Cointreau: Margaritas and cosmopolitans wouldn’t be the same without it. But what exactly is this aromatic, transparent liqueur—and how does it vary from similar products, like triple sec and Grand Marnier?
While triple sec is a generic term used to describe any orange-flavored liqueur, Cointreau refers to a specific brand of especially high-quality triple sec that’s particularly strong—40 percent alcohol by volume, to be exact. Grand Marnier, meanwhile, is also a specific brand of orange liqueur, but it consists of triple sec blended with cognac, which gives it an amber color.
Though Cointreau can be served neat or on the rocks, it’s perhaps best known for its role in cocktails like margaritas, cosmopolitans, and sidecars. (As a general rule of thumb, you can use Cointreau anytime a recipe calls for triple sec.) Intensely citrusy and incredibly versatile, it works well with everything from clear spirits like vodka and gin to rums, tequilas, and whiskeys. Not sure where to start? Lucky for you, we’ve gathered 11 of our favorite cocktail recipes featuring Cointreau.
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Made with tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, agave, and salt along the rim, this recipe yields a perfect, classic margarita. Need we say more?
Inspired by Erika Kotite’s classic margarita recipe (see above!), the addition of sage makes this version of the summery cocktail decidedly fall-ready.
“It’s a boozier version of the Arnold Palmer, made with the usual duo of lemonade and black iced tea, plus vodka,” writes Kelly Vaughan. “Add a splash of orange liqueur to amplify the citrus flavor, and for a totally tart twist, garnish with a lemon wheel.”
This drink was inspired by The Last Word, a cocktail made with gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse, and lime juice—but here, maraschino liqueur is replaced by Cointreau for an extra-citrusy twist.
This sangria combines Cointreau (or Grand Marnier) and white wine with a blend of peach nectar, dry sherry, and fresh strawberries to create the ultimate summer sip.
Though this cosmo can be made with any triple sec (as can most of the recipes on this list), many—including the International Bartenders Association—specifically use Cointreau in their cosmopolitans.
7. Tokyo Tea
Long Island iced tea gets an upgrade with Midori melon liqueur and—yes—Mountain Dew. Boozy and vibrantly green, it’s the perfect drink for pretty much any summer occasion.
This updated take on a margarita is set apart by its spicy, herbal additions: muddled jalapeños and basil. Plus, it couldn’t be easier to make—no simple syrups or infused spirits required.
Here, Cointreau is at its coziest, thanks to additions like ginger beer, Angostura bitters, and cinnamony apple-peel bourbon.
“One of my go-tos for an elegant, boozy cocktail when I want something sweeter than a martini but drier than a Negroni (an important niche to fill!),” writes recipe developer Fiveandspice of this herbal, gin-based cocktail.
This orange dreamsicle-esque cocktail gets its distinct citrus flavor from not just Cointreau, but from orange, lime, and lemon juices, orange flower water, and an orange twist.