Mandarin shrub. I’d never had it until Pia made a concoction one night from the juice and skins of a bucket of mandarins. It is one of the most authentic expressions of flavour I have tasted – more mandarin than a mandarin.
Despite its purity, good looks and attractive scent, it sat at the back of the fridge for months. Like a liquid Prince Harry I could not find a suitable alcoholic companion. After a few rather disastrous dates with scotch and Pernod I gave up my frustrating search and denied its existence.
A month or so later I intended to burn cook Pia dinner for our first wedding anniversary. I was hunting for the ghee that I store in ad hoc locations at the back of the fridge and the lonely, still single, mandarin shrub waved to me from across the way. I took pity and in the spirit of the day I decided to arrange a marriage for it.
Given my past difficulty chaperoning the shrub, I had the good sense to consult a relationship oracle.
My friends Monique and Jen gifted me the Flavour Thesaurus for one of my 30-something birthdays. I use it like a gastronomic e-harmony to match food, but I’d overlooked its capacity for alcoholic match-making.
Here’s what the flavour thesaurus can do: it tells me chocolate can be paired with avocado, chestnut, banana, fig, pear, vanilla, blackcurrant, lemon, black pudding, cardamom, ginger, watermelon, cherry, anise, cinnamon, goat’s cheese, bacon, coconut, raspberry, peanut, rosemary, beetroot, hazelnut, lime, mint, chilli, thyme, nutmeg, coffee, orange, apricot, walnut, pineapple, rose, cauliflower, strawberry, and tomato. Ace! And yes, I’ve tried all of them.
But free-loving chocolate is easy. Have you ever tried to find a mate for grumpy broccoli? The oracle recommends several tolerant companions including garlic, chilli, peanuts, bacon, walnuts, blue cheese, lemon, and anchovies. So, if the thesaurus could find a match for broccoli, surely it could find the match of mandarin’s dreams…
My search criteria were thus filtered to drinks with suitable personal characteristics that matched the flavour profile of mandarin. Given mandarin’s comparatively reclusive nature I used its more sanguine and prolific wingman, orange, as a reference. A robust consultation with my thesaurus oracle produced some unexpected suitors. Being the responsible chaperone I then cross-referenced their backgrounds to ensure they would all get along and culled the final list to:
Finally, after many lonely nights alone my little mandarin shrub had some action!*
I got cracking. Following several negotiations, dates, parties and challenging experiences, supported by good friends almond (orgeat) and mint I was happy to settle on a long-term relationship with rosewater. Mike named it the Manchurian Candidate because he’s good at that stuff.
Like a good marriage it’s complex, delicate and fruity, and has a sweet-sour-vinegary kick that keeps you thirsty enough for the next round.
The Manchurian Candidate.
- 60ml bourbon
- 30ml mandarin shrub [insert link to our recipe]
- 20 ml lemon juice
- 15 ml orgeat
- 4 drops rose water
- 3 mint leaves
Add all of the above to a cocktail shaker, and gently shake side to side so as to dilute the drink, combine the lemon and bruise, but not break up the mint.
Strain into either a coupe glass or old fashioned glass with ice ball.
Garnish with an olive and 3 mists of rose water from a pump spray.
Such a beautiful union. Until death do they part...
*It is impolite to mention mandarin’s other partners in any detail, however here is a discreet list:
Anise, apples, apricot, asparagus, bacon, beef, beetroot, carrot, chilli, chocolate, cinnamon, clove, coffee, coriander leaf, fig, ginger, grapefruit, hard cheese, juniper, lemon, lime, mango, mint, olive, onion, peach, pineapple, rhubarb, rose, rosemary, saffron, strawberry, thyme, vanilla, walnut, watercress, white fish.