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Thankfully, we are over that brief period of the year when the only fruits at the market are apples and pears, with a few persimmons and quince thrown in for good measure. I like those fruits very much but as winter descends and the skies turn grey (and stay that way) for the next few months, nothing brightens things up like a bowl of tangerines in my kitchen.

I stockpile them at the market, and always come home with at least a dozen, if not more. Many get eaten for dessert as-is and it’s typical in France, in the winter, after dinner to offer a bowl of clementines either for dessert, or after. However I’ll often sneak in a few prior to the meal, like in this sunny, citrusy Le Soleil cocktail.

With a triple dose of citrus, it’s a very refreshing apéro, courtesy of fresh tangerine juice, spiced tangerine syrup, and a shot of orange-based liqueur, such as Lillet or triple sec. If you have Grand Marnier or Cointreau lurking in your liquor cabinet, one of those can fill in for the triple sec.

Le Soleil cocktail

I like to add a quick pour of sparkling water to "finish" the drink, which gives it a nice fizz, or use dry sparkling wine, such as crémant, cava, or champagne. Other options that'll work include sparkling apple cider, ginger beer (or ale), or tonic water. You can also leave it out.
If you'd like to make the drink a little more frosty, you can shake the ingredients (except for the sparkling water or wine) in a cocktail shaker over ice for about 10-15 seconds, to get it cold, then pour it into the glass.
Course Drinks
Servings 1 cocktail
  • 1 ounce spiced tangerine syrup, (see below)
  • 1 1/2 ounces Lillet blanc or 1 ounce good-quality triple sec
  • 1 1/2 ounces gin
  • 1 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed tangerine juice
  • sparkling water or dry sparkling wine
  • tangerine wheel, for garnish
  • tiny pinch ground allspice or nutmeg, for garnish
  • Mix the spiced tangerine syrup, Lillet or triple sec, gin, and tangerine juice together in a short tumbler or rocks glass.
  • Add ice, garnish with tangerine wheel, and add a splash of sparkling water or wine. Dust the top with very small pinch of allspice, or a barely-there dusting of nutmeg.

Notes

To make the spiced tangerine syrup (adapted from Drinking French), lightly crush 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns and 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns. Put them in a saucepan and toast them in the pan over medium-high heat, shaking the pan frequently, until they smell fragrant. Turn off the heat, add 1/3 cup (65g) sugar, grated zest of one tangerine, and 1/2 cup (125ml) tangerine juice to the pan. Warm the mixture until it just comes to a boil then turn it off, cover, and let steep at room temperature for 4 hours. 
Rewarm the syrup briefly then strain into a clean jar. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
(Feel free to use different spices or seasonings, such as allspice berries, a cinnamon stick, cloves, and/or slices fresh ginger slices.)
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29 comments

    • Darad

    Where is the recipe for the tangerine syrup?

      • Patty unterman

      Maybe David had one too many Le Soleil cocktails!

    • Diana

    Yes, I came here to ask as well. The quantities of sugar, zest and tangerine juice seem to be missing….

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Darad and Diana, Hmmm…that was odd. I think the recipe plug-in stripped them out (perhaps because they were sub-recipe?) I added them back in, using a different format and I see they are showing up now.

      • Stephanie Watt

      Hi!! I’m excited to try this drink! Where I live I can’t find tangerines anymore. All that seems to be available are clementines. I read that clementines are sweeter than tangerines. How do you think clementines would work in this recipe? Thanks!

        • David
        David Lebovitz

        Yes, clementines (and their juice) would work great.

      • Diana

      Lovely, thank you!

      • Stephanie Watt

      Hi. This cocktail sounds great! Where I live tangerines don’t seem to be available, however clementines are. What do you think about using clementines for this drink?

