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.
Unlike a regular triple sec, Mandarine Napoleon is made in the same style as Grand Marnier, blending liqueur with brandy. But while Grand Marnier is a blend of straight orange liqueur and Cognac, Napoleon uses mandarins to make the liqueur (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. On the body, there’s more sweet citrus, with a rich, lightly oxidized palate kicking in quickly. 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 this excels in much the same way.
Mandarine Napoline is successfully it spinning the triple sec formula thanks to its unique tangerine flavors, and its moderated sweetness makes it enjoyable both 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.