A surprising number of nut-flavored syrups are out there. I've tried several—at coffee shops and at home—to see what works best in different types of hot drinks. Some are better in lattes, others in tea. Here are six recommended flavors.
Recommended flavors: Hazelnut and Toffee-Nut; starbucksstore.com
While some syrups can be overwhelmingly sweet, the Starbucks Hazelnut have an understated flavor that won't eclipse the taste of your espresso (or espresso-based drink). It wasn't as hazelnutty as I would have liked, so I asked the barista for a little extra. Starbucks hazelnut is best if you're looking for mild sweetness.
Starbucks' Toffee-Nut syrup added a strong note of caramel—it was smooth and melty, reminiscent of nut brittle. It did have a slightly bitter aftertaste but, again, wasn't too sweet.
Recommended flavors: Almond Roca, Butter Pecan, and Orgeat;
Torani's Almond Roca syrup, inspired by the famous eponymous candy, offered a light, sweet almond taste that was a bit intense for hot coffee. But added to iced coffee with some half-and-half, it was much better. Maybe the cold temp of the iced coffee cut down on my tastebuds' sensitivity to sweetness?
My favorite Torani syrup in hot coffee was the Butter Pecan. Something about butter pecan's flavor is always warming, and this syrup was nutty and not too sweet. It made me feel homey and relaxed. I wanted to get up from my desk and sink into a sofa with a good book while drinking it.
Orgeat (pronounced or-zat) is the secret ingredient in Mai Tai and Momisette cocktails. It's another kind of almond syrup, sweetened with orange flower water. It's not great in coffee, hot or iced. Tea, on the other hand, it was brilliant! The blend of citrus and almond gave our cuppa a desserty kick.
Recommended flavors: Macadamia Nut; davinci.com
You're more likely to find the DaVinci flavored syrups at smaller, independent coffee shops. I tried their Macadamia syrup in a latte. Macadamia nuts have a very particular, delicately nutty top note which morphs into a rich, buttery, fatty flavor, and this syrup embodied all that, especially with steamed milk. Definitely recommended in a latte.
Got any favorite nutty syrups? Any from-scratch recipes?
About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods
made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.