If you consider yourself a cocktail aficionado, you’re probably familiar with orgeat (pronounced ohr-zhat) syrup—a staple in Mai Tai and Tiki drinks.
Choosing a replacement for this unique, sweet, nutty syrup may have you stumped if you don’t have any on hand while mixing up your cocktail fiesta.
Since life is too short to miss out on happy hour, we’ve gathered some of the best substitutes for orgeat to have you celebrating in no time. If you like using it in baking and desserts too, you can even make your own orgeat syrup using the homemade orgeat recipe below.
What is Orgeat Syrup?
Orgeat syrup was originally made from a barley and almond blend. The modern version is made from almonds, sugar, and rose water or orange flower water. This gives it a sweet and nutty marzipan-like flavor with floral notes.
It is most well known for its use in cocktails. Since there is a much greater variety of products available today than many years ago, orgeat is no longer as popular for use in baked goods. It can, however, be used in pie fillings, sorbets, and drizzled over fruit.
It is also used as a sweetener for non-alcoholic drinks such as lemonade, fruit punch, coffee, or milkshakes.
Best Orgeat Alternatives
Our top orgeat syrup substitute is almond syrup. It is suitable to use in drinks as a replacement in equal quantities. This almond-flavored sweet syrup brings a nutty taste but lacks the floral notes since it doesn’t include orange flower water.
Since it is already a very sweet product, you don’t need to add any other sweetener to your drinks.
Keep in mind that almond essence and almond syrup are two entirely different products and they are not interchangeable. Using almond extract or essence will overpower anything you are making, lacks the sweetness, and has a much thinner consistency. We discuss more about this option below.
While almond syrup is the closest matching substitute for orgeat syrup, amaretto is one of our favorites due to its versatility. If you keep a bottle of amaretto around, you can use it for alcoholic mixers, in coffee, desserts, savory cooking, and as a drink on its own.
This sweet Italian liqueur can be made from apricot pits, almonds, bitter almonds, or peach stones, all of which provide the natural almond-like flavor component. Since it is a liqueur it contains 21% to 28% ABV.
Amaretto is less sweet with a light hint of bitterness. If you want a closer flavor match, blend equal parts of amaretto with rose water or orange blossom water.
When using it as a replacement, start with only half the amount your cocktail recipe calls for. Adding too much can result in a bitter taste.
Almond extract and almond essence are generally easy to find in the baking section of most grocery stores. This ingredient needs to be used with great caution since it will easily overpower anything it is added to.
The extract and essence have a very similar nutty almond flavor. The main difference between the two is that the extract is a natural product whereas the essence is an artificially produced flavoring. The extract is therefore also somewhat pricier.
The extract or essence are popularly added to baked goods, cakes, and frosting in the same way one would use vanilla essence. Since it has a concentrated almond flavor, you only need a few drops to get a strong almond taste.
When using it as a substitute, you will need to add a sweetener. You can mix a few drops with honey or simple syrup before adding it to your cocktail.
If you are looking for a non-alcoholic replacement for orgeat syrup, orzata syrup is a great choice. It is made of nuts, seeds, barley, and flavored with benzoin resin extract that gives it a flavor similar to almonds. If you don’t like rose water, this Italian syrup is just what you need for your cocktails.
It does have a slightly bitter almond flavor, so add less than your recipe calls for and sweeten to taste.
Crème de Noyaux
This sweet and creamy French product is made from peach pits and cherry kernels which gives it an almond-like taste despite not containing almonds.
It is a suitable replacement for almost any type of syrup which makes it a versatile pantry addition. Replace it in equal amounts in cocktails or even cappuccino.
Although this won’t give you the nutty notes of orgeat, it will give you the orange flavor that comes from the orange flower water. The orange taste will be much more pronounced, but it adds a lovely refreshing pop to almost any cocktail and can also be used in desserts and baked goods.
If you don’t want an overpowering citrus taste to your drink, start by only adding half the recommended amount.
If you don’t make cocktails often and don’t want to buy a whole bottle of special syrup for a once-off, just grab the maple out the pantry for a quick fix.
