Champagne Wednesday: Berry Punch with Clementine Simple Syrup and a Satsuma Cheese Plate

fresh satsumas and thyme in a wooden bowlWhat I love about winter is that it’s when some of the brightest, cheeriest fruits are available: oranges of all kinds.  And beyond the basic navel, there are other delicious citrusy goodies to be had, like clementines and satsumas.  To be honest, I’ve never really worked with either of them.  Sure, I’ve had the odd clementine now and again, but I was mostly a navel girl.  And satsumas, a variation of mandarin oranges that originated in Japan, were never really on my radar until recently.

So I was pretty pleased when Whole Foods contacted me and asked if I’d like to try some of their fresh clementines and satsumas and see what I could do with them.  Experimentations!  I love experimenting.  And Whole Foods was kind enough to foot the bill for this one.  Of course, we decided to do what we do best–throw a food party, albeit a small one.  Calling it the “Citrus Dinner,” we planned out several courses, each of which featured fresh satsumas and/or clementines.  I’ll share all the recipes over the course of a couple different blog posts because there’s a lot, but our main menu was:

Citrus Dinner Menu

Of course, since yesterday was Wednesday, you know the drill–we had to do a champagne cocktail.  I turned thirty(!) at the beginning of this week and several of my good friends gave me bottles of sparkling wine specifically to celebrate #champagnewednesday.  They know me so well.  Anyway, I got some inspiration from this Jingle Jangle berry punch from Redbook and decided to riff off of that.  It called for simple syrup and I figured…well, I have a big box of clementines; how about some clementine simple syrup?

clementine simple syrup in a tall glass bottle

It was so easy to make–just boiling some dissected clementines with sugar and water, cooling and straining it and voilà!  Fragrantly citrus-y simple syrup ready to use in a cocktail.  Then we added in some freshly squeezed clementine juice, some Grand Marnier, vodka, muddled fresh strawberries and sparkling wine.

berry punch in a stemless wine glass

It turned out really well.  Boozy.  Oh, and eating the leftover strawberries out of the bottom of your glass was fantastic–like little bursts of champagne in your mouth.

berry punch in a stemless wine glass

I also threw together a cheese plate so we would have something to nibble on while dinner cooked.  It was very simple, featuring fresh satsumas that I pulled open into a bit of a “starburst” or flower shape, whole raw almonds and a log of fresh goat cheese drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper.

cheese plate with fresh satsumas, almonds, goat cheese and thyme

If you’re looking for a simple appetizer to put out at a holiday dinner or celebration, this is totally it.  It was cheerful and natural, took minimal effort on my part, and it was delicious.  I added some sprigs of thyme around the sides for color and fragrance and it turned out beautifully.

So yes…my advice is to run over to Whole Foods and pick some of these beauties up.  I personally like the satsumas best because not only are they small and flavorful and super-juicy, but they are ridiculously easy to peel.  It just falls off in your hands.  But the clementines are also really tasty and the cocktail we made was sweet and delicious.

half-peeled satsuma

Stay tuned for the rest of the meal….

Berry Punch with Clementine Simple Syrup

Yield: 4-6 servings


    For the simple syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 clementines, peeled and roughly chopped
  • For the drink
  • the prepared clementine simple syrup
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced in half
  • 3/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1 bottle of sparkling wine
  • 2 cups of ice + more for glasses if needed


    To make the simple syrup:
  1. Put the water, sugar and clementines (peels and flesh) into a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it cool. Strain the liquid into a bottle. You can do this the night before or the day of.
  2. To make the cocktail:
  3. Put the sliced strawberries into a pitcher and muddle a bit with the back of a spoon. You don't want to break them down entirely, just mash them a little bit to let the juice out. Add in the ice, followed by the Grand Marnier, vodka, simple syrup and finally, just before serving, the sparkling wine.
  4. Pour into glasses (add more ice if desired) and serve. Enjoy!

Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Reddit Email