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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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orgeat a beverage which was originally made from barley (Latin hordium, whence Provençal ordi for the cereal and orji for the drink) and later from almonds.

C. Anne Wilson (1973) has described the sequence of drinks thus, starting with the thin drink of barley with pure warm water which Anthimus, in the 6th century ad, recommended for fever patients.

The later medieval version in France had the name tisane, was sweetened with sugar and seasoned with licorice and sometimes also figs. Adapted for English use it more often comprised barley boiled in water with licorice, herbs and raisins. It was still a licorice-flavoured drink in the first part of the seventeenth century, but soon afterwards was brought up to date by the substitution of lemon juice for licorice.

Another variant of barley water in France, called orgemonde, was flavoured with ground almonds. This too reached England during the seventeenth century, its name softening to ‘orgeat’ or ‘ozyat’. Subsequently the barley dropped out, and English ozyat was made from ground almonds and sugar with orange-flower water or the juice of citrus fruits boiled with spring water. It was a cold drink similar to lemonade. Milk ozyat was boiled, spiced milk, cooled and mixed with ground almonds; and special ozyat glasses with handles were designed to serve it in.