Japanese cocktail

IMG_5628This simple mixture of cognac, almonds and lime sounded like an interesting recipe from Harry MacElhone, but it involved making the orgeat syrup first, as my attempts to find a ready-made product suggested they were all a bit disappointing. That may seem like overkill, but I at least have an ingredient now to use in various Tiki-style recipes, as the recipe produces around 250ml of the sweet, almond-flavoured syrup which will last a month or so in the refrigerator.

The story goes that MacElhone invented this drink in honour of a Japanese delegation visiting Paris in the 1920s while he was running his eponymous bar there. The ingredients themselves don’t suggest Japan to me, as my visits to the country have not indicated that there is overwhelming demand for almond or lime flavours; the cognac might have been a nod to the French location of the drink’s birthplace.

I am not quite sure what to make of the finished drink: the combination of cognac and almond syrup is silky enough, but the lime juice is slightly too strong to my taste. Thinking on other lime-based drinks (such as the Margarita), I cannot see why it should jar here, but it does – perhaps its is the cognac-and-lime mix that seems a little harsh. Either way, the drink was not as smooth as I was expecting, and despite the sweetness of the orgeat syrup, the lime has a really attack on the back of the throat. The next time I make one of these, I plan to use a properly Japanese substitute : yuzu juice. This has the required citrus tones, but slightly less attack. I think this will balance the drink better.

Ingredients:

2 ozs cognac

1/2 oz orgeat syrup

1/2 oz lime juice

Dashes of Angostura bitters

Shake the ingredients well with plenty of ice (probably a good time to practice your Japanese shaking technique), then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lime zest.

 

Orgeat syrup

Orgeat1

This almond-flavoured syrup, pronounced¬†orr-zha¬†(as in Zsa Zsa Gabor), crops up in quite few cocktail recipes, especially in the Tiki style (Mai Tai, for example). But I wanted to try a Japanese cocktail, invented by Harry MacElhone back when he ran Harry’s American Bar in the 1920s (the recipe has no particularly Japanese ingredients, but was supposedly developed to honour a Japanese delegation, visiting Paris at the time). But my online research suggested that most modern commercial versions are just sugar syrup with almond flavouring, and as a result, a bit disappointing.

In the spirit of MacElhone’s original I wanted to make my own, so I found recipes to make syrup from almonds and sugar, with the addition of some vodka and orange blossom water. The recipe I used came from the Serious Eats website, so it is only fair I direct you to them for the ingredients & method. The process will only take an hour or so, plus some overnight cooling & steeping of the almond and sugar mixture, but be warned, it is a sticky business. I used blanched almonds to get a paler syrup, but you can use skin-on almonds for a darker result (and possibly more flavour). I used the orange blossom water option (you can use rosewater, but I don’t like its perfume-y overtones).

I found the final results missed the hit of bitter almonds I was expecting, so if I made it again, I would add a quantity of good quality natural almond essence, and the ratio of sugar-to-water produces a very sweet liquid, so I would reduce the sugar as well.

As most recipes that use the syrup call for a single measure or less, the small bottle produced by the recipe will certainly last the month suggested for storage, unless you are planning a Tiki party.