Introduction of Cointreau
Cointreau is a type of liqueur known as triple sec. The overriding flavor is orange and it is often served as a before or after meal drink (known as aperitif or digestif in circles that speak such words).
The brand was born in 1849 and created by none other than Adolphe and Edouard-Jean Cointreau. Originally a confectioner, Adolphe carried over his skills with sugar to develop the first Cointreau product: a guignolet. This was a cherry liqueur.
What we now know as Cointreau was created after many experiments with orange peel and sugar beets. The first bottle hit the shelf in 1875 and Cointreau never looked back. Cointreau has remained an untouched and secretive recipe but has since been merged with Remy Martin and is now Remy Cointreau.
Cointreau has hung its hat on being included in most official recipes for the margarita and cosmopolitan cocktails (recipes below). The brand has experienced moments of popularity initiated by clever ad campaigns like the “Be Cointreauversal” campaign in the early 2000s.
Orange liqueur is a confusing world as there are several options within a similar price point. Many bartenders prefer one over another for certain cocktails with no real explanation of the differences between them.
Styles of Orange Liqueur
There are two common categories of orange liqueur including triple sec - the style containing Cointreau. While considered different categories of liqueur they are quite similar. Here is a break down of the two styles and what might set them apart:
This style of liqueur is widely considered the original orange liqueur. Like almost everything else involved with these spirits, no one knows the truth. Its name comes from its place of origin - an island called Curacao. Originally made from rum it is now more popularly made from grain spirits.
Interestingly, Curacao was a product of the inability to grow Spanish oranges. The oranges were poor tasting but the peels produced a fantastic fragrance when dried. This led to their use in the spirit known as Curacao.
Curacao underwent a period of mass reproduction and turned into a style of its own, which has led to a common belief that it is more “sweet” than flavor. This is believed to have spurred from reproductions using massive amounts of sugar to hide the poor taste of the inferior product.
Curacao is now seen in unnatural colors like blue, green, and odd orange colors. Many bartenders avoid the product because of its history of cheap knock-offs and overly sweet flavor.
Triple sec represents the other style of orange liqueur and Cointreau is considered to be in this style. It is known to be more dry than sweet, leading some to believe its name comes from the words “Triple Dry”.
Commonly used as a term for any orange liqueur in a recipe, triple sec is an alternative to curacao. While Cointreau is a triple sec style orange liqueur, it removed the name from its branding to distance itself from less desirable offerings of triple sec.
Alternatives to Cointreau
Grand Marnier is a unique orange liqueur, as it lacks a home in any one style. Considered more of a curacao due to its sweetness, it is a bit of a mix between both curacao and triple sec. Grand Marnier features Cognac and has a sweetness that lends itself to many dessert recipes.
Grand Marnier is enjoyed the same way as Cointreau - neat, on ice, or in cocktails. Many menus feature a Grand Marnier margarita. You can find this brand for similar pricing as Cointreau.
This is a vastly less expensive option but can lack some refinement when comparing to Cointreau directly. Many complain of its almost artificial orange smell but mixologists will tell you it tastes similar in a cocktail.
Quickly becoming a competitor to Cointreau, Combier is popular in cocktails. Commonly found for a few dollars less, it is considered less desirable for consuming neat or on ice.
This brand is known as the most common replacement of Cointreau and comes about ten dollars cheaper, on average.
No. You should not expect a hint of the popular tequila this brand is known for. This triple sec style liqueur is made from neutral spirits and is best seen as what it is: a slightly less expensive alternative to Cointreau for use in cocktails.
Cointreau vs Cointreau
As you can see in our Cointreau Prices List, there are two styles with one slightly more expensive than the other.
Cointreau Triple Sec is a standard orange liqueur while Cointreau Noir is similar to Grand Marnier - it combines orange liqueur with a little Cognac for a different flavor.
Common Cointreau Prices List
Cointreau Triple Sec Orange Liqueur
Cointreau Noir Orange Liqueur
Common Recipes: What to Mix With Cointreau
While Cointreau is considered a high enough quality orange liqueur to drink on its own, it is popular as an ingredient in well-known cocktails. Here are a few recipes to put your Cointreau to work!
Place ingredients and ice in a shaker. Shake with style. Strain into a glass of your choice but a martini glass is a great choice. Garnish with lemon, lime, or orange peel.
Place ingredients and crushed ice in a shaker. Shake while moving your hips. Strain into a glass over cubed ice (on the rocks). Use a lime wheel as garnish. Some salt fanatics will prefer a salt rim on their glass.
Long Island Iced Tea
Pour all ingredients, aside from soda over ice in a glass (you’re gonna need a tall one). Top off with the soda. Enjoy but be warned, that’s a lot of spirits!
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