So you decide to make yourself a mai tai. You’re going down the list of ingredients and you see orgeat.
Orgeat? O great! Where am I going to get that? What is it, anyway? Some kind of orangeade? How do you make or get a thing like that anyways? It barely makes sense. What do you have to do, garrote an ogre at an orgy with a Tuareg toe-rag? How do you even say it? It almost makes you want to rage…
But of course you probably found your mai tai recipe online, and you can very quickly find out online what orgeat is too. And, fittingly for something that looks like orangeade (the name does – not the actual thing), it gets its name from barley and is flavoured with almonds.
Ah-yep. Barley in French is orge, from Latin hordeum by way of Occitan (a language of the south of France). Originally the beverage was simple barley water, but its flavour was improved with almonds and sugar. And it turns out that the barley doesn’t really add much of anything to it, so usually now it’s just made with almonds, and perhaps a bit of rose water – or maybe a little orange flower water. In its current form, it’s a syrup with much almond oil, and it makes an emulsion in water. (But it beats the heck out of “almond milk,” which tastes like Play-Doh.)
So, just to run through that again, you’re making a tropical cocktail with rum and orange juice, plus lime and curaçao, and it calls for an ingredient that has a strange name, French as it turns out, a name that looks a bit reminiscent of orange but is named after barley but the barley was supplemented, and then supplanted, by almonds. Why have a cocktail now? Your head is probably already spinning. And of course you could sub in almond extract, but wouldn’t you regret it at least a bit?
Oh, and if you’re wondering how it’s pronounced, well, you could say it in the anglicized “orgy at” way, but really, it’s like a snip from “Eva or Zsa Zsa Gabor,” or perhaps like Borgia without the B, at least the way some people say it.