Few ingredients add brightness to even the dullest winter days more efficiently than citrus. Make fresh tangerine the central ingredient of an evening cocktail and you can most certainly put even the darkest day behind you. Citrus inspiration recently came to us from Paris-based food writer and Chez Panisse alum David Lebovitz. His newest book, Drinking French, is dedicated to France’s iconic cocktails, apéritifs and café traditions.
Though we’ve tried (and loved!) many of the drinks from the pages of his book, the bourbon and fresh tangerine Voilà (recipe below) is the one we’re sipping this month. It’s an homage to this time of year when the clouds roll in, the days shorten, and for many of us, it’s a little harder to step out of bed. This bubbly bourbon cocktail is just the thing (et voila!) to brighten any wintry mood. Read on for David’s introduction to its “happy” charms.
Coming from California, I wasn’t quite prepared for winter in Paris. From mid-November through March, the city slips into darkness, with short days (and frosty-cold weather) providing fewer reasons to linger outside. Parisians fall into a collective funk as the unrelenting gray skies just don’t seem to want to budge. What keeps everyone upbeat are the piles of sunny clementines and tangerines at the markets.
Market vendors in Paris don’t normally hand out samples, but clementines are the exception, and sellers peel them open and offer a taste. Because the French are discerning shoppers, some try one and move on to the next stand, while others like what they taste and fill a bag.
It’s impossible not to be happy if you have a bowl of bright orange clementines with shiny green leaves attached to the stems. When I gaze over at the pile of them in my kitchen—my low-tech version of one of those therapeutic “happy” lamps—voilà, I’m instantly cheered up. This drink, with a double dose of tangerine, has the same effect.
- 2 ounces (60ml) bourbon whiskey
- 1 1/2 ounces (45ml) freshly squeezed tangerine juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Spiced Tangerine Syrup (see below) or simple syrup
- 1 dash Angostura aromatic bitters
- Splash of champagne or dry sparkling wine, such as crémant (optional)
- Orange wheel, for garnish
Spiced Tangerine Syrup
- 2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/3 cup (65g) sugar
- Zest of 1 tangerine
- 1/2 cup (125ml) freshly squeezed tangerine juice
Add the bourbon, tangerine juice, spiced tangerine syrup, and Angostura bitters to a cocktail shaker. Put a handful of ice in a short tumbler or rocks glass. Fill the cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into the glass and top with champagne, if desired. Garnish with the orange wheel.
Spiced Tangerine Syrup
Lightly crush the Sichuan and black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or in a ziptop freezer bag with a hammer or rolling pin. Warm the peppercorns in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they smell fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar, then stir in the tangerine zest and juice. Warm the mixture over medium-high heat until it just begins to boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours. Rewarm the syrup, then strain it through a mesh strainer set over a small bowl, pressing on the peppercorns and zest with a flexible silicone spatula to extract as much flavor as you can. Pour the syrup into a clean jar. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Makes 1/2 cup (125ml).