When I was asked to sample Mandarine Napoléan liqueur, I thought of how much I’ve always loved Mandarin oranges; and by Mandarin oranges I mean those little segments that come in a can. While I can’t think of one other fruit that I buy by the can, I can’t deny I’ll still stock several cans in my cupboards and I’ve had no problem eating the entire thing. Have I had them fresh? I’m not even sure. I’d had clementine oranges but I honestly couldn’t recall buying something labeled Mandarin oranges. So I decided it was time to do some research to find out more about Mandarin oranges.
Easier said than done! The terms “mandarin orange” and “tangerine” are often used interchangeably, particularly outside the United States. This can be confusing, because although a tangerine is a mandarin orange, not all mandarin oranges are tangerine. All so much clearer now right? NOT. So I dug further and according to Wikipedia “Mandarin oranges” is a term that applies to an entire group of citrus fruits. This group, botanically classified as Citrus reticulata, includes such varieties as Satsuma, Clementine, Dancy, Honey, Pixie, and tangerines in general. Most are sweeter than their other citrus cousins (yet there are some tart varieties), have a bright orange skin that is easy to peel, and inner segments that are easily separated. There are seeded and seedless varieties.
According to me I just know I love them and now I also know I have eaten fresh Mandarin oranges! Another fact I now know. That convenient little can of oranges is so nicely free of pith and strings through the miracle of LYE. Yikes! So, guess I won’t be buying them canned anymore but knowing that a tangerine or a clementine is the same thing will see my next Mandarin Orange Salad be even better with fresh segments!
A lot of liqueurs over the years have been associated with royalty; their financial ability to purchase sugar made all the difference; regular folks could only afford straight liquor. However, often those associations are in name only but not here. It seems that Napoleon’s director-general of instruction, a Docteur Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy had a bit of the amateur mixologist in him. He had the brilliant idea to soak mandarin oranges in alcohol, then blend the infusion with cognac. This proved to be a popular beverage with the young ruler of France, so much so that in 1892 (over 70 years after Napoleon passed away in exile on the isle of St. Helena) the same formula that he loved was finally made available to the public.
Mandarine Napoléon is from a distillery in Biercée, Belgium. While the recipe is a secret, what is known is that it’s a mixture of aged cognac, mandarin orange peel, herbs and spices. The scent is of fresh squeezed oranges but with obvious notes of spices. A slight bitter edge cuts the sweetest typical of most liqueurs with their high sugar content. We loved it in this cocktail and I can imagine it well suited for other recipes that call for triple sec.
I’m not certain all of this knowledge made a big difference in this cocktail but once curiosity got the best of me I had to know. Though this gorgeous liqueur can be served cold and simply straight up, I imagined that serving it in a cocktail that combined fruits of the season would be a great addition to a holiday lineup. Named after Napoléon Bonaparte’s famous battle horse Marengo, the combination of ingredients has a bit of a citrus kick and is sure to be a lively addition to your holiday festivities. To be honest, mine had a SUPER kick. I bought unsweetened cranberry juice at Sprouts but did not realize that fact until after I had made and tasted this cocktail. I fear my mouth will now be frozen forever in a giant pucker! The good news? Unwilling to make and wait for simple syrup to cool, I decided to use some Agave Nectar instead. I think I’ve just discovered a great new tool for my cocktail arsenal; using unsweetened juice and agave nectar allows you to sweeten to your taste and I think that’s a huge plus.
The end result was bright, beautiful and perfect for the holidays!
Mandarine Napoléon’s Marengo’s Punch
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 Cocktails
- 4 oz Mandarine Napoléon
- 3 oz Cranberry Juice, unsweetened
- 2 oz Orange Juice
- 1 oz Lemon Juice
- 3-4 Dashes of Bitters
- 1-2 Tbsp of Agave Nectar to taste (if using sweetened cranberry juice, omit the Agave Nectar) For Garnish:
- Orange wheels and cinnamon sticks
- Chill glasses in freezer. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice add all ingredients and stir well.
- Put orange and cinnamon garnish in glasses and fill with ice.
- Pour cocktail mixture into glasses and serve.
To fill a punch bowl; multiply recipe by 6.
This recipe brought to you by Creative Culinary | A Food and Cocktail Blog | Website: www.creative-culinary.com
I was provided with a sample bottle of Mandarine Napoléon however all commentary is my own.
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