The Best Cointreau Substitutes to Try Out Now

Written by The Kitchen Hand on . Posted in drink

Cointreau is an excellent drink choice anytime and anywhere but sometimes, the price tag is worth worrying about, and that’s why a Cointreau liqueur substitute is the way to go.

Let’s say you want to make a margarita for 3 persons and you have no bottle of cointreau lying around, buying a 750 ml for about 40 dollars doesn’t always come easy. If you are a college student, then this reality shouldn’t be so far off. With cointreau substitutes, you don’t have to bother so much about how expensive it is anymore.

On the other hand, it could be you can’t get a bottle of cointreau right now and you desperately need it either to make a cocktail or in some desserts recipe. Really, your reasons for wanting a substitute could be as diverse as the list of substitutes available for you.

The smooth crispy orange flavored liqueur is always a good idea to go with, it’s a classic high end drink made only by Remy Cointreau, thus no worries about purchasing a cheap quality product. It’s all about high-end quality for this drink, always.

Is Cointreau A Triple Sec Or A Curaçao?

Cointreau was originally once called Curaçao Blanco Triple Sec. So I believe you now understand why a few persons think it’s a Curaçao. The very first time the drink was introduced, the term, Curaçao was added as a prefix and the reason for that ain’t very clear.

However, the name was later changed to Cointreau Triple sec and eventually just Cointreau (because other distilleries came up with their own triple sec too) and the mild confusion ended. Some persons do think it was a marketing strategy.

What do you think about it?

As a liqueur, the drink is primarily flavored with orange, the Cointreau flavor is perfectly balanced between bitterness and sweetness – a quality you should watch out for in its substitutes. The drink is a triple sec drink and no, that doesn’t mean it underwent triple distillation. As a matter of fact, the method of producing cointreau is not known, it is regarded and treated as a family secret.

You’ve definitely heard of Curaçao and all its many types, from blue Curaçao to the traditional Curaçao which is colorless. Curaçao was first made in the island of Curaçao, from a pot stilled brandy with the dried peels of Curaçao oranges serving as flavoring. The dried orange peels added brought flavor and aroma to the drink, the drink became very popular and as the story goes, a lot of versions sprouted.

These different versions of Curaçao are not produced with the same ingredients nor with the same method of production. Their flavor profile vary considerably depending on the brand, flavors and quality.

Curaçao was originally a rum-based drink, however, newer curaçao drinks do not necessarily have rum as its base. The thing about substituting cointreau with curaçao is that if you aren’t careful, you might end up with a cheap sad imitation of the traditional curaçao.

Triple Sec on the other hand, is less sweeter than Curaçao. It originated from France and no one is exactly sure why it is named triple sec. While some persons think it is just a way to market the product in a more appealing or superior manner, others think it is because the product is made to undergo distillation three times. It is a drier liqueur than Curaçao that is also flavored with orange.

Thus both the Curaçao and Triple Sec liqueur are orange flavored liqueur, hence it is no surprise that Curaçao can be sometimes used as a substitute for cointreau liqueur. And Cointreau is not a Curaçao liqueur, it is a triple sec liqueur. For a substitute that provides a complex feel alongside a fruity sweet or bitter flavor, orange liqueurs are a good alternative.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about both Curaçao and triple sec is that once a while, you might run into a brand that bears exactly the same name. That doesn’t mean it’s of a better quality or that it’s the more “original” version. Take note.

What Cointreau Liqueur is And Its Uses

Cointreau is a top shelf orange flavored alcoholic beverage from Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou in France. The liqueur was first introduced in 1875 and it is 40 percent alcohol by volume (proofed at 80 in the US). Cointreau is a colorless (clear) alcoholic beverage with an orange flavor well balanced between sweet and bitter. Another great thing about this bottle of liqueur is its relatively long shelf life, it can last for 3 years if properly stored.

It has a subtle orange, spicy aroma and leaves hint of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and of course the orange. It serves useful in several mixed drinks such as Margarita and cosmopolitan, for which it also features in the IBA (International Bartenders Association) cosmopolitan and Margarita standard recipes.

Cointreau is also used in cooking and makes for a great sipper too.

