Cointreau Cocktails: How To Use Cointreau

by
August 12, 2020

If you’re of drinking age, you’ve likely encountered a few Cointreau cocktails. In fact, of all liqueurs it’s probably the one most likely to be on your bar cart right now. But while Cointreau is incredibly versatile, it’s also commonly misunderstood. Is it the same thing as Grand Marnier? Is it a triple sec or curaçao, and does the distinction even matter?

Cointreau was first sold in 1875; a product from the Cointreau brothers and their eponymous distillery, founded in 1849. The fact that it was originally called “Curaçao Blanco Triple Sec” doesn’t help remove that mysterious edge. In practice, though the liqueur is a triple sec—and with “sec” meaning “dry” in French—the product and the overarching category should be drier than Grand Marnier, itself more properly a curaçao. Cointreau is made from neutral sugar beet alcohol and a combination of sweet and bitter orange peels.

In 1990, the company merged with Rémy Martin and now operates as Rémy Cointreau, a conglomerate which also owns distilleries such as Bruichladdich, Mount Gay and Westland Distillery.

There’s no shortage of ways to put Cointreau to use. With a wide range of drinks worth exploring, Cointreau cocktails include the classics as well as newer riffs and modern marvels.

Classic Cointreau Cocktails

Margarita

-2 ounces tequila
-1 ounce Cointreau
-1 ounce lime juice

Directions: Shake all ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve over fresh ice, optionally with a salt rim.

The most classic and traditional Margarita recipe calls for Cointreau. If you’ve only been using tequila and lime juice, you’ve been missing out.

Cointreau cocktails: MargaritaMargarita /Photo Credit: Cointreau

Sidecar

-2 ounces cognac
-.75 ounce Cointreau
-.75 ounce lemon juice

Directions: Shake all ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve up, garnishing with a lemon twist.

The Sidecar is criminally underrepresented when it comes to old school standbys. It dates at least as far back as Harry MacElhone’s 1922 Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, and offers a vibrant, bright sipper, with cognac buoyed by its multiple citrus highlights.

Working from the Cointreau and lemon juice tag team, try subbing out gin for cognac. That variation is known as the Chelsea Sidecar, and comes recommended by Lucinda Sterling of Middle Branch in New York.

White Lady

-1.5 ounces gin
-.75 ounce Cointreau
-.75 ounce lemon juice
-1 egg white

Directions: Shake all ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve up, garnishing with a lemon twist.

The White Lady is similar to the aforementioned Chelsea Sidecar, and adds in an egg white for its frothy texture. The White Lady was first published in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. However, it was said to have been mixed by actress Lilian Harvey at a Berlin cocktail competition earlier in the year.

More Cointreau Cocktails to Try

Cosmopolitan

-1.5 ounces citrus vodka
-1 ounce cranberry juice
-1 ounce Cointreau
-.75 ounce lime juice

Directions: Shake all ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve up, garnishing with a lime wheel.

The Cosmopolitan is often derided and seen as a relic, which doesn’t do the drink justice. Created in the late ’80s by Toby Cecchini, the drink rose to super stardom by way of Sex and the City, and for a time, was one of the few cocktails besides Martinis, Margaritas and Manhattans that people knew by name. This is one of the Cointreau cocktails that deserves another look, made with proper specs and served in appropriately-sized glassware.

Cointreau cocktails: CosmopolitanCosmopolitan /Photo Credit: Cointreau

Mai Tai

-1.5 ounces white rum
-.75 ounce Cointreau
-.75 ounce lime juice
-.5 ounce orgeat
-.5 ounce dark rum

Directions: Shake the first four ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve over fresh ice. Float the dark rum atop the drink, and garnish with a lime wheel, pineapple wedge and mint sprig.

The Mai Tai is one of the more recognizable drinks from the tiki sphere, though most don’t try their hands making it at home. However, it’s simpler than you might expect, especially since even orgeat can be purchased from numerous widely available brands these days. Mix one of these Cointreau cocktails, close your eyes and you’ll teleport to a tropical paradise anytime of the year.

Islay Breeze

-2 ounces The Botanist Gin
-.75 ounce lime juice
-.5 ounce Cointreau
-.25 ounce simple syrup
-1 bar spoon Green Chartreuse
-tonic

Directions: Shake the first five ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve over fresh ice. Top with tonic and garnish with a mint sprig.

The Islay Breeze gets its name for The Botanist Gin, a stablemate of Cointreau in the Rémy Cointreau family (though your gin of choice will also work). It’s one of the few long drinks showcasing Cointreau, and works as an excellent, complex refresher.


Ready to whip up some Cointreau cocktails?

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