The surprisingly refreshing and creamy cocktail that features tahini

Elliot TG
6 min readMar 9, 2021


Given my love for tahini, it’s only natural that I would find some elaborate ways to use it. Figuring out this inimitable cocktail was a multi-step process, and I had to experiment before it was ready to be shared with the world. When I make drinks for myself, I’m not nearly as discerning as when I want to share them. And I’m definitely not a pro putting drinks on a menu and serving them to customers. However, after learning about a fundamental, classic cocktail ingredient and experimenting with a few variations, I was ready to put this to the test.

When my dad’s 66th birthday was approaching, my mom wanted to do a remote cocktail-making party. I knew I had to try to pin down this exact recipe, from top to bottom, and get it ready for the family to try. My family is familiar with my love for tahini, and they have come to love making hummus and using premium sesame paste almost as regularly as I do. But they don’t always adhere to my exacting standards — buying only Israeli/Palestinian tahini (tehina). That’s okay, there are some other brands that would work, but it was the first hurdle. The next hurdle was getting the exact measurement and process right so that I could walk them through it (and you, my lucky reader) and make sure the mix tasted as good for them as it does for me.

I first had a cocktail that featured tahini in Tel Aviv. A decent cocktail bar in a pretty nice part of town served a drink with lemon, vodka, honey/syrup and a very thin tahini mixture. I ordered it once then convinced the bartender to let me take a video of him making it again, and that was it. I had finally seen someone use refined sesame paste in a cocktail, but I had very little information other than that. I may have experimented here and there with adding some thinned out, watery tahini to a drink, but nothing comprehensive. Until almost 2 years later when I learned about an important component of cocktail history that I was unfamiliar with…

Traditionally, orgeat (pronounced ohr-jah or ohr-jaht) is an almond syrup and it’s most famous as a core element in the quintessential Mai Tai. Now, a Mai Tai is a classic Tiki cocktail, but it’s not easily found any more except in bars that know how to mix drinks. I’ve only had a few in my time. Regardless, I still didn’t know what orgeat was until I had it in a unique cocktail, an Everything Bagel Manhattan at the Broken Shaker in Chicago. This eccentric drink was simple and elegant, and featured a black sesame orgeat. For the everything bagel lovers out there, it was also rimmed with that important seasoning. From there, you would think it was a clear next step. I mean, I had just had a sesame orgeat, it’s obvious right? Sesame, syrup, boom. But no, it wasn’t until a year later that I started messing around with combining nuts/seeds and sugar with my cocktails.

Of course, it was during the pandemic, when I had plenty of time on my hands, and, well, a lot of cocktail experiments. I finally decided to dive in and find out more about orgeat to see what it was all about. It turns out it has 3 classic ingredients: almonds, syrup, and orange blossom water. Nowadays, it’s been modified to use other ingredients like walnuts, and of course, sesame. The Middle Eastern ingredient shopper that I am, I had orange blossom water on hand. You may not, but it’s easy to find at any Middle East market, replace with another ingredient, or you can leave it out altogether. And there are a zillion ways to make orgeat, including with almond milk instead of raw almonds. By the time I saw multiple recipes for a sesame (e.g. black sesame for its color) variation, I knew I was closing in on a tahini cocktail worthy of my time and energy.

So here I was, face to face with a sesame orgeat recipe, realizing that my premium Israeli/Palestinian tehina, refined from the finest Ethiopian sesame seeds, would yield a superior nut syrup for a delicious and distinctive cocktail. So, one late night, I did it, I put some syrup, tahini, orange blossom water in a jar, and strained it. Guess what? It was delectable. It had the additional benefit of both making a thin liquid for cocktails and leaving behind a creamy paste that was sweet and spreadable. A few days later I made a black sesame and a walnut variation as well. The hardest part was getting the multiple containers organized. Jars and bottles to mix in and strain into. But, frankly, using raw tahini paste instead of cooking whole nuts or seeds actually makes the process even easier. So, there I had it, tahini orgeat. Now I had to mix it.

Choosing the right liquor wasn’t too hard, my go-to drinks are bourbon or rye based, and often feature sweet and dry vermouth (P.S. if you have those ingredients and haven’t had a Perfect Manhattan, go make one now, it’s super easy). Suffice it to say my next few choices were pretty straightforward: bourbon, dry vermouth and the orgeat. But there was one more step I had to add to take this up a notch, adding aquafaba, also known as chickpea liquid.

Results (From an adoring fan)

In case you think I’m going over the top with the aquafaba, I still think this is necessary to balance this cocktail, otherwise it is a bit too thick, it needs some texture to give it complexity and balance out the sweetness. Aquafaba has the additional excitement of bringing chickpeas (kind of) to tahini, much like hummus. Weird, I know. Get over it. If you haven’t used aquafaba, which is the liquid from prepared chickpeas, let me be the first to tell you: you have nothing to worry about. No weird flavors, just perfect creamy foam. It’s just like using egg whites in a cocktail, but without the mess of the egg, and it’s vegan! Needless to say, I was delighted when this addition yielded a delicious, complex and refreshing drink that I could share with family, friends and you!

So, without further ado, I present the Tahini 66, finalized for my old man’s 66th birthday! Please enjoy!

Tahini 66

  • 1.5oz bourbon
  • 1oz dry vermouth
  • 1.5oz tahini orgeat*
  • 1oz aquafaba (Aquafaba is the liquid from prepared chickpeas, you can roast the chickpeas separately for a bar snack!)
  • 1 dash of Angostura bitters
  1. Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker with a cup of ice
  2. With a firm grip on top and bottom, shake 30 seconds
  3. Set down and carefully remove top, there may be a slight pop so don’t drop the shaker
  4. Strain into a coupé or rocks glass, let settle for 30 seconds
  5. Add dash of bitters on top for color and aroma

Tahini Orgeat

  • 4 tbsp tahini (Israeli/Palestinian brands recommended)
  • 8 tbsp water
  • 4 tbsp syrup (such as demerara or turbinado syrup, make it yourself by boiling equal parts sugar and water)
  • ¼ tsp orange blossom water or zest of ½ orange
  • Vodka (optional)
  • Cheesecloth
  • Strainer
  1. Add tahini, water, syrup, and orange blossom water to a sturdy container and stir/mix until the ingredients make a thin, cloudy liquid. May need to add water or tahini to get the right mix.
  2. Pour through cheesecloth and strainer, through funnel into a measuring cup
  3. Squeeze cheesecloth to get all liquid out (reserve the “halva icing”)
  4. Optional: Use a spoon to scrape the “halva icing” into a separate container to spread on cookies, toast, sweet crackers, digestives, etc­­.
  5. Strain again if necessary
  6. Add .5oz vodka as preservative

The orgeat should keep for a few weeks if you included the vodka, otherwise use it within a week.



Elliot TG

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