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Difference Between Triple Sec and Cointreau

Triple Sec and Cointreau are orange flavored liqueurs. They have the same basic ingredient being made from dried orange peel.  They are thought to be the same and have several similarities, but they are not the same product.  The essential difference is that Triple Sec is partly named for its distilling process and is manufactured under several different brand names while Cointreau is a brand name and its manufacturing process is kept secret.  The distilling process of Cointreau is not known by the public and may or may not be triple distilled.  Both these orange flavored liqueurs are used to make various cocktails requiring the orange flavor, but Cointreau is a more expensive product and used less frequently than Triple Sec. These liqueurs were developed in France in the mid eighteen hundreds and have been popular ever since.


What is Triple Sec?

Triple Sec is a strong, sweet, color-less, orange-flavored liqueur that was originally inspired by the Curacao liqueurs. Curacao liqueurs were first made on the island of that name in the Caribbean.  The Triple Sec process leading to the flavors of this liqueur was developed in France.  The Comrie company claims that in 1834 Jean-Baptiste Comrie and his wife developed the process used to make the liqueur and they called their product Cambier Liqueur d’Orange.   This method, the triple distilling of the orange peels, has gone on to become a generic term for an orange flavored liqueur.  Companies put their different brand names on the labels, using the formula for Triple Sec.  They create several varieties of the liqueur.  Triple Sec is thought of as a lower grade product because its price is lower and there are differences in the alcohol content and the subtle flavor.  Many varieties of bottling and color present Triple Sec differently but the distilling process remains the same and is adopted by different manufacturers.  The word sec means dry but not in the sense of a dry white wine.  The dry refers to the fact that the peels of the fruit are dried to start the distilling process.  Triple Sec can be consumed neat or served on the rocks or ice.  It is an ingredient of cocktails like a Margarita or Sangria.

Triple Sec has the following qualities and functions:

  • It is a liqueur that is orange flavored and sweet
  • Triple sec has an alcohol content of 20% – 25%.
  • It is generally clear, but can be colored in some name brands.
  • It is made from dried orange peels and other spices and alcohol.
  • Triple Sec is used for mixing cocktails and as an alcohol beverage.


What is Cointreau?

Cointreau is a name brand created by two brothers, Adolphe Cointreau and Edouard-jean Cointreau.  Cointreau was originally called Cointreau Triple Sec, but the triple sec of the name was dropped to distinguish it from other Triple Sec brands.  The recipe has remained as a family secret.  Cointreau has the same basic ingredients of dried orange peel, but the process used to make Cointreau is not available for public knowledge.  Cointreau is considered more exclusive and therefore more expensive.  It is also used as a base for many cocktails.  The alcohol content of Cointreau at 40% is considerably higher than Triple Sec at 20% – 25%.   Mixing Cointreau with water reduces the alcohol content.  Cointreau will always have the same quality and consistency as it is manufactured by one company, Remy Martin and the recipe is not shared with any other companies.  The recipe and ingredients are a protected product. Cointreau’s flavor is respected by connoisseurs for its delicate orange aroma mixed with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.  The liqueur is a well- balanced product using sweet and bitter orange peels. The presentation of Cointreau has stayed the same and its square bottle can be easily recognized as its branding and consistent presentation.

Cointreau has the following qualities and functions:

  • Cointreau is an exclusive orange flavored liqueur.
  • It has a high alcohol content and mixes well with cocktails and can be served neat as a drink..
  • This liqueur is more expensive, but of a higher quality with higher alcohol content.
  • There is only one Cointreau product and it is manufactured exclusively by Remy Martin.


Difference Between Triple Sec and Cointreau


Triple Sec and Cointreau are both liqueurs used to mix cocktails and as alcoholic drinks.  Their function is similar, and the difference is in the quality, some of the ingredients, and the price.

Flavor of Triple Sec and Cointreau

The orange flavor attributed to both liqueurs differs in the variety of oranges used to source the dried peels.  These peels are distilled and render the oil that contributes the orange flavor together with the alcohol content.  Different spices are added to enhance the orange flavor such as cinnamon and nutmeg.  However, the full source of ingredients in Cointreau remains a family secret and the recipe is not disclosed.

Branding of Triple Sec and Cointreau

Triple Sec has many different brand names as the recipe and the contents of Triple Sec is widely used.  Triple Sec as a name brand stands behind many other brands of orange liqueur.  Cointreau however, is the brand name and this name is exclusively used by the manufacturers of Cointreau.

Value of Triple Sec and Cointreau

Cointreau is considered to have a higher value and its price reflects this exclusivity.  Triple Sec has been copied and set to different variations as it is used under different brand names.  There are various qualities of Triple Sec available.  Triple Sec has a lower alcohol content and is a cheaper product.

Origin of Triple Sec and Cointreau

Triple Sec was developed in France, but the process or using oranges to create an alcoholic beverage was influenced by Curacao from the island of the same name in the Caribbean.  The principle of distilling three times in a copper distiller increases the flavor and concentrates the taste.   Cointreau developed by the Cointreau brothers is an orange flavored liqueur, but the exact process used to produce this liqueur is protected by the family business.

Triple Sec.  vs.  Cointreau : Comparison Chart


Summary of Triple Sec Verses Cointreau

  • Each of these two products are orange flavored liqueurs, but Cointreau is more exclusive and is a protected product.
  • They are widely used to add flavor and an alcoholic base to cocktails.
  • Cointreau and Triple Sec are made using dried orange peels soaked in alcohol and then distilled with other ingredients added.
  • These two liqueurs can be enjoyed on their own or served on ice as individual drinks.
  • It is easier and cheaper to purchase Triple Sec as it is found under various brand names and manufactured by several different companies producing a variety of spirit drinks.  Cointreau is an exclusive brand made by one company called Remy Martin.
  • Cointreau and Triple Sec would be part of the liqueurs stocked at most bars and places serving alcoholic drinks.
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1 Comment

  1. Strange, the most widely known Triple Sec from Bols has an alcohol content of 38%.

    It would be nice to know if it could be used as a substitute for Cointreau in cocktails..

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References :

[0]GrahamColleen.Understand-your-orange-liqueur-options.wwwthespruceeats.com.accessed 1/06/1018.gourmetads.2/05/2018



[3]Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/cointreau-bottle-brown-alcohol-438456/

[4]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/Extrait_de_dépôt_de_marque_de_TRIPLE-SEC_1885.jpg/478px-Extrait_de_dépôt_de_marque_de_TRIPLE-SEC_1885.jpg

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