The evening began with sangria and small plates at Dante’s Weird Fish, continued next door with wine tasting from around the world at L’Emigrante, and concluded with our faces pressed against the dark window pane of the Royal Cuckoo grocery store while Alanna waxed rhapsodically about the wonders of orgeat liqueur. Her love of it came from baking at Farallon where Small Hands orgeat was readily, well, on hand — to be added to desserts when not illicitly sipped (I pretended to not be jealous but I couldn’t help myself imaging Alanna raising a snifter of liquor with fellow genius chefs while surrounded by mounds of bread, artfully-formed pastries and succulent produce. In my fantasy everyone is beautiful and dusted in flour and laughing their heads off). The shop was already closed that night, but from there our obvious next step was to throw an orgeat themed cocktail and baking party at my place — which is what we promptly did.
But first things first. Cocktail hour isn’t official unless there’s a selection of salty, tasty nibbles on hand to
fight over share. My favorite snacks right now are the simple ones and I return to them over and over again: a nutty cheese, a creamy cheese, and a pungent cheese — in this case aged Gouda, Humboldt fog goat cheese, and Point Reyes blue. Basic humus spruced up with extra olive oil, lemon and paprika; sweet baguette and gluten free crackers; sliced veggies; marcona almonds; olives. With our hunger at bay we could turn our attention to the star of today’s show…
As this was my first time around orgeat I had to sample it on its own. Made from almonds, the liqueur is sweet, creamy, and nutty. It turns out to be ideal when added to stronger spirits — rounding them out and adding a touch of sweetness. Orgeat is a key ingredient in a certain cocktail invented right here in the bay area (or so the legend goes) and so that’s what we tried our hands at first:
- 1 oz amber Martinique rum
- 1 oz dark Jamaican rum
- 1 oz fresh lime juice
- 1/2 oz orgeat syrup
- 1/2 oz of Cointreau
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into your glass of choice (crushed ice optional).
Garnish with fresh mint (and lime if you’d like).
Float some of the dark rum on top of the cocktail for a layered aesthetic.
Notice anything missing? True story — the original Mai Tai does not call for any pineapple juice. But you know what — it still totally tastes like there’s pineapple in there. Somehow that creamy, sweet nuttiness of the orgeat, once added to alcohol and citrus, magically transforms into pineapple — but in a perfectly balanced, not overly-sweet way. This is not the sugary Mai Tai you might have had in the past. This is refreshing, boozy, and perfect for warm summer days or chilly evenings alike.
I was so thrilled when I saw this image Alanna captured of M. I can’t get this guy in front of the camera myself to save his life. Fortunately I can always get him behind a cocktail shaker — man, do I love having a pro bartender in the house. Here’s some advice he had for us:
- 1 oz of lime juice is approximately 2 small limes or one large lime
- Shake the cocktail ingredients for about the amount of time it takes you to count to 100 in your head
- Add the cheaper ingredients to the shaker first — if you mess up and have to start over you waste less alcohol or liqueur that way, and the alcohol also has less of a chance to water down
You know about Alanna’s blog Bojon Gourmet, right? She’s just the coolest, makes a mean Mai Tai, and is one of our all time favorite photographers/bakers/orange cat lovers over here. I cannot wait to get my hands on her forthcoming book (which may or may not feature a certain rustic metal backdrop belonging to yours truly — OMG. Fingers crossed guys!). It was such a privilage to get to watch her in action behind the camera — if you haven’t checked out her gorgeous work yet you definitely need to get your bojon on. And if you want to see the other orgeat cocktail recipes we shook up this day check out her post on it here. (Special bonus — it includes an orgeat whipped cream recipe. That’s right. Whipped cream with orgeat liqueur. What are you waiting for?)
Are you shaking anything up for Labor Day weekend? Ever tried the original Mai Tai recipe before? Let’s hear all about it in the comments, and until next time let’s stay connected over on instagram, pinterest, or twitter. If you want to stay up with the latest post follow me on bloglovin’ or subscribe to my newsletter — the link is on my home page.
Thank you so for reading
Photos by myself and Alanna Taylor-Tobin