This is a seasonal drink that's very easy to make, tastes lovely and might even be described as festive if I were the festive type. I decided to make some when I was thinking about how much I missed Belfast gin. There are some very fine gins available, but back in the 1980s Belfast gin with its citrus flavour was always my favourite. Sadly I believe the gin disappeared sometime in the 1990s. This is definitely not a recreation of Belfast gin, it’s just inspired by it. In fact it’s more a way of producing a posh and expensive tasting liqueur without spending too much time or money. Once the Seville oranges arrive in the country you can use those in place of the tangerines.
This is quite an old recipe - there's a version of it in the Ocklye cookbook of 1908, for instance - but it deserves a revival. You can drink a little nip as a winter warmer, mix it with tonic or sparkling water for a longer drink or add it to cocktails. The tangerine combines well with lemon or with summery flavours like elderflower and some people mix it with ginger ale, although I'm personally less convinced about that. You can even sprinkle a little tangerine gin onto desserts or ice creams. Like quite a few liqueurs this is relatively sweet so cut down on the sugar if you prefer a more gin-like flavour.
For any readers of my generation out there please note that it's Tangerine Gin and not Tangerine Dream. I can't guarantee that even after a few snifters of this gin you won't be running from the room should anyone press play on the Phaedra album.
8 or 9 tangerines
175 g granulated sugar
Half a bottle (375 ml) gin (a neutral, but pleasant gin - a cheap one should be fine)
Wash and dry the tangerines. Sterilise a suitable jar or container (allow a bit of room in the jar for shaking the contents). Use a fine vegetable peeler to remove the outer peel of the tangerines and place in the jar. (Try to avoid peeling any pith from the tangerines, although a small amount won't do any real harm.) Add the sugar, pour over the gin and seal the jar tightly. Shake the jar to dissolve the sugar.
Put the jar to one side for 4 or 5 days but shake the jar whenever you remember it (at least 3 or 4 times a day would be good). After those long days have passed, filter the gin through muslin and pour into a nice bottle. Seal, label and put into a cupboard. (It's possible to leave the peel in for much longer for a stronger and more matured flavour, but I'm not sure that’s the way I like it).
Now in theory, even after filtering out the peel, you should leave the gin to mellow for a while before drinking. There are some old recipes that suggest leaving it for a year or two. Well, that's a nice idea but a bit unlikely in my house. I promise you that it still makes a very pleasing drink after just 3 or 4 weeks in the bottle.