It can either be consumed neat or on the rocks alone, or before and after a meal (cos it’s an apéritif and also a digestif). The first bottles of Cointreau were manufactured by the Cointreau brothers in 1875, however in 1990, the Cointreau brothers merged with Rémy Martin to form the Rémy Cointreau company.

The Cointreau liqueur flavor is gotten from a blend of sweet and bitter orange, whose balanced flavor is complemented by an equally perfect blend of spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves. The spices are considered complementary since they do not overwhelm the orange flavor, nor alter it either.

As an orange liqueur, its use is versatile and include being used in cocktails, cooking dishes like crêpes suzette, baking of cakes, mousses or cheesecakes and even in marinades. Its flavor profile makes for a great addition to dishes like pot de crème, crème anglaise or chocolate mousse.

It can be easily substituted with other orange flavored liqueurs and even with non-alcoholic beverages, but of course it depends on what you’re replacing it in. A cointreau replacement perfect for a Margarita might not make an excellent alternative when it comes to baked goods.

Substitutes for Cointreau

Margaritas are not the only thing we use Cointreau for, if it was, I doubt anyone will be earnestly looking for a replacement for it. The need for cointreau alternatives is important not only in substituting them in our margarita recipe but also as use in our cooking and other cocktail recipes.

Apart from those substitutes listed already, there are a whole lot more. There are even non-alcoholic substitutes available for you. Orange flavored liqueurs like Cointreau typically have a richer, sweeter and more intense flavor which comes handy in drinks (cocktails), sauces, marinades and baked goods like desserts.

The French dessert, crêpes suzette, for example sometimes call for cointreau as an ingredient, however Grand Marnier can fill in as a great substitute. Grand Marnier also works well for another French dessert known as bûche de Noël. But generally, it wouldn’t work well as a substitute in cooking.


Because it is a brandy based liqueur whose rich brandy flavor can mask and/or change the original flavor if your dish. Baked goods having flavors such as orange, vanilla, and chocolate can have a little bit of Cointreau in them. For a substitute for this, an orange flavored liqueur like Triple Sec (there’s a bottle actually named that!) will work just fine.

Using Triple Sec will prevent your dish’s flavor profile from being altered. However, if you wish to slightly alter the flavor profile, experiment with Grand Marnier and other orange flavored liqueurs and find the flavor you like best.

Also, wanting to replace the liqueur entirely to a non-liqueur option is perfectly fine. To get rid of the alcohol in your recipe, in this case Cointreau, you can use orange flavored non-alcoholic drinks. This could be orange juice, orange juice concentrate, orange flower water, non-alcoholic triple sec, orange extract (a bitter alternative) and the rarely used non-alcoholic substitute, orange oil.

The commonest and most preferred of these non-alcoholic alternatives are orange juice, orange juice concentrate, orange juice extract and the non-alcoholic triple sec drinks. You could also try other orange flavored drinks that are free of alcohol. When using any of these liquids, use more than the amount of Cointreau required in the recipe. This is so because these substitutes though sweeter at times have a less intense flavour than cointreau.

Substitutes for Cointreau in Margarita

Margarita, the cocktail once crowned as the most popular cocktail in America is a favorite classic drink. The traditional and standard recipe for Margarita recognizes cointreau as the preferred choice of triple sec. Margarita though having its own standard serving ware can be served in any glass you’ve got. The drink is usually served on the rocks, however it can also be drank straight up or blended with ice (frozen Margarita).

To make margarita, you will need just 3 basic ingredients: tequila, cointreau and fresh lime juice. But in the case of you having no cointreau triple sec around, what then should you do, make another drink or find a substitute? If you chose a substitute, then these are the few best options to explore below:

Grand Marnier

As a substitute in margarita, some persons will pass out on grand marnier but then, this is perhaps the most popular cointreau alternative known to a lot of persons. In essence, Grand Marnier has the name and moreover when it is used as a substitute in margarita, the cocktail is usually referred to as cardillac margarita.

Just like Cointreau, its flavours are beautifully balanced.

The drink is considered a curaçao, but not the traditional version since it is a blend of cognac and triple sec. It is not regarded as a triple sec liqueur because unlike triple sec, it does not have a neutral spirit as base – it is brandy based.

