Cloudy white, it looks similar to ouzo, but tastes nothing like it. This non-alcoholic drink made from almonds is sweet, and as popular with kids as with adults. Versions of the flowery beverage go by other names in different parts of the world (such as the Spanish horchata), but Greek producers trace its origins back to ancient times, to Byzantium.
A type of cordial, it is similar to orgeat syrup, and can with great success be mixed into some tiki-Greek fusion cocktails. However, it’s most commonly enjoyed in Greece (and especially on the islands of Crete, Chios and Nisyros) on its own during big celebrations, like weddings and baptisms.
The recipe below makes for 1 liter of syrup. Once mixed, it will give you at least 4 liters of soumada – enough to serve a large group of guests.
Blanch the almonds and bitter almonds (if using) in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove one almond from the pot and try peeling it. If the peel comes off easily, strain the rest, and place them all on a clean tea towel.
While they’re still warm, rub the almonds in the tea towel until the peels come off.
Rinse the almonds and pour them into a food processor. Pulse until they’re as fine as possible, and have turned into a paste.
Empty into a bowl, add 200 milliliters of the water, and stir.
Place cheesecloth in a bowl, and pour the almond water into it. Grabbing the edges of the cloth, wrap up the almonds and squeeze to press all the “almond milk” from it, into the bowl.
Return the cheesecloth to the bowl and open it up, add another 200 milliliters of water and repeat the process, straining and pressing all the almond milk through the cloth.
Pour the milk into a large pot, add the remaining 400 milliliters of water and the sugar, and place over medium heat.
Stir continuously as the mixture will rise as it heats, being careful not to let it boil over. Lower the temperature if needed. Remove the froth using a slotted spoon.
Cook until a thick syrup has formed.
Remove from the heat and let the syrup cool, then add the orange flower water.
Pour into glass bottles and store in the fridge (it can also be stored at room temperature, but will last longer in the fridge).
To serve your soumada, mix 1 part of syrup with 3-4 parts flat or sparkling water. Serve with ice, if preferred.
This article was previously published in Greek at gastronomos.gr.
200 g almonds, raw and unsalted with their peel
5-6 bitter almonds (or, alternatively, a few drops of bitter almond flavoring essence)
1/2 kg sugar
800 ml water
1/4 teacup orange flower water