Cointreau is a French orange liqueur, categorized as triple sec. It has a rich orange flavor with a light sweetness and slightly warm, subtle spice notes. It is owned by Remy Cointreau, who also owns many brands such as Remy Martin, Mt.Gay rum, and The Botanist gin. Cointreau is made using a sugar beet alcohol base, a mix of sweet and bitter Caribbean orange peels, sugar, and a secret blend of spices. It is bottled at 40% ABV.
Products by Cointreau
In addition to the classic Cointreau, the brand has recently introduced two award-winning alternative versions of its classic orange liqueur.
- Cointreau Noir
Cointreau Noir brings the same bright orange flavor and light sweetness as the original Cointreau to a party with Remy Martin’s famous Cognac. The darker, rich Cognac base replaces the clear neutral beet sugar spirit used in the classic Cointreau. This bottle seems to be an attempt to compete directly with other brandy-based orange liqueurs such as Grand Marnier. Bottled at 40% ABV.
- Cointreau Blood Orange
As the name implies, Cointreau Blood Orange is a variation of the classic Cointreau recipe, with the addition of sweet yet tart, Corsican blood orange. The oranges are harvested at the height of their ripeness, adding an intense amount of citrus oil to the blend. This bottle was originally a travel retail exclusive, available only at duty-free stores but has made its way to regular retail shelves. Bottled at 30% ABV.
Below are the Cointreau prices:
|Type||Bottle Size||Starting Price|
|Cointreau Noir Orange Liqueur||750ml||$36.99|
Alternatives To Cointreau
Undoubtedly Cointreaus’ biggest competitor, Grand Marnier is set apart by its Cognac base, which leads to a richer, stronger flavor profile. While delicious, the brandy base doesn’t always play well with other ingredients, and some recipes calling for Cointreau will need adjusting if Grand Marnier is used as a substitute. Bottled at 40% ABV.
- Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
The preferred orange liqueur for Tiki cocktails, Pierre Ferrand dry curacao is another brandy-based orange liqueur. They use Caribbean bitter oranges as well as spices and Cognac to create their product. As with Grand Marnier, the added depth of the brandy doesn’t always transfer to the final cocktail, depending on the ingredients. Bottled at 40% ABV.
The closest substitute for Cointreau, Combier disputes the claim that Cointreau invented triple sec, and claims to be the original. Like Cointreau, they also use a sugar beet distillate as their base, augmented with bitter orange, sugar, and spices. Combier has a slightly less intense orange flavor but is ultimately interchangeable with Cointreau. It is usually a similar price as well. Bottled at 40% ABV.
- Bols/Dekuyper/Generic Triple Sec
Bols, Dekuyper, and many other generic brands manufacture orange liqueurs they dub “triple sec”, although they are a far cry from the likes of Cointreau. Often little more than watered-down grain alcohol with artificial orange essence added, these bottles are the backbone of dive bar cosmos and budget sangria. They’ll do in a pinch if your local store is out of Cointreau or you’re stuck at a family gathering and this is all your aunt has in her liquor cabinet, but if you’re at the store and considering these, you’re better off shelling out the extra cash for something nicer.
While I could give you the recipes for some world-famous classic cocktails using Cointreau such as the sidecar or cosmo, where’s the fun in that? Cointreau is a versatile enough ingredient to function as the star of the show in cocktails like the Cointreau fizz or work in a supporting role, such as in these two lesser-known, but delicious drinks from two fantastic bartenders in America and Canada.
The Jeez Louise
By Chris Mcmillan, Revel Cafe and Bar, New Orleans, LA
- 1 ½ oz Averna Amaro
- ½ oz Cynar
- ¾ oz Cointreau
- ¾ oz fresh lime juice
Shake, strain into a tall glass with ice, top with soda water. Garnish with an orange wheel. This drink brings out the bitter to play, and surprisingly it plays nice. The sweet orange of Cointreau compliments the bitter orange of Averna and tempers the herbal intensity of Cynar, resulting in a wonderfully refreshing cocktail that is among my favorite modern drinks.
By Trevor Kallies, Granville Room, Vancouver, BC
- ½ oz Cointreau
- ½ oz Green Chartreuse
- ½ oz lemon juice
- ¼ oz raspberry puree
Shake all and pour into a flute. Top with Prosecco.
This cocktail marries the intense orange of Cointreau with the herbal punch of Green Chartreuse and the vibrant fruity tartness of raspberries for a light, bubbly, springtime treat.
Looking Back at Cointreau Liqueurs Past
The roots of Cointreau date back to 1849 when confectioner Adolphe Cointreau and his brother began producing a cherry-flavored liqueur. A few years later, they hit upon their biggest success by creating their first orange liqueur. In 1875, Adolphe’s nephew Edouard perfected the Cointreau recipe, creating a concentrated orange flavor that was much less sweet than competing products of the time. To this day, Cointreau and Combier argue over which brand truly created the world’s first “Triple Sec”.
During “La Belle Epoque”, the golden age of french luxury between 1871 and 1914, Cointreau exploded in popularity, winning several international awards, becoming a darling at several world fairs, and expanding to the USA, Asia, and Russia. The brand also trademarked its recipe and square bottle, while becoming an advertising pioneer, creating the first recorded film advertisement. It was around this time that the first recorded recipes for the classic Sidecar cocktail appeared, naming Cointreau as an essential ingredient.
In the late 1940s, the Margarita was popularized in Mexico, with the earliest recipes calling for Cointreau by name. In 1988, the Cosmo was invented in New York, and again the creator behind it reached for Cointreau specifically. In 1989 the brand merged with Remy Martin to form Remy Cointreau, now one of the world’s largest liquor brands. Now 171 years old, Cointreau has launched a range of products including Cointreau Noir and Cointreau Blood Orange.
Although the recipe is a closely guarded secret, some information is known about the Cointreau production process. It begins with a neutral spirit distilled from sugar beets. That spirit is then infused with orange essence from the peels of bitter and sweet Caribbean oranges, as well as added spices. It is then watered down and sweetened before being bottled at 40% ABV.