Orange liqueur is often mistreated by professional and home bartenders alike. Often when people think of this cordial, they immediately think of the cheap triple sec of $1 margarita specials from their college days. Orange Liqueur has a bad reputation similar to vermouth—it’s not going to be good anyway, so you might as well spend as little as possible when you’re shopping for one.
Luckily for cocktails and drinkers everywhere, the myth that no orange liqueur is worth the money is just that—a myth. While there are certainly cheap, low-quality bottles on the market, there are also plenty of brands that will greatly improve the flavor of your margaritas, sidecars, and any other cocktail you love!
Grand Marnier is one of the most popular orange liqueurs in the world. While the version we think of as Grand Marnier today was first created in 1880 in France, the first distillery was opened in 1827.
This liqueur is a blend of cognac and and bitter-orange making it much richer and denser than a triple sec or dry curaçao. It also sits at 40% ABV, making this bottle much closer to acting as a spirit than a modifier. Because Grand Marnier has more sugar and is much thicker than other orange liqueurs, when adding it to certain cocktails (such as sidecars and margaritas) be prepared to adjust sugar and acid levels accordingly.
Cointreau is one of the oldest orange liqueurs in production, winning its first spirit award in 1857. The modern version of Cointreau was released in 1885 and immediately became wildly popular because it was much less sweet and more concentrated than other brands available at the time.
Cointreau uses a mix of fresh and dried orange peels to create their signature flavor. Cointreau is the signature liqueur in a cosmopolitan and is the favored bottle for a traditional margarita. This liqueur is ideal for any citrusy cocktails that use a lighter spirit such as vodka, tequila, or gin.
Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
While the Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao is also blended with cognac, it isn’t nearly as rich or viscous as Grand Marnier. Based on the traditional method of making French triple sec, this dry curaçao is triple distilled with spices, bitters, orange peels, and a blend of Pierre Ferrand Cognac and brandy.
Pierre Ferrand Curaçao is more bitter and leans heavier into bitter orange peel and dried spice flavors than other bottles. This creates a complex curaçao that is especially suited for complex tiki drinks such as the Mai Tai. Less sweet, more zesty, and more bitter, this orange liqueur is my recommendation for the ultimate bottle to keep at home for a wide range of drinks.
This cocktail is s delicate and smooth sipper that is perfect for before dinner or when you want something a little light. The apple notes of the vermouth bring out the dried fruit of the scotch, and the angostura spice and cinnamon flavors are ideal for chilly autumn and winter days. While a single malt is recommended, note that an Islay Single Malt will be overpowering in this cocktail.
1 1/2 oz Dry or Blanc Vermouth
1 oz Single-Malt Scotch
1/2 oz Benedictine
3 dash Orange Bitters
2 dash Angostura
Absinthe rinse, preferably Letherbee Oak Absinthe Brun
Rinse a coupe glass with absinthe. set aside.
Combine scotch, vermouth, Benedictine, bitters, and cinnamon in a mixing glass with ice.
Stir well until combined, about 30-45 seconds.
Strain into absinthe rinsed glass. Garnish with expressed orange peel and enjoy!
Creamy orange notes run wild in this cocktail with rich sugar, fresh blueberries and lime. It’s given a subtle zing from a whisper of rich Modena balsamic vinegar, making it the perfect companion for a pre-dinner get together with the other members of your quarantine pod.
2 oz Tazo Wild Sweet Orange Tea, brewed per box instructions
1 oz Lime
1 oz Simple Syrup
Bar spoon Modena Balsamic Vinegar
Handful Blueberries, muddled
Orange Peel x2
Muddle blueberries well into syrup in the bottom of a cocktail shaker tin.
Add tea, lime, balsamic vinegar, and one orange peel to the shaker tin without ice. Dry shake (without ice) for about 30 seconds.
Add ice. Shake well for another 30 seconds.
Double strain into a coupe glass, careful to remove all blueberry solids from the mixture.
Garnish with an orange peel expressed over the surface of the cocktail and enjoy!