> New York Hudson Valley Eats & Treats!: Cointreau - The Classic Orange Liqueur

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cointreau - The Classic Orange Liqueur

I've been writing many posts lately about various Tequilas - Espolon BlancoEspolon Reposado, and Sauza Silver.  All of these are delicious 100% agave Tequilas and are suitable for drinking straight.  Many people however, are not the type to drink straight liquor, and I can't blame them - at 40% alcohol by volume, these spirits hit rather hard, have something of a bite to them despite their smoothness - and are what people think of as "straight alcohol" :)  Few people want to be viewed as an alcoholic by drinking straight liquor, even if they enjoy the spirit based purely on it's own merits.

Enter the Margarita.  This classic cocktail is the most popular drink to use Tequila - and why not?  It's delicious.  There are a few different variations on the drink, but the one that I like to use involves the following ratio:

2 parts good Tequila, often a Reposado Tequila.
1.5 parts Orange Liqueur or Triple Sec - in this case, the one and only Cointreau
1 part fresh squeezed lime juice.
(Optional) 1 part of less simple syrup, or to taste.

An ice cold bottle of Cointreau Liqueur
Ice cold Cointreau is just begging to be
added to a top-shelf margarita!
Some recipes call for equal parts Tequila, Triple Sec, and Lime - others call for 2 parts Tequila, 1 part lime juice, and just a splash of Cointreau.  Still others call for a 3:2:1 ratio of Tequila, lime, and orange liqueur.  You should experiment to find that ratio that you find most suitable - for me, the recipe that I listed above seems to serve us well.  Key elements are that the Tequila is front and center - it is the main spirit of the cocktail.  Tequila works wonderfully with citrus flavors, and the lime compliments it well, with the orange liqueur "rounding" out the cocktail and adding depth and occasional sweetness.

Now the standard liqueur to use with the margarita is Cointreau.  Made from the rind of oranges, Cointreau is widely regarded as one of the best, if not THE best, orange liqueur.  Some with argue that Grand Marnier is a superior product, and they are certainly entitled to their opinion.  Grand Marnier is an orange liqueur that is based off of cognac instead of the neutral spirits of Cointreau, so the flavor profile has a different character.  Try it yourself to see if you prefer it - like most things in this realm, it's all a matter of taste.

A frosty 375ml bottle of Cointreau
Since 1849, Remy Cointreau has been
a premium orange liqueur! 
Cointreau is still generally recognized to be the standard for orange liqueur in cocktails, and it's not hard to understand why.  The flavor is complex, like oranges and orange rinds, and pleasantly bitter, while it plays off the sweetness of the liqueur in a nice balanced fashion.  The fragrance is just wonderful.  Whether or not you would call this a liqueur or a "premium triple sec" depends on whom you ask.  Cointreau is 40% alcohol by volume and as such is almost twice as strong as many common brands of triple sec, which may or may not be an advantage.

As far as quality?  Well, Cointreau is top shelf, there is no question.  And when making a drink, the you get out of it what you put into it.  I personally am of the opinion that life is too short to be drinking garbage, and that you should spend a little more to get something nice.  Cheap triple secs by.. brands I won't even name are just that; cheap.  They aren't derived from real oranges, they are basically cheap alcohol mixed with artificial flavoring and they tend to result in a pretty poor drink.  That isn't to say that there aren't other good premium triple secs that you can find.. stay tuned to the blog for those :)  But you really shouldn't skimp.

Cointreau triple sec bottle
Cointreau is expensive, but you get what you pay for.
The uses of Cointreau are manifold - it can be used in cooking, dozens of alcoholic cocktails, and.. well, I suppose you could drink it straight if that's what's up your alley.  Goodness.  But to wrap it up, Cointreau is a premium triple sec or Orange liqueur that has an incredible depth of orange flavor and taste, and really is the go-to standard when it comes to many drinks - including one that we've been having a lot of over there, the Margarita :)

Cointreau is expensive - the 375ml bottle pictured here costs around $20, and it maintains it's high price point wherever you go more or less, so enjoy it responsibly and in small amounts :)

Cointreau bottle label
The label is classic and unmistakable.  Making a top-shelf cocktail with orange?  You need Cointreau orange liquor.