Curaçao? Triple sec? Cointreau?

March 16th, 2008

The Great Oh Gosh! Orange Liqueur Showdown

Orange liqueurs are probably the most called for of all fruit-flavoured spirits in cocktail recipes, both new and old. From classics like the Sidecar, Pegu Club and Margarita, to more modern drinks like the Cosmopolitan, orange is a taste heavily featured in the world of mixed drinks.

This popularity is reflected by the huge array of brands that are available to purchase, from the big names like Cointreau and Grand Marnier to artisanal triple secs, rum-based liqueurs and other oddities. The varieties are so numerous orange liqueurs are even split in to different types – triple sec, curaçao, brandy-based… it’s a vast and confusing subject full of much contradictory information.

With so many different types of orange liqueurs, and so many brands for each type, it can be a little difficult to decide what you should use in your cocktails. If a recipe calls for Cointreau will a triple sec or curaçao suffice? Is there a noticeable difference between an orange curaçao and a clear tripe sec? Are the more exotic liqueurs any use when making mixed drinks?

In an effort to try and answer some of these questions, I am excited to announce…

The Great Oh Gosh! Orange Liqueur Showdown

Lots of orange liqueur bottles

Over the past month I have assembled a collection of 23 different orange liqueurs, and over the next few weeks I will be investigating which are worth having in your alcohol cabinet. As well as a blind tasting of all the spirits I will be accessing their suitability in cocktails, with a view to discovering whether Cointreau is the deserved market leader, and if there are any challengers to its throne.

So check back over the next few days as I begin to review the following products:

I’ve certainly got my work cut out!

Note: In the interests of full disclosure, the liqueurs included in this comparison are a mixture of bottles I have purchased myself, and samples solicited from their UK distributors.

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Posted in Orange Liqueur Showdown, Reviews

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18 responses to “Curaçao? Triple sec? Cointreau?”

  1. Ouroboros Ouroboros says:

    Thank you for taking this on, Jay.
    Are Napoleon Mandarin and/or Qi White Liqueur available to you?

  2. anavolena anavolena says:

    I’m definitely looking forward to your notes on this.

  3. gilrain gilrain says:

    I think this is a question that’s rattled around the mind of every cocktail enthusiast. I stock Grand Marnier and Cointreau, but have taken to using Cointreau for everything that calls for an orange liqueur — to me, it just tastes better.

    The frustrating part is it messes up the traditional color of cocktails that call for orange or blue curacao, but, ah well, it’s not about the color anyway.

    I can’t wait to read your conclusions!

  4. Doug Winship Doug Winship says:

    Good Lord, Jay!
    Cointreau alone nearly bankrupts me on a regular basis. I’m not sure which I could afford less: The money for all these bottles, or the space to keep them in.

  5. Mycle Mycle says:

    I’m looking forward to this as well. I recently bought Patrón Citrónge. Since it costs 30% less than Cointreau, I’m going with it until persuaded that I’m making a horrible mistake. The same goes for Gran Gala vs Grand Marnier. I just wish I had access to even a third of what’s shown in that photo. drool . . .

  6. the modern serf the modern serf says:

    lately, ive seen a lot of people making their own grenadine, bitters, spiced rums and such; are there any recipes/methods out there for making your own quality orange liqueur?

  7. Jay Jay says:

    Ouroboros – I’ve not heard of Qi White, it is available from one of my usual haunts, but it would require a special order and is quite expensive so I may have to give it a miss. Unfortunately Mandarin Napoleon has been omitted for similar reasons.

    Doug – I know right?! I started out thinking I’ll maybe cover about 10 liqueurs, but there are so many around things just got out of hand. Thankfully a fair few have been supplied by their UK distributors, otherwise I would be totally bankrupt, as opposed to very nearly. At least I won’t have to buy any more curaçao for a while!

    Mycle – It’s funny, over here Citrónge is only available as a US import, making it roughly 30% more expensive than Cointreau which is widely available.

    The Modern Serf – Unlike things like bitters and grenadine, orange liqueurs quite often involve distillation in their production, especially in the case of triple sec, which makes home-made options difficult. Saying that, I’m fairly sure I’ve seen recipes for Orangecello over at eGullet

  8. Anna Anna says:

    Ah the sacrifices you make for us, your humble readers!

    I look forward to the comparison!

  9. Marleigh Marleigh says:

    Jesus Christo! That’s a whole lotta orange.

  10. The Pegu Blog says:

    [...] Monday: Limit One, I was perusing my blogroll and caught this post by Jay at Oh Gosh! about the collection of Orange Liqueurs he has amassed. Follow the link, check out Jay’s collection, and be dismayed at the paltry [...]

  11. Thank Kevin Thank Kevin says:

    Orange mania, fabulous! I wish I could join you on the tasting. I did do a side by side by side with Gran Gala, Cointreau and Grand Marnier. Interesting results.
    You certainly have a vast selection. There are two more worth mentioning: Prunier’s Liqueur D’Orange and Clement’s Creole Shrubb a rum-based orange liqueur.
    Happy tasting. Eager to see your comments.

  12. Jay Jay says:

    Kevin, I have already reviewed Clément Créole Shrubb. As for Prunier, it is a liqueur which unfortunately is unavailable here in the UK. I did manage to get hold of some (Gran Gala and Triplum spring to mind, but there are a few others I think) through the helpfulness of their distributors or via the internet, but some just couldn’t be located.

    I hope you enjoy my findings – still got five liqueurs to write up, and then it’s on to trying them out in cocktails. That’s the bit I’m really looking forward to!

  13. Tiare Tiare says:

    Fantastic! This i look forward too..and all this so that we don`t need to buy too many wrong ones from the orange liqueur jungle! hats off!

  14. Jay Jay says:

    Thanks Tiare. It’s taken a little while to get finished, but my final round-ups for the showdown will be published next week…

  15. Jamie Jamie says:

    A great read – but a frustrating one for someone exploring cocktails (and trying to make a living out of them) in a country (Argentina) where very few of these are available (5?).

    Those that are are SO expensive – Marie Brizzard, Cointreau and Gran Marnier are respectively 6,8 and 11 times the price of the triple sec I use normally (Bols argentina).I look forward to being back in the UK especially to try the Creole Shrub!

  16. Jay Jay says:

    Wow those prices are crazy Jamie! I thought the UK was bad…

  17. Melanie Melanie says:

    Have you ever heard of an orange liquer called Orangel? I recently received a bottle and I don’t know how to use it. I tried taking a sip and it is extremely sweet, with a kool-aid type taste. The actual liquid itself is orange, and the bottle only says Product of Italy. ????

  18. Clockwork Orange « Bartenders For Charity says:

    [...] Bols Dry Orange [...]

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