Mandarine Napoleon Part One: The Review

Welcome to the first edition of the brand-new Cocktails, 365! This past year we decided that we would help your pocket-book by running down the best buys that are easiest on your wallet.

However, there are people out there that like the prestige that comes with a top-shelf liquor. The problem becomes when people really are just dropping the dimes on what we like to call “prestige” liquors. These are liquors that cost a good chunk of money but really aren’t that good.

We’re here to weed out the best of what claim to be the best.

The new set up works like this — each liquor will last two weeks. The first Monday will be a review. Wednesday and Friday of that week, and then Monday and Wednesday of the next, will be dedicated to crafting unique cocktails. The second week’s Friday we give you the verdict — is it really worth all the money you’re going to spend on this?

This past year we defined budget booze as anything $25 or less. For consistency sake, we’ll call top-shelf booze anything $26 or above.

We’re starting out this new setup with a sample sent to us by Mandarine Napoleon.

Mandarine Napoleon averages $30 for a 750 ml, so it falls well within our “top-shelf” category.

Now, we weren’t incredibly familiar with this liqueur, so we were happy to jump at the chance when they offered to send us a bottle for the inaugural year three booze.

Some history of Mandarine Napoleon:

Mandarin oranges originally only grew in China. they came to Europe via the port of Tangier. A very valuable import, mandarin oranges became a symbol of weather and luxury; of exclusiveness and eventually of power. In Europe the exotic fruit turned out to grow very well on Corsica, the island where Napoleon was born. 

Antoine-Francois de Fourcroy was born in 1755. In the period when he was count of the empire and Napoleon’s doctor, he had the idea to soak mandarin oranges in alcohol and to mix the distillate with cognac. So from then on, they often enjoyed a glass together. 

The Mandarine Napoleon liqueur originates from 1892. The discovery made by Antoine-Francois de Fourcroy was refined according to a recipe with cognac, with mandarin orange peel from Andalusia, Sicily and Corsica, and secret mix of herbs and spices. Allowing it to mature for three years gave Mandarine Napoleon an even richer taste. 

Today Mandarine Napoleon is still a real conqueror. The well-known liqueur with its undisputed taste has won many international awards and is sold in 137 countries around the world; savored with the same pleasure as Napoleon did 200 years ago. 

Despite what it sounds like, Mandarine Napoleon is actually a Belgian-produced liqueur as opposed to French.

So, does it stand up to scrutiny fitting of an emperor? Well, we’ll find out over the next two weeks.


There is a very strong, distinct mandarin orange scent. There’s no strong alcohol tinge, which we kind of expected with the cognac base. Clear, clean nose.


There’s a very bright orange flavor right up front. It’s not as heavy as Grand Monarch, another brandy-based orange liqueur, nor is it as syrupy as triple sec. There’s a clean finish with a bit of a bitterness to temper the sweet.

On the Rocks:

That slight bitterness has increased even a bit more, but it’s not unpleasant. Rather it helps keep the sweet in check. The finish is still clean, with distinct citrus notes that linger. It reminds us of orange zest. The sweetness comes out the colder it becomes.


This is a distinctly more complex orange liqueur than you could expect to find with some of the cheaper brands. There’s more going on than you really expect. We’re eager to see how it holds up against some other stronger flavors in cocktails.

Wednesday Cocktail:

The Seven Holy Virtues.

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