Orgeat is an old, old drink, with roots that go all the way back to the Roman Empire. Originally it was a weak barley decoction recommended for the ailing. At some point between then and now, healthy souls started to imbibe it as well, and they dosed the barley broth with sugar, orange flower water and rose water. Someone, perhaps the French, replaced the barley with ground almonds and, in the twentieth century, bartenders started using orgeat syrup to shake up a fruity rum cocktail called a Mai Tai.
Today at the Institute of Domestic Techology, as part of our Saving the Season full-day intensive workshop on stone fruit, we made orgeat syrup from ground almonds, ground apricot kernels, rose geranium and orange flower water. My recipe is adapted from one in Lettice Bryan's 1839 cookbook The Kentucky Housewife. It's a project to undertake, but the students were game, and you simply cannot believe how delicious this stuff is.
At the end of the day, after the students had left, Steve found Trader Vic's Mai Tai recipe online and shook up a pitcher for the Institute faculty to drink, ABOVE, while we plotted our next STS workshop. I've rarely felt so refreshed by a drink.
In case you were wondering, the subject of the next Saving the Season at the Institute of Domestic Technology class is....tomatoes, BELOW. It's happening in early September and will include segments on canning tomatoes, tomato powder, green tomato chutney and bloody marys made with home-made Tabasco-style pepper sauce and brine-fermented dilly beans.
The class is not yet officially posted, but if you'd like to know more, visit the Institute's website and email the director, Joseph Shuldiner, to hold a spot. Tell him I sent you.