Just What is Cointreau?
Cointreau is a triple-sec orange liqueur. It has been around since the late 1800s and is named after its creator: Edouard Cointreau. Cointreau is made from orange peels, bitter orange, sugar, and alcohol. It’s sweet, a bit tart, orange-y, and has a wonderful balance of subtle bitterness and vanilla undertones.
It’s one of my favorite liqueurs. I use it to make cocktails and also to flavor desserts, custards, soups, and edible oils. It’s particularly good when paired with caramel and chocolate. For example, Cointreau Truffles are to die for. And you might want to try this Cointreau-infused oil.
So you get the idea; I like Cointreau! But what happens when you’re in a pinch and can’t get your hands on it? This is a scenario many of you will find yourselves in.
The LA Times and Epicurious have published quite a few suggestions on what you can substitute for Cointreau. Here’s a roundup of some of the more commonly suggested, readily available Cointreau substitutes that you should look for in your local liquor store.
What is The Difference Between Triple Sec and Curaçao?
Triple Sec is a type of flavored liqueur which is a fortifying alcohol manufactured using a blend of distilled alcohol and citrus fruits.
CuraÃ§ao, on the other hand, refers to a specific liqueur that's produced by the dutch spirits firm, Van Oosten. The firm regards the drink as the original orange flavored liqueur and states that the drink is made using a secret recipe developed by Jan Pieterszoon Sweerts in 1658.
What to Consider When Substituting Cointreau?
Cointreau liqueur is an orange-flavored liqueur that has had a special place in the hearts of many people for many years, among other things, of course, to make the famous and very delicious drink, the Cosmopolitan.
The drink is often associated incorrectly with Crêpes Suzette, a dessert made by heating a Crêpes in an orange-flavored sauce and bubbling it for a while until it acquires a melted and bubbling texture.
The recipe’s popularity has prompted people to substitute Cointreau with cheap brands, but it must be understood that there is always a loss in taste. Here are then some things to consider when making the substitution.
Consider the Alcohol Index
Among the qualities that make up the Cointreau, the high alcohol index is one of the most appreciated qualities; This means that the Cointreau liqueur has an alcohol volume of 40%. To help the substitution process, it is expected that cheap liqueur brands are of lower alcohol content than Cointreau, which results in a lower quality of the final cocktail.
With high alcohol content and low quality, Cointreau is almost indescribable compared to the original Cointreau, which guarantees high quality. It will lose taste by using such brands.
Substitute 1: Grand Marnier
Grand Marnier is a delightful orange-flavored liqueur that one can use to create cocktails and desserts. It is mainly used to make Mandarine Napoléon, which is my favorite with orange sorbet and champagne.
Grand Marnier is also a secret ingredient in Cosmopolitans. In this cocktail recipe, we use Cointreau (orange-flavored liqueur), cranberry juice, lemon juice, and a bit of vodka. To save a bit of money, you can substitute Grand Marnier for Cointreau. But be careful because some drink recipes are overly complicated. Avoid using substitutes by asking the host or hostess to help in choosing ingredients.
Substitute 2: Cura çao
Cura çao is one of the most popular liqueurs in Thailand, preceding even Krating Daeng (KD or Thai rum) in popularity, and added later to one of Thailand’s most popular drinks, Santafie. Cura çao is also a staple in the classic Brazilian drink, Biteca.
Cura çao is made from sugarcane juice and is similar in taste to Cointreau, but slightly more vanilla-y and darker in color with a bit of an orange flavor from the aging. But unfortunately, it costs about 4-5x as much as Cointreau. Traditional Curaçao was first made in 1896. Curaçao of Curaçao, made by Senior, is still available as a premium Curaçao.
Substitute 3: Hiram Walker Triple Sec
Both of these orange liqueurs are pretty distinct from each other. Grand Marnier is made from a distillation process with two different kinds of oranges. Hiram’s Triple Sec is made from a three-step distillation of sun-dried oranges. The taste profile is also quite different. Grand Mariner is citrusy with a hint of sweetness from the sugar added to the flavoring syrup. The Triple Sec is bright and very sweet and also entirely artificial.
It looks like the colors of the two liqueurs differ more than the flavors. That’s why taste and proof are more valuable as criteria than visual differences. Therefore, it’s best only to use the Hiram Walker alternative if you’re looking for orange aromas and flavors.
Substitute 4: Combier Liqueur d’Orange
Combier is another orange liqueur that’s similar to Cointreau. It’s also produced relatively close to Cointreau in the Cognac region of France. The main difference between Combier and Cointreau is that Combier is a bit lighter, with more citrus tones, and less sweet than Cointreau. The lighter, more citrusy tones make Combier work well in cocktails like the perfect cosmopolitan. Combier also pairs well with orange juice, thanks to its rich orange flavor.
To use Combier as a Cointreau substitute for the perfect Cosmopolitan, just follow the basic recipe. Make sure that you’re using it in the right cocktail or for a cocktail that calls for grapefruit or orange juice, and you’ll be okay.
Like Cointreau and Curacao, Combier also has orange bitters, often used in cocktails but are also found in some food recipes or as an ingredient in marinades for meats, especially beef. Combier is also a fantastic choice for classic cocktails like the Caipirinha and the Cosmopolitan.
Substitute 5: Luxardo Triplum
If you want to highlight the flavor of Cointreau but don’t have it around, the best substitute is probably Luxardo Triplum. Triplum is a sweet, Italian liqueur made from a blend of Damascena rose petals, cardamom, and natural flavors. It is obtained from the distillation of the three types of citrus fruits.
It's slightly more floral than Cointreau and less sweet, highlighting the flavors of the triple sec in it. I love using Triplum in holiday cocktails, especially with cranberries. It’s subtle and fruity and adds such a beautiful flavor to drinks. You get an excellent rich taste from a pour of triplum, so don’t skimp on it!
Substitute 6: Orange Extract
Like Cointreau, the orange extract also has a prominent orange taste. This means you can use a small amount and avoid diluting the colored liqueur with water, which will result in a foul flavor. Add your usual amount, and if you want, add a dash of dissolved sugar in the remaining amount of liqueur to add a sweet kick to the drink.
Kammann, which specializes in liqueurs and spirits, makes several types of orange extract. You can pick up a 4 oz bottle at a store, or you can order online.
In Summary – Substituting Cointreau
Cordials showing up in many cocktail recipes have had a very long history. Cordials are spirits blended with fruit flavors, spices, and herbs. Some of the favorites have been the Cointreau, Grand Marnier, and Benedictine. They have been staples in a variety of classic cocktails for years. But these days, they’ve been avoided by budget-minded bartenders. What can you do when your recipe calls for a more expensive cordial?
One thing to remember is that you can still get your cocktail on without having any cordial added and still be able to down your Cosmopolitan or Crêpe Suzette lickety-split.