Cocktail ingredients swapping out swapping in

Mixology is about creating your own ‘new’ cocktails, as well as recreating great recipes that others have developed before us. And then there is a sort of middle ground, messing about with the classics, in order to modify them and perhaps in some instances improve them – dare I say?

One of the other ways of ‘creating’ new versions of pre-existing cocktails is to swap out ingredients and replace them with others which are either similar in flavour or type. Clearly there are an infinite number of ways of doing this, so here I can only focus on a few.

Mandarine Napoleon - too often overlooked
Mandarine Napoleon – too often overlooked

How about Mandarine Napoleon instead of Cointreau for instance? I have nothing against Cointreau, it is a fine liqueur, but I also feel that Mandarine Napoleon gets overlooked and should appear in more cocktails than it does.

As an example, it works well in a Mandarine Sidecar.

Mandarine Sidecar 

25 ml Mandarine Napoleon

25 ml Brandy

25 ml lemon juice

And if you haven’t got a lemon for your juice, you’ll probably reach for a bottle of concentrated juice from the supermarket. If so, always halve the amount of juice (lemon or lime) to your recipes. I find the concentrated juice is about twice as strong as the natural fruit’s juice.

It helps a bit if you understand the flavours of your liqueurs, and you know a bit about how they compare with each other. While we’re on the subject of the Sidecar, another swap you could do is replace the brandy with some Calvados (apple brandy.) Or applejack if you’re in the States. It tastes fine but isn’t especially different in the way that the Mandarine Sidecar is above.

Another great ingredient for your Sidecar
Another great ingredient for your Sidecar

Another version of the Sidecar I experimented with recently was leaving out the Cointreau from my Sidecar and replacing it with the truly sublime Chase Marmalade vodka.  Conscious of the fact that I’ve left out a liqueur and replaced it with a drier, more fiery spirit, I added about 12 ml of sugar syrup to restore the balance. It worked well.

Tricks of the trade

It also helps to know how to translate some recipes, particularly old ones. For instance you may already know that Cointreau is a triple sec, and Grand Marnier is an orange curacao so you can swap these around where necessary. Also di Saronno, or Amaretto di Saronno as it used to be called is a type of apricot brandy so that can be swapped too.

I’m always keen to try swapping ingredients in cocktails as I’ve done with my Deauville, a version of the old classic the Sazerac.  If you have carried out similar experiments and have some tips, I’d be pleased to hear about them. It can be lonely this pioneering business! Cheers.



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