Was Napoleon an orange liqueur man? My sources say he drank Burgundy and Cognac — like a good Frenchman should — so how would he feel about an orange liqueur being sold in his name? Well, guess what: This liqueur was made especially for Napoleon Bonaparte, and wasn’t offered to sale to the public until 1892.
Mandarine Napoleon is essentially a Grand Marnier clone, though Marnier is a blend of straight orange liqueur and Cognac, Napoleon uses mandarins (hence the name). The mandarins used are sourced from Sicily and Corsica. The Cognac used is a 10-year-old edition, which is quite aged and which, I would imagine, is used sparingly in the blend due to its relative cost. Artificial color is used to give it a deeper orange character.
The nose is pure tangerine, undercut with alcohol notes — understandable since this is bottled at 76 proof. On the body, more sweet citrus, with a rich, lightly oxidized body. Spices including cinnamon, licorice, and cloves, with plenty of sugar to sweeten the pot. The brandy mellows and enriches the concoction, giving it a warming, woody, and more exotic flavor. The body is a bit on the syrupy side — common for orange liqueurs — but it isn’t cloying. The finish is of course quite sweet, and lasting like an orange hard candy. I really enjoy margaritas made with Grand Marnier in lieu of standard triple sec, and I expect this would exceed in one much the same way.
I don’t have any Grand Marnier on hand (surprisingly) to compare this to directly, but it’s a decent approximation while offering its own spin on the formula thanks to its tangerine flavors. Moderately sweet and enjoyable on its own and as a mixer. The retro bottle is a bit off-putting, but look beyond the tinted, textured glass and to the liquid within.
A- / $30 / mandarinenapoleon.com
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