Orange liqueur is a distilled spirit flavored with orange. Some orange liqueur brands use a neutral grain base while others use liquor like cognac (like Grand Marnier) or rum (like Clément Créole Shrubb) as a base. Orange liqueur is used for sipping or for mixing when making cocktails to provide fruit flavors and sometimes, a hint of sweetness too. Orange liqueurs are produced in different parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Netherlands, Italy, and France.
Orange Liqueur Trivia
- Historians believe that orange liqueur started with the 19-century creation of curaçao which traditionally uses rum as a base, although modern versions now use distilled grain spirits as well.
- Although Curaçao originated from the place of the same name, unlike other spirits, it is not a protected appellation, meaning spirits produced in other places can call their product curaçao.
- Cointreau was once called itself Cointreau Triple Sec
- Orange liqueur is also used in cooking and helps add a subtle sweet flavor to sweet or savory dishes.
Orange Liqueur Buying Guide
When talking about orange liqueur, it is important to discuss some of the names and terms usually associated with (or confused) with orange liqueur, like curaçao, triple sec, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier.
Cointreau and Grand Marnier are brand names. They are broadly characterized as orange liqueur although there are some qualities that differentiate one from the other. Cointreau is considered as the best triple sec in its pure form, while Grand Marmier is the best there is when it comes to triple sec-curaçao hybrid brands (Grand Marmier is originally called Curaçao Marnier). These two are at the top of the list of best-selling orange liqueur brands in the world.
Curaçao is a Dutch island, a Lesser Antilles island country in the southern Caribbean Sea and the Dutch Caribbean region, and a constituent country of the kingdom of Netherlands. Here, a citrus fruit called laraha (Citrus × aurantium subsp. currassuviencis) is grown. The peelings of this bitter native orange are used to make one of the earliest known forms of orange liqueurs that came to be known as curaçao. The difference between traditional and modern versions of curaçao is taste. Traditional curaçao is used for its strong orange, citrusy flavor, while modern curaçao is usually more sweet than citrusy.
Triple sec is a drier orange liqueur. Some use triple sec and orange liqueur interchangeably, while others use the term triple sec to refer to cheaper brands or knock-offs, usually meant for mixing since high-quality triple sec is good enough to drink neat.
When choosing what brand of orange liqueur to buy, consider what you are planning to do and from there you can decide if what you need is a cheap orange liqueur, a brand that is in the middle range between cheap and expensive, or a top-shelf orange liqueur bottle. If you are preparing a big batch of cocktails for drinkers who are not very particular with the nuances of flavor, then a cheap bottle of orange liqueur will do. If you are mixing a cocktail for a small group that can appreciate good taste, a mid-range brand is ideal. Finally, buy a high-end bottle only if your budget can accommodate it and reserve this for really special occasions and really very special guests since top-shelf orange liqueur is great for sipping neat.
Orange Liqueur Production & Farming in Texas
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated Texas orange production for 2020 at 2.56 million boxes to record an increase in production from the prior year. There is no indication of a potential decrease in production this year. Because of the production of oranges in Texas, it is not surprising that there is a locally-made orange liqueur in Texas.
An example of an orange liqueur made in Texas is Paula’s Orange Liqueur. Leanderthal Distilling makes what the company claims as Texas’ first-ever locally-made 82 proof triple sec – Triple Secession Orange Liqueur. Another brand is Texagave Texas Triple Sec, a 30-proof mixing triple sec.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
Some orange liqueur brands contain additives because of two reasons – to color the liqueur (decorative purposes) and/or to manipulate the flavor and arrive at a particular flavor profile desired by the manufacturer. For example, the orange liqueur Aurum gets its orange color by adding saffron, a plant that has crimson stigma and styles harvested for use as a coloring agent. There are several additives that can be added to affect flavor and color the use of which is not in violation of the law so long as it was used accordingly.
Orange liqueur is sold in bottles. Some companies do not put too much attention to packaging. Others take their time developing the packaging and appearance knowing that this is an important part of brand identity. As early as 1885, Edouard Cointreau already knew this, and his quest to create a strong, visual identity resulted in the creation of one of the very recognizable bottles in the orange liqueur industry: Cointreau’s signature square, amber, multi-faceted, bottle. Other orange liqueur brands also have their own distinct packaging that is synonymous with the brand. For example, the pot still-shaped bottle with red ribbon and wax is recognizable as Grand Marnier, while the genuine bottle of Curaçao is circular depicting the shape of an orange with a narrow neck or handle spouting straight up from the center. You can also notice the bumpy texture on the side of the bottle. It was meant to mimic the texture of the orange’s surface.
Enjoying Orange Liqueur
When you drink orange liqueur neat, you should notice the taste of orange. Some orange liqueurs are known to be too sweet for a spirit. Some bear a syrupy texture while other brands have a drier mouthfeel.
Top shelf orange liqueur is great for sipping neat. This allows you to appreciate the notes of orange and other flavors carefully designed by the spirit maker. It also makes for great mixing, when you are making cocktails. Orange liqueur is used to make a margarita, long island iced tea, and cosmopolitan.
Store in a cool, dry area. Do not store in places where it is exposed to direct sunlight. It is ok to keep the bottle once opened but make sure to return the cap and always keep the bottle closed. Even if it tastes orange, it still has alcohol content, so make sure to store somewhere that children and minors cannot reach or access, like a locked liquor cabinet.
Make your own Classic Margarita
One of the many cocktails closely associated with Cointreau is a margarita. This cocktail is easy to make, requires very few ingredients, and an enjoyable casual drink that is appreciated by experienced drinkers and social drinkers too. The flavor is enjoyable with the right mix of alcohol and citrus notes in the cool swirling liquid mix.
This recipe yields one serving of the Classic Margarita
- Tequila, 1 1/2 ounces
- Cointreau, 1/2 ounces
- Lime juice, 1/2 ounces
- 4 ice cubes
Step 1: Prepare a salt-rimmed glass.
Step 2: Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Shake well.
Step 3: Strain into a glass and add ice.
Step 4: Sip and enjoy!