Cointreau – “A supremely high quality triple sec” – this is a simple statement of fact. Albeit a very linear fact!
If you are reading this thinking: ‘yeah Cointreau is just a triple sec isn’t it?’ then firstly slap yourself, and make sure you take notes. Cointreau is NOT ‘just another triple sec’ by any stretch of the imagination. Triple sec is a liqueur flavoured with orange rind (and sometimes other ingredients but for the sake of this post we’ll stick to oranges), ‘but so is Cointreau isn’t it?’ I hear you say… No is my answer. Cointreau is not ‘just a triple sec’, it’s the original triple sec, the first and most original orange liqueur. Sure in the loosest of tongues it can be put under the heading ‘triple sec’ (I’m guilty of doing so myself on occasion) but for all intents and purposes, it is much, much, more than just a triple sec, it’s a way of life. A taste of France, of fresh oranges both sweet and bitter, as well as a few secret ingredients that make the taste even better (I find that mystery in a recipe always improves flavour – must be a psychological thing).
Now Cointreau is the focus of this post for one main reason: It’s special to me. It is, to me, that sense of origin & quality, a starting point on my passionate road for all things spiritual (in a cocktail sense).
I was formerly introduced to Cointreau on a night out when I was just 18 and working for my local supermarket in Chatham (Kent, England). At the time a Russian roulette game of ‘try something new today’ was my method of exploring alcohol. I was young, impressionable and had more money to burn than I’ll ever see again. Armed with that and a young naivety that my supermarkets then motto ‘Try Something New Today’ should be my personal motto of choice when out drinking (or eating) I set out on an adventure, to be different, to not force foul tasting larger/beer/draught ales/wine on my taste buds (they’re foul because I tried and detested all of them in turn). I discovered things I liked, and things I hated. But most importantly, I discovered my first true love: Cointreau.
Now granted the first time I drank it was in a ‘Cointreau, Lime & Lemonade’ concoction that I now know to be sacrilege (they used lime cordial – I mean come on!) but all the same, the minute I got the taste of the orange liquid on my tongue, I knew, I knew this was the spirit for me. So I bought a bottle of it the next time I finished work (I bought 2 bottles to be totally honest) and set out to make and try as many variations of beverages I could find on either the net, or in books or just literally in my mind. Some were ok, others awful. But whatever the drink, I always got the bitter-sweet symphony of orange flavour that Cointreau supplies, even if it tasted like liquid fertilizer (and sometimes they weren’t far off). Every time without fail that same citrus fresh taste was there, almost as a reminder for me to keep trying; Telling me to carry on experimenting and find the ‘cocktail’ for me. Now of course I tried cocktails wherever I could, and commemorated this dialogue to memory: ‘Anything with Cointreau in it that isn’t a margarita’ – a downside to the ‘Try Something New Today’ era of my life, I cannot stand tequila at all (there is always a casualty of such behaviour – tequila was such a casualty).
Eventually I found some cocktails I liked, back then my taste buds where still developing and it was hard to pin down my exact preferences, and as with most people I gained a regular. If the place I went to didn’t serve it, I reverted back to; “A Cointreau, Lime and Lemonade then please!” and whilst it wasn’t perfect, I found it satisfied the need for that bitter-sweet taste.