Japanese Cocktail

It’s hard to understand how the Japanese Cocktail has slid into obscurity. While you might find it listed in some of the modern cocktail books, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that uses the original recipe from Jerry Thomas’ “Bar Tenders Guide” published in 1887. Properly made the sweet almond flavor of the orgeat balances the brandy and the bitters to present a very enticing drink.

2 oz brandy

1/2 oz orgeat syrup

2 dashes bitters


Stir with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with a lemon twist.


Robert Hess 17 Aug 2007
8:34 am

Every time I have a Japanese cocktail I have to wonder why this drink isn’t more common. One of the great things I like about it for the home mixologist, is that it doesn’t require you to have to have any fresh lemons or limes on hand, and yet it isn’t as “boozy”  as a Martini or Manhattan.

Matt 26 Jan 2008
2:06 pm

I just tried this with grapefruit bitters and this cocktail really sung.

Robert Hess 26 Jan 2008
2:10 pm

“snug”... I assume that’s a good thing :->

Okinawa 10 Feb 2008
8:23 pm

More popular in Japan? Real Japanese drinks are Sake and Awamori :)

Ivana 30 Apr 2009
4:07 am

mmmm just made one… great cocktail!

One question: What is the shelf life of orgeat syrup? Or any other similar flavored syrup? Is it ok to keep it on the shelf? I`ve got Monin orgeat and it says it requires no refrigeration, but it doesn`t say how long can it last after being opened?

Robert Hess 30 Apr 2009
7:35 am

When it “goes bad”, it will be due to obvious bits of mold growing inside of the bottle. The sugar content in the syrup itself will help keep it self stable, many syrups have enough so you don’t need to worry. I keep my syrups on the shelf, but I also often take the safeguard of adding a shot of high-proof vodka to them as well, since the alcohol will also help keep it shelf-stable.

Antoni Baltar 8 Feb 2010
6:50 am

Robert, I’m a big fan of your work and admire your wisdom, but I have to say that I completely desagree with you when you declare: ” One of the great things I like about it for the home mixologist, is that it doesn

Jeff Harrison 6 Mar 2010
12:41 pm

Are you mispronouncing orgeat? I’ve always heard it pronounced OR-zhot except by Stephen Phillips on his “Great Cocktails” show (he says OR-gee-aht).


Robert Hess 6 Mar 2010
4:43 pm

Orgeat is one of those words that for the longest time I only saw in print, and always struggled with how to pronounce it properly, then when I did find pronouciation guides for it, I often found several different ones. or-ZHAY,

The Flying Dutchman 31 Mar 2011
4:45 pm

This is an excellent cocktail. Personally, though, I prefer Mr. Embury’s recipe of 8 parts brandy to 1 part orgeat (2 oz brandy and 1/4 oz orgeat). With this ratio I think the almond flavour is still very noticeable, but not overpowering as in the 4 to 1 (2 oz brandy and 1/2 oz orgeat) that Mr. Hess provides.

That said, this is really a matter of individual taste. My point, then, is that it is good to experiment with different ratios until you find the one you prefer.

Thanks, Mr. Hess, for helping revive this wonderful cocktail!

Steven D. Lauria 14 Mar 2012
1:30 pm

A Japanese delegation visited the United States in 1860, and it seems that it was a pretty big deal…complete for full newspaper coverage and a lot of photographs of samurai. The name of the drink may have been paying homage of sorts to that visit.  Jerry Thomas himself died I understand two years before this, his second book on bartending was pubished in 1887.

8stringfan 19 Oct 2012
4:21 pm

My guess is the type of orgeat must make a big difference in this drink.  I used home-made orgeat that I had made using the recipe at Imbibe and didn’t think much of this drink.  Landys VS cognac is my go-to mixer brandy, and I would have rather just had the cognac by itself.  Basically this just tastes like brandy diluted with some nondescript bittering/souring agent.  I didn’t get much in the way of almond flavors or the orange flower water, or really much of anything from the orgeat.  The lemon twist comes through on the nose and a bit in the flavor, but as a whole, it just tastes like brandy with some strange “off notes”.  Just wondering if the orgeat syrup is perhaps stronger and more concentrated.  Also worth noting that using homemade orgeat produces a completely different appearance; basically instead of the pretty drink you made, I ended up with a chilled coupe of cloudy beige.

Robert Hess 19 Oct 2012
9:53 pm

The type/quality of ANY product can greatly affect a drink. If there is a drink that you heard from good sources is supposed to taste pretty good, and when you make it you aren’t impressed… then either it’s just not a drink you like, or you may be using improper ingredients.

I’d recommend experimenting with some alternate brands/quality to see what you think.


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