    • Dimitri

    Damn, this article sent me down a mini rabbit hole. I discovered that Mandarins, Tangerines, Clementines and Satsumas are all slightly different fruits! :-)

    • Angela

    Having just bought some mandarines de corse, I was going to look in my Drinking French book to see if there was a cocktail for them, and viola! This post made me think of the long car journey from the UK to Provence where I live when you see the sign at Lyon that you are on the autoroute du soleil, and you know you’re nearly home!

    • Angela

    Clementines de Corse!

    • Suzanne Femmer

    Hello, I am assuming that the Sichuan peppercorns have capsaicin in them. I am allergic to that so I thought I would try the different spices that you recommended. Which do you think would pair better with this drink – cloves and ginger or cloves and cinnamon? Or maybe I should try both?

    Thanks for your time –

    Suzanne

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I tend to like it more zippy so would go with cloves and ginger, or try some allspice!

      • Karen

      Szechuan” peppercorns” are NOT actually peppercorns.. .so I doubt if they contain capsaicin.

      • Solel

      Capsaicin is not in peppercorns, it is in hot peppers like chilis and jalapeños. Black pepper and other peppercorn seeds, are a totally different species, in which piperine is the active compound.

        • Suzanne Femmer

        The name Szechuan had me wondering if it was a true peppercorn. I had never heard of it before. I have a very painful and serious reaction to the least amount of capsaicin.

    • Suzanne Femmer

    Thanks! I will try that. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

    • Shashi

    Cold days and nights leave me craving citrus – and I’m not one to complain when citrus presents itself on the boozy side! Your photos are so gorgeous, David!

    • Frannie

    This is just what we need. And I had just said I was not going back to the market this week. Oh well :)

    • Susan

    We made this for our 2 person Thanksgiving (missing our usual family and friends this year) and it was the perfect sunny drink to cheer us up. Thank you!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Glad to hear it brightened up your holidays a little bit! :)

    • Lisa

    Here in Northern California, mandarins are everywhere, and I get to trade some of my Meyer Lemons for them, so lucky me! Now I’m off to get the peppercorns, and I’ll have a new drink for the ‘winter’.

    • Ben

    You have truly outdone yourself with this drink, David. The full orange / tangerine flavor was wonderful. I used homemade orancello for the triple sec (which I would highly recommend making–it’s more versatile than limoncello and truly concentrates the essence of orange) and was fortunate enough to have San Pellegrino tangerine fizzy water on hand to top it off. Sadly, I dropped and spilled the jar of tangerine syrup as I was trying to return it to our overcrowded fridge, but the drink was so good that I plan on making more today (and being more careful).

    • Polly Hogan

    This is exactly what one needs right now – a kiss of french sunshine!
    I created a drink “Il sole” this last spring using splash Campari and simliar ingredients (apart from your tangerine syrup) and am excited to try your creation! Thank you for sharing!

    • Andrea S (tirednavydrmom)

    Very yummy! I used Lillet Blanc and Barr Hill Gin from vermont. We will definitely make again.

    • Caitlin

    This drink immediately appealed to me based on the flavors, but I knew the given proportions would be too sweet for me. I tried a couple of iterations, and have been very happy with it using 2 oz gin, 1 oz each tangerine juice and Lillet Blanc, and .5 oz of the syrup (made with Sichuan and black peppercorns). A dash of Angostura bitters is nice in it, too! I always have Lillet around, so I’ll likely be drinking these as long as tangerines/mandarins are in season.

    • Ben

    I realized today, after buying the other ingredients for this, that I was out of Szechuan peppercorns. I made it using 2 t. of allspice berries + 1/2 t. black pepper instead. I would not recommend this. The allspice so dominated I barely tasted orange or gin. Szechuan peppercorns play phenomenally well with the other flavors (see my previous comment–I have made this drink for friends and gotten compliments every time), and I plan on buying some and remaking the syrup. If anyone plans to make this with alternate spices, I’d advise less than 2 t. or mixing different ones. I plan on using the allspice syrup in drinks calling for falernum (e.g. Charteuse swizzle), which should be fun.

A

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