Hello, Friends of Cocktails. If you ask me, there’s just something special about a clear-looking cocktail. Sorry Tiki Lovers, but using orgeat can make your cocktail look a bit… meh. And just to make it clear - pun intended - I love the flavor of a classic, well made orgeat too, but today we’ll make exactly that, make it clear! Some might say it’s unnecessary or that it can’t taste as good, but I’m here to say: let’s experiment and see what we can do. So stick around if you’re ready to try something a little different.
I made a DIY Orgeat video a while ago, and something that kept popping up was many of you guys saying that your orgeat would curdle when mixed with citrus. Orgeat is of course a syrup made with almonds and water, which makes almond 'milk'. And just like regular milk, almond milk curdles when it comes in contact with acidic juice, which is not ideal for your Mai Tai, but great for what we’ll do today. So we will take advantage of this and make clear orgeat.
At home I tried it with store-bought almond milk, but here we’ll make a DIY version as well, to compare the two and see if it’s worth the extra work, so let’s start with making some homemade almond milk. It’s Cocktail Time!
Homemade Almond Milk
● 200g Blanched Almonds
● 600g Hot Water
To get the most flavor from the almonds I’ll toast them first. This wakes up the oils in almonds and really enhances their aroma, although in hindsight this step might cause you problems in the future, you’ll see what I mean. But once they’ve gotten a beautiful browning on them, they’re done. Now that we have toasted blanched almonds we’ll add them to a blender, together with the hot water. For safety reasons, and depending on your blender, make sure you’re not working with water that’s too hot.
Now blend on high speed until all the almonds are blended as fine as they’ll go, and we’ll then need to strain the almond milk through a cloth filter or a nut milk bag, and basically that’s all there is to it. Homemade almond milk really is that simple to make. Oh, and also, don’t forget to squeeze all the milk through the filter to get all that delicious flavor. As always, a potato ricer is your best friend here. With this, we are now ready to clarify the Almond Milk to create our Clear Orgeat.
● 500mL · 16.66oz Almond Milk
● 22.5mL · 0.25oz 6% Citric Acid Solution
● 100 g of Sugar (per every 100 g of Clear Almond Milk)
● Rose Water (0.05% of the weight of your Clear Orgeat)
● Almond Flavor Drops (0.05% of the weight of your Clear Orgeat)
When I made the classic orgeat I used gum arabic and xanthan gum as emulsifiers, but we actually want the separation here, so we’re not adding that today. So heat up the milk slightly and once you see the first signs of steaming add the citric acid solution, which I made by dissolving 6g of citric acid in 94g of water. You could use lemon juice as well as it has a similar acidity to our citric acid solution, but that might add a bit of lemon flavor into your clarified orgeat.
You’ll need to leave this to sit for about 30 minutes before we filter it. You can now get a cloth filter ready and pour the curdled almond milk over it. At the beginning the milk will still look pretty… milky, but as the curds create an additional filter you’ll see the clear liquid coming through. At this point you just refilter the first part, but here is also where things started to get a little weird.
For the Homemade Almond Milk I waited for the curds to create an additional filter, but even though it created clear drops of liquid, once they hit the bottom of the bowl they immediately became cloudy again. I’m guessing this is because of the oils from the almonds, creating what is known as the louche effect. If this didn’t happen here it would surely happen in the cocktail once we added ice, so now that we’ve all learned something, let's move on with just the store bought version.
With that completely filtered it’s time to add the sugar, so weigh your yield and add the appropriate amount of sugar - 1:1 ratio of almond milk and sugar. Stir to dissolve and then weigh your syrup again, because we need to add two more things, rose water and almond flavor drops. I prefer to use rose water instead of orange blossom water because I think rose water gives it a little more depth of flavor without overpowering the almonds.
Lastly, almond flavor drops are a highly concentrated food flavoring that will enhance the almond flavor of our clarified orgeat, and it can be picked up in specialty baking stores or online. Now mix everything again, then bottle and label your clear orgeat, as there’s no way you’d know what’s in this bottle if you didn’t! This orgeat has a strong sweet almond character, with a hint of rose floral notes, similar to the store-bought orgeats, probably thanks to the flavor drops. But the main thing is that I’ve never seen, or tasted, an orgeat that looked as clear as this.
So now that we have our clear orgeat, let’s see how much nicer we can make a Jerry Thomas-original: the Japanese cocktail. We’ve already made the original and modern versions of this classic cognac cocktail, and while tasting great, they don’t really look all that pleasing to the eye.
Clear Japanese Cocktail
● 7.5mL · 0.25oz Clear Orgeat
● 60mL · 2oz Brandy
● 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
● 2 drops 20% Saline Solution
Chill the mixing glass and build this 3-ingredient classic. All you’ll need is a cognac, angostura bitters, and our clear orgeat - and I’d say saline solution doesn’t even count as an extra ingredient at this point! So add your ingredients alongside plenty of ice and stir to chill and dilute. I already have another cocktail in mind for this, but for starters I really wanted to make this cocktail look as nice as it tastes. So strain into a chilled Nick & Nora glass, garnish with a lemon peel, and let’s give it a try. Cheers!
The aroma of lemon is beautifully present, and the cocktail suddenly looks similar to an Old Fashioned, not only in its ingredients but also in appearance. The almond works well with the choice of cognac, making this into a wonderful sipper - finally I’m happy with all parts of this cocktail! And with that you’ve made it to the Bottom of The Glass, but before that, in the Milk Syrup episode I promised to check on the shelf life through the next few weeks. It’s now been 5 days, and as expected the syrup is still tasting great, so stay tuned to find out how it fares these next coming episodes.
Now for the fun fact of the day, almonds, did you know that almonds aren’t actually nuts? Botanically, a nut is a dry fruit that consists of a hard shell covering a single seed, but almonds, along with walnut, coconut, pecan, cashew, and pistachio plants are classified as “drupes”. These produce fruits that are fleshy on the outside and contain a shell covering a seed on the inside. We of course eat the seed. Interestingly peaches, plums, and cherries fall into the same category, but you really shouldn’t eat those seeds. Cheers, Friends of Cocktails!