History Of Orgeat Soda.
The earliest record of orgeat soda I can find comes from an April 1, 1891 periodical called “The Pharmaceutical Era.” In a list of Soda syrup flavors sold by B. & C. (Beach & Clarridge), one of them is orgeat soda syrup. Almonds have long been used to flavor drinks, and almond-flavored syrup is typically called orgeat. As I said, this is the earliest use of orgeat soda I can find, but orgeat was already familiar in bars long before this.
The history of orgeat is it began as barley water. Its name comes from the Latin word hordeaceus, which translates to “of barley” or instead made of barley. Over time the barley water became sweeter, and variations emerged. One of these variations is the Spanish tiger nut horchata and the almond orzata/orgeat. The English word orgeat comes from the word orge, Which is French for barley. In parts of northern Africa, “rozata” is an almond drink typically prepared for weddings or special occasions. Most countries along the Mediterranean Sea have some barley/nut drink whose romantic name is derived from the Latin word hordeaceus. Over time, these nut juices were sweetened and concentrated into a syrup that could be used in many different drinks.
The earliest reference to orgeat in the Americas that I can find is from a 1779 newspaper article detailing the goods sold in a shop in Newport, R.I. The particular store owner was a man named Nathan Hart, and he even had orgeat listed under the “Liqueurs” section and not the standard grocery. This shows that orgeat was used in alcoholic drinks even in the 18th century, predating Jerry Thomas’s early use of it by 80 years. Orgeat’s use as a sweetener in American-style alcoholic mixed drinks most likely originated in the late 18th century.
Soda fountains became technologically viable in the 1830s when New Yorker John Matthews invented a lead-lined container to carbonate water with sulfuric acid and calcium carbonate that could easily fit under the counter or behind a bar. Without going too much into the history of soda fountains, Orgeat was most likely first mixed with soda water around the 1860s or 1870s when soda fountains started to boom in popularity. If you want an excellent old-fashioned Orgeat recipe, check mine out.
How To Get A Nice Foam On Your Sodas.
It was typical for high-end sodas in the late 1800s to have a nice foam on top. Similar to high-end molecular gastronomy restaurants today, a nice soda fountain would ensure that some drinks had an air or foam on top as you sipped your drink. The foam provides both a creamy texture and olfactory stimulation. These were called foaming agents, and in the 1800s, soap bark or other extracts were added to syrups to provide foam when shaken and mixed with soda water. A popular one today in the United States is propylene glycol, and while it is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) in the US, it is banned for consumption in the EU. Another modern alternative, and the one I use, is adding lecithin to my syrups. Lecithin is flavor neutral, a natural emulsifier that provides a nice foam, and is often taken as a health supplement. It is also the foaming agent many high-end restaurants use to make foams for food. So I’ll add 0.5% of the total syrups weight of lecithin powder to my syrups as a foaming agent. Check out my orgeat recipe for exactly how that is done.
If you want to learn more about this topic and make your drinks better, check out De Forest Saxe’s 1894 book “Saxe’s New Guide Hints to Soda Water Dispensers. Another book I highly recommend reading is Darcy S. O’Neil’s absolutely fascinating book Fix The Pumps, which covers the history and standard practices of early soda fountains.