The drink was first made in France and is 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), that is, it is proofed at 80 and thus just as strong as Cointreau. It is not a clear Curaçao drink, and it hits the nose with the aroma of brandy (made with high quantity of brandy), and orange. It can be enjoyed neat as a standalone drink after a meal (as a digestif) or in mixed drinks like Margarita.

It is made from a mix of pot stilled cognac, spice, sugar and distilled bitter orange essence. The drink was introduced in 1880 as an amber-gold colored drink. It’s a dry drink like cointreau, leaves hint of brandy, bitter orange, spice and aged wood when drank. Due to the high quantity of brandy it is made from, it is advisable that you substitute it into your recipe in very small quantities.

Otherwise, the brandy flavor will completely mask the flavor of the orange so if you’re using as a mixer like you would in your Margarita recipe, be cautious. Grand Marnier is a high-end drink, hence it’s just as expensive as Cointreau. Hoping to get a cheaper alternative? Then Grand Marnier is not for you.

Combier Liqueur d’Orange

Or Combier orange liqueur is proofed at 80 and that’s about 40 percent alcohol by volume. It is a triple sec liqueur that’s also flavored with orange and has a clear color. The bitter orange flavor is toned down so that makes it more sweet than bitter or balanced.

It is also less dry when compared to Cointreau, however, when used as mixer to substitute for cointreau liqueur, the difference is not felt. The Combier liqueur d’orange is less expensive alternative, about 10 dollars less. It’s a good choice for your magarita, you’ll hardly notice the difference in taste. Well unless you’re sipping it straight up.

Senior Curaçao of Curaçao

As the name goes, this is a dry Curaçao styled liqueur that stands proofed at 62. It is made by the senior family in Curaçao, the birth place of the drink. Coloring is added to the drink to make it orange in appearance.

The family also produces one of the finest blue Curaçao there is in the market which is a finer alternative than the orange colored Curaçao in Margarita. When blue Curaçao is used as a mixer for Margarita, it is usually referred to as blue Margarita. It is a much more cheaper alternative to go with, the flavors are fairly balanced – it isn’t overly sweet or bitter.

Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao

This golden brown dry French curaçao is proofed at 80 and is a perfect blend of flavors from the bitter orange, vanilla and spices such as nutmeg and clove. Pierre Ferrand dry Curaçao is considered by some persons as a more better alternative than Grand Marnier. A mini experiment however will show you if that is correct or not.

As a mixer especially in drinks like margarita and cosmopolitan, this French dry Curaçao is an excellent choice and it’s also less expensive than Cointreau. You can also enjoy this drink straight up.


It would have been easy to leave out this bottom shelf drink but that would have been totally unfair to you. It’s a triple sec drink that’s proofed at 30, it has a clear appearance and though you might bit like the orangey smell, you’ll definitely like this as a mixer.

Bols isn’t a onenote drink like you might expect from a bottom shelf drink, notes of warm spices like cinnamon and clove enhances its intense orange flavor. It is as cheap as about 10 dollars for a litre, so it’s a great way of reducing your alcohol cost if you’re throwing a party. Besides, it’s a good mixer. But for a Margarita, I wouldn’t really recommend it.

These are just a few Cointreau liqueur substitutes, there are others such as Meaghers triple sec, Luxardo Triplum amidst others.


If you’re not so sure on which substitutes to use, it’s best that you experiment with the options available for you with small quantities. The ones you like can then go on to feature in your parties, or full blown dishes.

Remember, a substitute considered too sweet might be not be too sweet for you. This is why doing your own little experiment is necessary! And don’t forget that a Margarita is a cocktail and as such you do not have to go for the high-end substitutes only.

Feeling like replacing the Cointreau in any recipe you’ve got, then you should do just that. But before you make the big bold move, a little experiment wouldn’t hurt. As a matter of fact, experimenting with these Cointreau substitutes will prepare you for any drastic change to the recipes original flavor profile. It’s time you get these substitutes and have a little fun!

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The Kitchen Hand

The Kitchen Hand

Your Personal In-House 'HOW TO' Gastro Master. From Slicing up A Pig for Christmas or Selecting Your Organic Ingredients for that Super Vegan Juice, The kitchen Hand Knows More Than You Might Think .
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