Maple syrup is an easy-to-find orgeat syrup alternative that is sweet and nutty. It has deeper notes of caramel, prune, and vanilla with a great deal of sweetness. Despite not having the almond flavor, it makes a good substitute with a unique character.
And if you run out of it, there’s always a substitute for maple syrup.
Just like maple, honey is an easy quick fix that you likely already have at home. The flavor of honey can however differ quite considerably depending on the type you have.
If you have the chance to source orange blossom honey, this is the ideal variety, although any variety will give you sweetness and floral notes.
Of course, this versatile ingredient is marvelous for anything from toast and baking to sauces, dressings, marinades, and more. It also pairs well with most other flavors.
If you need something for your cocktails, honey can be used long after happy hour is over so it will never go wasted. It is pretty sweet, so you might want to start with less than your cocktail recipe calls for and add according to taste.
Pomegranate molasses is popular in Middle Eastern cuisine. It is essentially a pomegranate juice reduction. Depending on where you live it might be a little harder to come by and can be on the pricey side. You can, however, make your own by reducing pomegranate juice with a squeeze of lemon juice and optionally add sugar or agave nectar for sweetness.
The original version has a sour taste with just a little sweetness. When adding it to cocktails it brings a bright fresh flavor, but you will only need to add half the quantity in your recipe.
It can also be used in non-alcoholic drinks and many food recipes including salad dressings, meat glazes, cake toppings, and drizzled over fruit salad and ice cream.
Therefore, if you decide to make some and don’t use it all in your cocktails, there will be plenty of other uses for it.
Falernum syrup is popular in the Caribbean and can substitute orgeat in any recipe. The syrup is basically a spicier version of orgeat containing lime, ginger, all-spice, clove, and almond notes.
It is available as an alcoholic and non-alcoholic syrup. The strength and color may vary between brands. It is most popularly used in tropical drinks.
Use ½ to one ounce of falernum in your drink. Shake it well before adding more to ensure you don’t overpower other flavors.
If you can’t find syrup or are looking for a budget-friendly orgeat replacement, grab some fruit juice.
Pineapple juice, for example, can make a great replacement in a Mai Tai since it brings sweetness and acidity. Orange juice, on the other hand, brings the orange notes of orgeat to your drink.
Choose a fruit juice that pairs well with the other flavors in your cocktail for a real fruity refreshing twist.
Can You Make Orgeat Syrup at Home?
Yes! All you need to make orgeat syrup is blanched almonds (skinless almonds) or 100% pure almond flour, sugar, brandy, and orange flower water or rose water.
Easy Homemade Orgeat Syrup Recipe
- 2 cups blanched almonds skinless
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- 1 ¼ cup water
- 1 ounce brandy
- ½ tsp rose water or orange flower water
- Blend two cups of blanched almonds in a food processor until it becomes a fine powder.
- Place 1 ½ cups of sugar and 1 ¼ cups of water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves completely. Let the sugar mixture boil for three minutes.
- Add the almond powder to the dissolved sugar mixture and let it simmer for three more minutes.
- Remove it from the heat and let it infuse for three hours. It is best to keep the mixture covered.
- Strain the almonds through a double layer of cheesecloth.
- Add one ounce of brandy and ½ a teaspoon of rose or orange flower water. Stir the syrup until everything is evenly incorporated.
How to Store Homemade Orgeat
You can keep it in glass or plastic jars, however, you need to ensure that the containers you use have airtight lids. Store the orgeat in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Orgeat may seem like an impossible ingredient to replace, but there are plenty of specialist alternative syrups and pantry staples ingredients you can grab when you’re in a pickle.
Almond syrup and amaretto liqueur are without a doubt our top substitute choices. If you need a quick fix and don’t have time to run to the store, honey or maple syrup can also work well.
Almond extract will add pure almond flavor and is also a good choice if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake.
Always taste the substitute you choose before adding it to your drink to determine the sweetness level and to ensure the flavor profiles match. Happy bar-tending!
Also check our guides on golden syrup replacement, and corn syrup alternatives.
*image by bhofack2/depositphotos