Orange liqueurs are a staple of cocktails everywhere, from a brandy Sidecar to a classic Margarita. And there’s a place on our liquor shelf for all of them. But the Belgian-made, Cognac-based Mandarine Napoléon is its own creature. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, given the name of the liqueur, but Mandarine Napoléon is distinctly, well, mandarin, in both taste and aroma. It’s unmistakable, which makes it a lot of fun in cocktails. And since mandarin oranges are much easier to find in the winter, it’s a perfect time to start playing with mandarin liqueur in cocktails. Give these three a try.
Easy: Mandarin and Bourbon
When you start with a great liqueur, sometimes all you need for a perfect cocktail is a supporting spirit. (And maybe a dash of bitters.) Combining bourbon and Mandarine Napoléon in the right proportions gives you a rich and strongly mandarin-scented sipper, while bitters and just a bit of sugar balance it out in the manner of an Old Fashioned. Don’t skip the garnish.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine an ounce of bourbon, an ounce of Mandarine Napoléon, two dashes of Angostura bitters and a dash of orange bitters, and a quarter-ounce of raw sugar syrup (that’s just Sugar in the Raw or a similar brand, dissolved in an equal part hot water). Stir until very well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice (or, even better, one large ice cube). Garnish with a mandarin orange peel.
Intermediate: Mandarin and Screwdriver
A standard Screwdriver—orange juice and vodka—isn’t exactly the most inspired drink. But swap orange juice out for fresh mandarin, then dial up the flavor with mandarin liqueur, and you’ve got a far better cocktail, juicy and incredibly drinkable but not at all too sweet. Put a pitcher on the table at your next brunch party.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of vodka, half an ounce of Mandarine Napoléon, an ounce of fresh mandarin orange juice, and half an ounce of simple syrup. Shake until very well-chilled and strain into a tall glass with fresh ice. Top with two ounces of club soda and stir briefly. Garnish with a few mandarin slices and a straw.
Advanced: La Mandarina
You’ll find orange liqueur in any classic margarita. But we have a little more fun with the mandarin version. As with every margarita, you’ll want fresh lime juice, but here we’re adding in fresh mandarin juice, too. Brighter and refreshing, these go down awfully easy.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce and a half of blanco tequila, 3/4 ounce Mandarine Napoléon, 3/4 ounce fresh mandarin orange juice, half an ounce of fresh lime juice and half an ounce of agave syrup (that’s just agave nectar, cut 1:1 with hot water, stirred until dissolved). Shake that all up, strain it into a rocks glass with fresh ice and garnish with a few mandarin slices and a lime wheel.
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