How to Navigate Orange Liqueurs’ Wonderful and Weird World

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To elevate your home cocktail game, learn how to harness the power these classic ingredients.

Whether or not you know what it actually is, you’ve Certain Grand Marnier is a brand you have probably encountered at one time or another in your life.  The bell-shaped, dark amber bottle with its red moiré ribbon (or “cordon rouge”) and extra-French wax seal is altogether iconic, and a staple on bars across the world. Maybe you’ve reveled in the pleasures of a Cadillac MargaritaIt is a. way It’s more fun to order than regular Margarita, or perhaps you’ve borne witness to some sort of flaming dessertThis is likely to make it possible. CognacIt is a bitter orange-based liqueur with a high alcohol content. Either way, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about Grand Marnier and its orangey brethren so you can sound even more interesting at cocktail parties…or feel more empowered to light drinks on fire. Neither a triple sec nor a Curaçao, here’s the lowdown on Grand Marnier and what sets it apart from its peers.

Before we dive in, let’s go back to basics — the word “liqueur” (pronounced “lee-keur”) is a French term for a category of sweetened distilled spirits that clock in anywhere between 15 and 55 percent ABV (alcohol by volume), although most liqueurs hover between 15 and 30 percent. Orange liqueurs can be made with the orange peel in a variety of ways, including fresh or dried. You can further subdivide this category into two main groups. triple secs and Curaçaos, with a few exceptions (like Grand Marnier) that lie on the fringe.

Triple Sec vs Curaçao

So, how do triple secs and Curaçaos differ from one another? Technically, there is no law governing either category. Therefore, the parameters surrounding production and provenance are very flexible. We can generally define triple secs as clear orange-flavored liqueurs, while Curaçaos take things a step further by incorporating various herbs and spices into the mix (these can also come in a variety of colors beyond clear, such as orange or blue).

What is Grand Marnier?

Grand Marnier is sweet and balanced. It has rich notes of caramel, candied orange, hazelnuts, hazelnut, marmalade and fresh orange zest. While some say that Grand Marnier is a hybrid of triple sec and Curaçao, we have to disagree. According to the brand, the makeup of Cordon Rouge (its most popular product and what most people are referring to when using the term “Grand Marnier”) is 51 percent Cognac — a protected appellation of grape brandy from France’s Cognac region — but the remaining 49 percent isn’t as much of a talking point, and like most specialty booze brands, Grand Marnier keeps the formula somewhat proprietary. Based on many other sources, however, it is clear that the non-Cognac component of Cordon Rouge is a mixture of distilled bitter orange essence (or a liqueur). We also know that no additional herbs or spices are used, which effectively eliminates the word “Curaçao” from the conversation.

Grand Marnier is, basically, a mix of Cognac (slightly more) and orange liqueur. Because the orange liqueur doesn’t qualify as a Curaçao, we can categorize that component as a triple sec.

How is Grand Marnier Made

Most orange liqueurs use a neutral spirit or sugar beet spirit. Some others use grape brandy or other cane spirits. While triple sec was invented in France in the mid-to late 1800s, its creator remains a matter of dispute between French brands. Combier And Cointreau. Furthermore, the Dutch had already been distilling orange peels for about two centuries by that point, particularly on the island of Curaçao, where their production process used the dried peels of the local Laraha orange, along with various herbs and spices (another distinct feature separating Curaçaos from triple secs).

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Other Cognac-Based Orange Liqueurs

In addition to Cordon Rouge, Grand Marnier also has a range of even more premium Cognac liqueurs like Cuvée du Centenaire, which uses a blend of longer-aged Cognacs (XO, or Extra Old), and Grande Cuvée Révélation, which ups the Cognac content to 91 percent as well as the minimum age of the Cognacs used in the blend to 14 years. Cointreau Noir It is similar to Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, in that it contains Cognac in its blend. Royal Combier also includes Cognac Delamain. Each bottle, just like each Champagne or Bordeaux house, will have a unique taste and body.

How to Store Grand Marnier

Always make sure your liqueurs are closed properly and tightly, and in general, you’ll want to keep them in a cool, dry place. If stored properly, liqueurs can be kept open for up to six months. However, a bottle that is not opened will go bad if it is well preserved. Depending on its contents, an open bottle can last between three and six months. Also, if you want to prevent the cap or cork of a liqueur bottle from getting sticky or stuck in place, be sure to wipe the mouth of the bottle down with a warm, wet cloth — along with the inside of the screw cap or exterior of the stopper before closing it.

Grand Marnier Cocktails

Grand Marnier is sometimes enjoyed straight or on the rocks after a meal. Otherwise, there’s an endless list of Grand Marnier cocktails out there.

Again, Grand Marnier is an excellent ingredient for all kinds of baking and flambéing endeavors, but if you want to keep things simple, this liqueur is seriously delicious when drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Grand Marnier can be used in recipes that call for orange liqueur or triple sec. However, it is more expensive than Triple Sec.

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