Lemon Peel.
It’s a delightful and creamy little bite of a drink. The large amount of Bitters adds a lot of flavor, making a sort of mulled Brandy, while the Orgeat balances out the harsher notes in the bitters and any burn in the brandy. Daniel at Teardrop Lounge made a lovely variation with Filbert Orgeat and Barsol Pisco, garnished with shredded chocolate.
I can’t recommend this drink enough. It’s easy to concoct, and extremely pleasing to just about any palate. Drink and enjoy!
Orgeat, fashionably French soda sweetener, or one of the best ingredients ever set behind the bar?
Here is a classic recipe from 1835. It’s quite a bit simplified, and I’ve got a bit more detailed modern method below it, with plenty of pictures.
Orgeat has been around since somewhere around the dawn of time. Originally a barley based syrup flavored with almonds, eventually the barley was ditched for the far more flavorful, but still oily and wonderful almonds. Most of the commercial product is made as almond flavored syrup, and can be purchased from Fees, Torani, and Monin. They all just have a bit of something missing though, and the effort to make real orgeat is well rewarded with some of the best flavors possible. Real Orgeat, as made below, is a thing of beauty. It is an aromatic enhancer with rose and orange flower water, and acts not to purely sweeten the drink, but really changes the profile to something entirely different, neutralizing a lot of the bitter and sour flavors. It’s what made the Mai Tai, so there’s gotta be something to it!
I’m not going to push too heavily that you should blanch and chop your own almonds, but it seems to give it just a little bit more flavor and texture. There’s something about that fresh oil just under the skin of the almond that works wonders.
The following recipe yields around 1/2 gallon
You will need:
- 1/2 lb. blanched whole almonds
- (approximately) 3 Quarts Sugar
- 1 Quarts Water
- Bitter Almond Extract
- Rose Water
- Orange Flower Water
|To blanch the almonds, set the almonds in a large bowl. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, then cover the almonds with the boiling water. After 2 minutes, strain the almonds from the water, return the almonds to the bowl, then cover the almonds with cold water. The almonds should now slide easily from their skins.||[singlepic=276,320,240,,center]|
|[singlepic=275,320,240,,left]||Roughly chop the whole almonds. A food processor at a low speed is highly recommended.
Add the roughly chopped almonds, and pour an equal amount of sugar to almonds (by volume) into a large pot.
|Add 1 quarts water to the pot and bring to a boil.
One it has hit boiling, take the pot off of heat, and leave to rest for 12 hours or overnight.
After 12 hours, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth. Repeat a few times if greater clarity is desired. Me, I strain it once as I like to preserve a bit of the almond powder for each bottle, but to each their own.
Measure the strained liquid by volume. Add sugar in a 3:2 ratio the strained liquid (for example, 16 oz of strained liquid would require 24 oz of sugar). Put the pot on a low heat to carefully dissolve the sugar.
|DO NOT let the mixture BOIL. You’ll ruin the batch and give yourself one helluva cleaning job for the pot. Like I recommend for any syrup, a combination of agitation, low heat, and an alert cook in the kitchen should do just fine.
Once the sugar is dissolved, and no more granules are present, remove the pot from heat.
Leave to cool before adding the extra flavorings. Just a few drops, 3-6 each, of bitter almond extract, rose water and orange water seem to add plenty of aromatics and flavor. If you add them while the syrup is hot, their flavor might evaporate.
This makes a big batch of Orgeat, somewhere around 1/2 gallon. Hit up your local brewing supply (mine is F. H. Steinbart) for a case of 375 mLs with twist on caps. A case of one dozen usually costs you just under a dollar per bottle, and it makes a great hand out once your friends are hooked on Mai Tais and Japanese made with the real deal.
Real orgeat syrup will split after a few days in a thick, solid white layer of almond powder on top and syrup below. This is normal and happens with real orgeat syrup, all you need is insert a skewer in the bottle to break the top layer a bit, close and shake.
If you’ve made the above recipe one too many times, you can try varying it here and there. For example, try using natural cane sugar, such as Zulka, for a bit of a richer flavor. Just be sure to give it a turn in the food processor so it dissolves easier. I recently took some Cane Sugar I had mixed some Vanilla Beans in and made a rich Vanilla Cane Orgeat, which is getting a good reputation as Liquid Heaven.