Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge (Red Ribbon) is the Rolls Royce of orange liqueur. It’s rich, complex Cognac base sets it apart from most orange liqueurs which use a neutral grain spirit as a base. At 40% ABV it is also quite a bit more potent than competing orange liqueurs. You can use a little Grand Marnier to take your sangria, sidecar or margarita to the next level.
Today, Grand Marnier is a fixture behind cocktail bars worldwide and holds a place as an industry favorite among bartenders.
In This Guide
Grand Marnier Production
Grand Marnier begins with Cognac sourced from the Grande and Petite Champagne regions of France. The Cognac is aged at the Château de Bourg-Charente, a 13th-century castle. At the same estate, Grand Marnier distills a bitter orange liquor. This liquor is made from green Bigaradia oranges, sourced from the Caribbean. The Cognac and orange liquor are blended and sweetened before being bottled and shipped. The entire process, from purchasing, aging, blending, and bottling is overseen by Grand Marnier’s Master Blender. At the time of writing, the current Master Blender is Patrick Raguenaud.
The Grand Marnier bottle can be easily identified by its red wax seal, red ribbon, and dark brown bottle which is shaped like the traditional Cognac stills used in its production. These three features are trademarked and have become synonymous with Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge today.
History of Grand Marnier
The Grand Marnier distillery was founded in 1827 by Jean Baptiste Marnier-Lapostolle who began a small business producing cognac and other fruit brandies in the small french community of Neauphle-le-Château. His granddaughter then married Louis Alexandre who added Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge to his father in law’s portfolio of Cognac, wine, and other spirits in the 1880s.
What’s in the Name?
Louis Alexandre originally named his blend of high-quality Cognac and rare west Indian bitter oranges “Curaçao Marnier”. Louis Alexandre struck up a friendship with iconic hotelier Cesar Ritz (of Ritz Carlton fame), who eventually helped create the Grand Marnier name which is now so famous. While discussing the orange liqueur Ritz supposedly remarked “A grand name for a grand liqueur” and the name Grand Marnier was born.
Louis Alexandre would go on to help fund Ritz’s hotel endeavors and Ritz in turn, featured Grand Marnier at many of his legendary hotel bars, including the Ritz Paris and the Savoy. The alliance helped vault Grand Marnier to a top-shelf reputation during the period of french cultural extravagance known as “La Belle Epoch”. Grand Marnier still enjoys that same reputation today.
In the 1980s, one hundred years after its creation, Grand Marnier expanded aggressively to the United States. It became known as a luxury brand, used to craft fine cocktails, and its popularity soared. In 2016, the Grand Marnier brand and portfolio of products was acquired by The Campari Group.
Other Grand Marnier Products
In addition to the Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, Grand Marnier has released a limited range of other products over the years. In 1927 they released “Cuvée du Centenaire”, a special edition, blended exclusively from 25-year-old Cognac for their 100th anniversary.
Grand Marnier briefly produced a Grand Marnier Cordon Jaune (Yellow Ribbon) which was made using a neutral grain spirit in place of Cognac. Availability was limited to European markets and a few airports. Grand Marnier Cordon Jaune was discontinued in 2007.
In 1977 Grand Marnier released their most decadent product yet. The 150-year anniversary edition “Cuvée Spéciale Cent Cinquantenaire” is produced with a blend of 50-year-old Cognac, sold in hand-painted bottles, and marketed using the slogan “Hard to find, Impossible to pronounce, and prohibitively expensive”.
Grand Marnier Prices
|Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge||750ml||From $40|
|Grand Marnier Cuvée Louis Alexandre||750ml||From $69|
|Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire||750ml||From $179|
|Grand Marnier Cuvee 1880||750ml||From $339|
|Grand Marnier Quintessence||750ml||From $799|
Grand Marnier Alternatives
When looking for an alternative to Grand Marnier, one product manages to hold its own. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao is made with a similar brandy base and Caribbean oranges. It also weighs in at 40% ABV. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao is more often associated with Tiki drinks than classic cocktails but can make an adequate substitute for Grand Marnier.
In addition to brandy-based orange liqueurs, there are many orange liqueurs using a neutral grain spirit base. The most famous of these is Cointreau. Cointreau is a solid substitute for Grand Marnier for those seeking to enjoy a cocktail without breaking the bank.
Grand Marnier can be used in just about any cocktail calling for an orange liqueur or triple sec. Two of the most well regarded Grand Marnier Cocktails are the Grand Margarita (Sometimes called the Cadillac Margarita), and the Grand Sidecar.
1. Grand Margarita
- 30 ml Reposado or Anejo Tequila
- 30 ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
- 20 ml Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
Shake, strain over fresh ice, and garnish with a lime wedge. Salt rim optional
2. Grand Sidecar
- 50 ml Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
- 20 ml Cognac
- 20 ml Fresh Squeeze Lemon Juice
Shake, strain into a coupe glass. Lemon half-wheel and sugar rim garnish optional.
In addition to making great cocktails, Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge is also a common ingredient in French cooking. Many pastry dishes such as the yule log, creme brulee, and liquor cream puffs use Grand Marnier to add citrus flavor and sweetness. Grand Marnier is also used in many sauces such as cranberry sauce and in the sauce for duck l’orange.