Sunshine in a bottle

So, the mandarincello is ready.

After a week of steeping the de-pithed skins in vodka, most of the aromatic volatiles in the skins have migrated into the spirit, giving it a lovely sunny yellow colour and a strong aroma of mandarin.

I made a simple sugar syrup with half a cup of castor (superfine) sugar and half a cup of water, heated gently till the sugar was fully dissolved, and then cooled. I strained the spirit back into the bottle it came in, and then poured out about a quarter cup of the mandarincello to make space for the syrup. At this point, it’s still quite harsh-tasting, with a bitter back-note. Some might like it this way, but I prefer a little more fruity sweetness. So I added a tablespoon of the cooled syrup, shook the bottle gently and then tasted. Not bad, but not quite enough. Another tablespoon, and it was nearly there. So I added a final half tablespoon, and it was spot on. Yum! It both tastes and smells like fresh mandarins.

With the remaining syrup, I added the quarter cup of spirit, to give a mandarin-flavoured syrup with a small amount of alcohol in it. I’ll use this warmed, to pour over a cake, or add lots of soda water and ice for a refreshing drink with only a hint of naughtiness.

Look, give this a try. It’s not rocket science. If you have an excess of lemons, oranges or mandarins, use the skins to make yourself a bottle of sunshine, and in the case of oranges and mandarins, roast the fruit in the oven with a little sugar or honey and water to end up with delicious warm fruit to put on your cereal, yoghurt or icecream. If you don’t grow your own, I’d suggest using organic, non-waxed fruit to avoid adding wax or pesticides to your bottle.

Now, where’s my mandarin cake recipe…?


41 thoughts on “Sunshine in a bottle

  1. anne54 says:

    Sunshine in a bottle indeed! I am loving the smell of mandarins at the moment. A winter treat. xox

    • katechiconi says:

      It never fails to amaze me how much stronger the smell is when you’ve just picked them, compared with what you buy in the supermarket, where the fruit are stored chilled.

      • anne54 says:

        Freshly picked must be very strong!

      • katechiconi says:

        They leave strong aromatic oil all over your hands, and for a day or so, the kitchen smells of nothing else, but it fades over time as the volatiles gas off. Which is why I’m glad I did it fairly quickly, so as not to lose too much!

  2. kathyreeves says:

    What a great finish!

    • katechiconi says:

      It was so easy… Citrus infused spirit is becoming increasingly popular here; much of it is a bit boutique (gin infused with yuzu, etc), but when it’s this straightforward to do, anyone can have a go.

  3. A lovely result. A nice gift idea as well, if you could hide some away in a cupboard and not be tempted.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’ll probably take me some time to get through this lot, so I could make up a smaller bottle for gifting purposes. And of course, there’s plenty more where that came from! It’s lovely stuff….

  4. gwenniesgardenworld says:

    this can only be delicious ! cheers !

  5. Sounds amazing. Potential business venture, perhaps…?

  6. KerryCan says:

    Yes, yes! Extensive testing is in order!

  7. nanacathy2 says:


  8. Our mandarin and orange trees have done their dash this year. I wonder what the chances are that I will remember this clever idea in about 10 months.

  9. dayphoto says:

    That is pretty! Well done!

  10. writinghouse says:

    The perfect way to have one of your all important 5-a-day portions of fruit! Plus it is summer, bottled… and that is worth a million portions of fruit and veg any day!

  11. Chris S in Canada says:

    It sounds like it turned out just the way you hoped! I will never have the fresh mandarins (or oranges, etc.) that you have access to – however I think perhaps I will try this near Christmas when the mandarins make their appearance here in Ontario grocery stores. What a lovely little treat to give to friends in the Christmas basket I make up for them.

    Thank you for sharing the whole process with us.
    Chris S in Canada

  12. katechiconi says:

    Not at all, it was (literally!) a pleasure. Love your gift basket idea, with mini sunshine-doses 🙂

  13. Yum. Fresh citrus is not to be found where I live. Too far north. Enjoy and hope you find your recipe. 😉

    • katechiconi says:

      My sister lives in a more southerly (ie, colder) part of Australia, and makes something similar with plums and brandy. The resulting liquid is drunk, and the brandy-soaked fruit is served warm on vanilla ice cream 🙂

      • I have a friend who makes Limoncello and something called Cherry Bounce. Then she takes the cherries and dips them in chocolate. They are criminal! You can get drunk on one cherry. 😉 Enjoy your liquid sunshine.

      • katechiconi says:

        Oh yes, cherries, brandy and spices. One of those dipped in dark chocolate sounds just fabulous!

  14. Lynda says:

    I would love to try making your Mandarincello and use it for dessert
    making! However, winter is too cold in here for citrus in N. Alabama. 😦 I don’t miss California much, but I do miss my citrus trees in the back yard! (mandarin, lime and oranges)

    • katechiconi says:

      Try it with halved peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots! The benefit of stone fruit is that you can eat them afterwards (yum!), but because they’re ‘wetter’ than the citrus skins, you don’t end up with a good flavour so quickly (takes a few months), and the liquor may become a little cloudy.

  15. Looks terribly enticing. I’d find excuses to sit with a book and a nice glass of it mixed with seltzer.

    My favorite way to use lemons and mandarins is curd (probably because it uses up eggs which are always overabundant here). My recipe is simple, no stirring necessary, because all of it is done in a Vitamix. The blender runs at such high speeds that it slow cooks the eggs as it blends.

    • katechiconi says:

      I do it the old fashioned way, in a bowl over hot water. My kitchen is very small, and I’ve had to limit the number of gadgets I own, especially as most of them are in perfect working order. But I agree, lemon curd is one of the foods of the gods, and eating it with greek yoghurt or icecream is my favourite…

      • Understand gadget limitations. My mother’s kitchen counters were crowded by machines wearing hideous quilted covers, plugs lurking behind them like tails. I vowed when I moved out that my counters would be gadget free. I lived up to that until a few years ago when our new coffeemaker proved too large to fit in any cupboard. I’ve joined the ranks of kitchens sporting gadgets, but so far kept myself from putting outfits on machines.

      • katechiconi says:

        I have a dream about gadget-free counters, but so far all my homes have had kitchens either too small or without sufficient storage to hide the things away and give me clear surfaces everywhere. I love the mental image of your mother’s toaster and mixer wearing quilted jackets 🙂

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