What Is Cointreau and What Do You Do With It?

If you've ever enjoyed a margarita or a cosmopolitan, you've likely had Cointreau. But what exactly is the orange liqueur—and how is it made?

What Is Cointreau?

Cointreau is a type of triple sec—strong, sweet, and colorless orange-flavored liqueur—produced in Saint-Barthélemy-d'Anjou, France.

It is used as an apéritif and digestif (an alcoholic beverage consumed before or after meals) and is an ingredient in quite a few iconic cocktails, like the margarita, sidecar, and cosmopolitan.

The liqueur, which was created in the 1870s and became well-known after the World’s Fair of 1889, is made from sweet and bitter orange peels and alcohol from sugar beets.

Cointreau is 80 proof, which means it has 40% ABV.

Cointreau vs. Grand Marnier

Cointreau and Grand Marnier are both types of orange liqueur They’re both made in France, they both originated in the 19th century, and they’re both 40% ABV.

However, they do have a few notable differences:

Cointreau is made with a mix of bitter and sweet oranges and distilled twice. It has a bright, crisp, and clean orange flavor and is not typically aged.

Grand Marnier, which is made with only one type of bitter orange, includes cognac. Its flavor is sweeter, more intense, and oakier than Cointreau. Since it’s made with high-quality brandy, Grand Marnier is aged.

Since Cointreau is lighter, it’s more versatile in cocktails than Grand Marnier. However, you can substitute one for the other in a pinch—just make sure to use slightly more Cointreau than is called for if you’re substituting for Grand Marnier, as you’ll need to account for the discrepancy in intensity.

Cointreau Cocktails

Adding a bottle of Cointreau to your bar cart is a great way to upgrade your mixology game. To start, go with one of the classics:

  • Classic Margarita
  • Citrus Sidecar
  • Cosmopolitan

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