Our Guide to Orange Liqueurs

Our Guide to Orange Liqueurs
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Orange Liqueurs

Orange Liqueurs are an essential item in any well stocked bar and there are many popular orange liqueur cocktails such as the Anejo Highball and the Baja Gold cocktail. There are many orange liqueurs available today and the list continues to grow. The perception of orange liqueur varies greatly from the premium brands such as Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Royal Combier to the bottom shelf options normally used to create garish, sticky-sweet, bright blue cocktails.

There has often been some confusion when discussing orange liqueurs and differentiating between triple sec, curaçao liqueur etc. To begin with, orange liqueur is actually the easiest term to define. It is simply a sweetened alcoholic beverage with orange flavouring. The alcohol itself can be either a column-distilled neutral spirit or it may be a pot distilled spirit, such as grape brandy.

Curaçao Liqueur originated on the Caribbean island of Curaçao. It is said that that when the Spanish planted orange trees there the climate produced a far more bitter fruit that was found to be better after drying and eventually the dried peels were used in making this new liquor. Curaçao was also used in classic cocktails such as the Brandy Cocktail as a sweetener prior to the popularity of vermouth. At the turn of the 20th century, Curaçao producers began selling the spirit in a variety of colours and today it can be found in orange, blue and green version, with blue Curaçao being used to make famous orange liqueur cocktails such as the Blue Lagoon and the Electric Iced Tea.

Orange Liqueur 2

Triple Sec originated as a French product. It was originally made with less sugar than used in Curaçao liqueur, which led to the name sec, which means dry. No one knows with any certainty where the designation “triple” originated. Triple Sec is not triple-distilled, as some people claim, and nor is it thrice as dry as Curaçao or other liqueurs. The most reasonable explanation is that “triple” was mere marketing and a way to “jazz-up” new products.

Perhaps the two most famous brands of orange liqueurs are Grand Marnier and Cointreau. Grand Marnier is an orange liqueur in the Curaçao tradition, and Cointreau is a triple sec. Grand Marnier, specifically used to make the Grand Orange Collins cocktail, is a blend of cognac and triple sec, so although it’s not a traditional Curaçao, it’s a similar product. Cointreau, on the other hand, is straight up a triple sec. In fact, Cointreau initially called itself Cointreau Triple Sec, and you can sometimes find old-school, collectible bottles with this labeling on Internet auction sites.

When considering orange liqueur cocktails, it is wise to keep both a light and dark based orange liqueur in your bar stock. The most obvious premium choices would be Cointreau (light) and Grand Marnier (dark), though there are other brands that are equal in quality to both, including Clement Creole Shrubb, Combier Liqueur dOrange and Patron Citronge. Always take note that a cheap orange liqueur has the ability to ruin an otherwise perfect cocktail!

At Social and Cocktail Towers, we decided to pick out 3 of our favourite cocktails featuring orange liqueur, so please give them a try at home.


El Presidente cocktail

1)El Presidente

Cocktail Ingredients

50 ml Aged Rum, 12 1/2 ml Orange Liqueur, 10 ml Dry Vermouth, splash Grenadine, Orange Peel

How to make an El Presidente cocktail

Begin by chilling coupe glass with ice and soda. Add ice to mixing glass and add all ingredients. Stir sown the drink for 20 seconds, using a bar spoon. When mixing ensure the glass is kept full to the brim with ice. Strain the drink into the chilled coupe glass and serve straight up. Garnish with orange peel twist.


Lemon Drop Martini cocktail

2)Lemon Drop Martini

Cocktail Ingredients

37 1/2 ml Vodka,12 1/2 ml Orange Liqueur, 12 1/2 ml Sugar Syrup, 25 ml Lemon Juice, Lemon Twist, Sugar

How to make a Lemon Drop Martini

Add all ingredients into a Boston shaker and fill with ice. Shake well then double strain into a chilled martini glass that has been rimmed with sugar. Garnish with the twisted lemon peel.


Sidecar cocktail


Cocktail Ingredients

37 1/2 ml Cognac, 12 1/2 ml Triple Sec, 20 ml Lemon Juice, dash Egg White, 5 ml Sugar Syrup, Orange peel

How to make a SideCar

Chill a coupe glass with soda water. Add all the ingredients to a mixing tin and dry shake for 10 seconds. Add ice to the tin and shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Taste. Fine strain ingredients into chilled coupe glass. Zest orange peel into the drink and place orange twist into glass.




Written by damien

Posted: January 31, 2013