So what is Triple Sec? … Triple sec is a liqueur alcohol made from bitter orange peels and can be bought from almost every supermarket and most corner shops too. But here’s the thing, whilst Cointreau is technically a triple sec (in the very loosest of terms), it is, by all accounts, something so much more.
A lot of people (uneducated people) will tell you that there is no real difference. They are wrong. Cointreau is much more than just another triple sec (it’s a brandy based liqueur for a start). Its history alone is enough to sure up that statement. For over 150 years Remy Cointreau (the owning company of Cointreau) has made Cointreau in the same traditional way it always has. Now whilst you’ll probably never find out what exactly goes into the bottle you buy (due to protection of the ingredients – most alcohols from the big brands are protected in this way). What you will be able to find out is that Cointreau uses both Sweet and Bitter orange peels (standard triple sec only uses bitter peel), and adds sugar to get it to the texture and taste you know and love.
Now apart from its obvious cocktail connotations, Cointreau has solidly become a bit of a Christmas favourite, at least it has over here in the UK. It has all of the citrus flavour you’d expect from a Yule-tide beverage, but the sweetness helps mix it with the dryer more traditional spirits (such as sherry and port).
The Christmas Spirit (excuse the pun) has been greeted with open arms, and we all know the supermarkets like to battle it out for the best offers but the important bit is about what they sell.
With a list of spirits including various vodkas, whisky’s, and liqueurs (such as cherry brandy, amaretto and of course the favourites such as Benedictine, Drambuie & Glayva), the people of the UK are spoilt for choice when it comes to Christmas’ spirit offers. But one drink that should always be on your list is, of course, Cointreau. Not some £10 (cheap) bottle of triple sec, but a bottle of Cointreau (its usually about £12-14 per 50Cl at this time of year).
If you take one thing away from this blog today it should be to at least give Cointreau a try. I personally guarantee that the flavours you get from the drinks you have will be better for it. Cointreau is one of those liqueurs that just give you that extra something and for this reason it should be one of the main spirits you have on your Christmas list.
So to summarise… Cointreau has something that other triple sec liqueurs have (quite literally as the ingredients are secret!). It’s because of this that it has become not only one of the UK’s favourite liqueurs, but it is a favourite from all over the world.
The balance of the sweet and bitter peel works well together and is a lot easier on the mouth when you drink it neat. Some liqueurs can be a bit overpowering and that can take away the flavour. However the sweetness within the Cointreau helps balance the flavours better, making it easier to taste the citrus peels and their bitter-sweet balance.
As a side note, I would like to add that another ‘triple sec’ product worth a mention would be Agave Sec. This is an orange liqueur like Cointreau but its flavoured with Agave syrup (the same plant used to create that Mexican wonder: Tequila. It is similar to Cointreau in that it becomes opalescent when added to water (or over ice in a cocktail for example). This for both Cointreau and Agave Sec is a mark of real quality as it shows the levels of oils and volatiles from the orange peels/agave syrup is quite high in amount.