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Almond extracts can apparently be based on a base oil or on alcohol - what's the functional difference?

I was making some almond biscuits (cookies) the other day, decorated with a little almond icing. The icing was just glacé icing using a little almond extract as well as water. I was supposed to mix the two liquids together, and was surprised to find they were immiscible. Checking the bottle it turned out to be based on oil, not the more common approach based on alcohol (I actually have a bottle of the latter as well). It wasn't that I'd accidentally bought a deliberately alcohol-free product. The icing turned out fine, and the leftovers were evenly almond-flavoured.

To put it another way, is there a reason to choose one base, oil or alcohol, over the other for a user who doesn't avoid traces of alcohol? What about for the manufacturer?

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It depends on how much you're going to use and for which application. Almond extract is basically bitter almond oil cut with something - alcohol and water for the alcohol extract, other neutral-flavored oil (in your case, canola / rapeseed), or water and glycerin (like this one)

The main issue with the oil based version is that it is... well, oil. So it doesn't play well with some applications of almond extract that are mostly water-based like cocktails, cordials, coffee flavoring (if standalone. If used as ingredient for homemade coffee creamer, that is not an issue). For this type of use, the best option is the alcohol-based extract or water+glycerin if looking for an alcohol-free option

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  • Is there any case where you should avoid the alcohol version and use oil instead?
    – Kat
    Oct 25 at 15:52
  • @Kat it depends on how much you're going to use - I wouldn't use large quantities of the alcohol one in straight-up chocolate (can make it seize) Oct 26 at 6:24

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