Even if you love autumn, you may need a little something to help you ease the transition from the heady days of summer. We take inspiration from the French, among others, who have a lovely tradition of apéritifs and snacks called apéro. It’s our version of happy hour (though you’re more likely to see rillettes and pâté than you are nachos and wings).
We couldn’t be more thrilled that best-selling author David Lebovitz, a Chez Panisse alum, has a new book out dedicated to France’s iconic cocktails, apéritifs and café traditions. (He’s got salty snacks in there, too, in a nod to the apéro tradition.) It’s called Drinking French, and it is beautiful.
David was kind enough to share one of his most stunning drink recipes with us. It’s an homage to this time of year, when the fog rolls out, the days shorten, and for many of us, it’s a little harder to step out of bed. Read on for his tales of the autumn and winter markets in Paris, with vendors handing out tastes of clementines and tangerines. This fizzy bourbon cocktail is just the thing to brighten your early evening. It takes advantage of vitamin C-laden, antioxidant-packed winter citrus that is just showing up at American markets now, to boot. Below, David waxes poetic about the drink’s 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).
Reprinted with permission from Drinking French: The Iconic Cocktails, Aperitifs, and Café Traditions of France, with 160 recipes by David Lebovitz 2020. Photographs 2020 by Ed Anderson. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.