I don’t recall precisely when I first had an Italian soda. I know it was in San Francisco, shortly after getting a haircut. I also know I ordered an almond soda, and was intrigued by the oddly labeled syrup: “Orgeat.” I don’t order Italian sodas much these days, but if I did, orgeat would still be my flavor of choice.
Orgeat syrup seems a curious survivor of years past. It was originally made of barley rather than almonds—orge being French for barley—and, according to the Art of Drink, it was often used in place of milk in the days before refrigeration. Today, it is mostly used in the aforementioned Italian sodas and in Mai Tais.
Seeing the many locally grown walnuts, this winter, inspired me to attempt a walnut syrup along the lines of orgeat. Sweet walnut concoctions—like my favorite Baskin Robbins’ flavor, Black Walnut—really do it for me, and the idea of making walnut cocktails really floats my boat. I bought my walnuts at the Davis Farmers’ Market from McDonald Orchards, in the Capay Valley.
I followed the Art of Drink recipe, though I cut the portions in half, and arrived at a very nice walnut orgeat. I have previously made this recipe with almonds, and I feel like the walnut flavor is slightly less powerful than the almond. In the future, I’d like to try this with a greater quantity of walnuts and brown instead of white sugar.
Making orgeat is not terribly exciting visually, but I do have a few shots from the process.