A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (2023)

Orange liqueur has gotten a bad rap over the last few decades. Take Curacao, for example. When many people think of Curaçao, they immediately think of bright, sweet, sparkling blue cocktails - drinks they might have had in college or even just this past weekend.

But orange liqueur doesn't have to be limited to Blue Curacao and other sugary concoctions. In this guide, we'll look at a variety of orange liqueurs, from expensive brandy-infused products to low-end triple sec.

A taxonomy of orange liqueurs

Before diving into a tasting of different brands, I should start with a few terms. It is difficult to give precise definitions of these terms, but I will try.

orange liqueuris the easiest term to define, so I'll start there. Orange liqueur is simply a sweetened alcoholic beverage flavored with orange. The alcohol itself can be a neutral column distillate (similar to vodka) or a cask distillate such as B. Grape Spirit.


Historically, Curaçao is a product of the island of Curaçao, made from a brandy still and flavored with dried peels of Curaçao oranges. These oranges were first brought to Curaçao by Spanish settlers as Valencia oranges. But the Valencia orange does not tolerate Curaçao's dry climate well, and over time the oranges become bitter and inedible. Plants began to grow wild, but then someone - it is not clear who - discovered that the peel of a Curacao orange, dried in the sun, gave off a pleasantly fragrant aroma. Until 1896, Curaçao distillers used the peel of the Curaçao orange to add flavor and aroma to their distilled products.

Curaçao is not a protected designation. Some products, such as cognac and champagne, are protected and by law must be produced in their region of origin. However, Curaçao does not enjoy this level of protection and therefore it can be done anywhere and by any method. Earlier I said that historically Curaçao is a Curaçao product made from Cognac and dried Curaçao orange peel. However, modern curacao is not necessarily made this way.

Some traditional Curaçao are still available, most notably a brand called Curaçao of Curaçao made by the Senior family of Curaçao. The blue stuff, needless to say, is not traditional Curacao.

triple second

Triple sec is originally a French product. It was originally made with less sugar than Curaçao, leading to the name "sec", meaning dry. No one is quite sure where the term "triple" came from. Triple Sec is not triple distilled as some claim, nor is it three times as dry as Curaçao or other liquors. The most reasonable explanation is that "Triplo" was pure marketing, a way to invent new products and denigrate the competition.


The most reasonable explanation is that "Triplo" was pure marketing, a way to invent new products and denigrate the competition.

What's the deal with Grand Marnier and Cointreau?

Perhaps the two most well-known brands of orange liqueur are Grand Marnier and Cointreau, and you might be wondering where they fit into this taxonomy. Simply. Grand Marnier is an orange liqueur in the Curacao tradition and Cointreau is a triple sec.

Grand Marnier is a blend of cognac and triple sec, so while it's not a traditional Curacao, it's a similar product. Cointreau, on the other hand, is a triple second in a row. In fact, Cointreau initially called itself Cointreau Triple Sec, and you can sometimes find old-school collectible bottles bearing that inscription on Internet auction sites.

(Video) A Guide to Orange Liqueurs: Triple Sec, Curacao, Cointreau?

In response to the crap that other distilleries were putting out and branding as triple sec, Cointreau repositioned itself as a non-triple sec product and removed those words from its label and marketing.

Great Orange Liqueur Brands

There are countless orange liqueurs on the market, but here's a basic guide (in alphabetical order) to distinguish between well-known brands and illustrate which ones are worth looking out for.


Style:Triple seg 30 proof ou 15% vol.
Country of origin:USA.
Nose:Intense orange, almost artificial. It smells like cheap orange perfume.
Palate:It tastes better than it smells. Very sweet, orange, clove and cinnamon notes.
Overall impression:At about $9 a liter bottle, Bols is among the less expensive brands and perhaps the best of Will Gordon's set. While the main impression is of simulated orange, warm spice notes complement the main flavor, making Bols less of a one-note product than other brands. Still, I'd avoid this unless you're really throwing a party on a tight budget.

Crioulo Clemente Shrub

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (2)

Style:Rum and orange liqueur, 80 proof.
Country of origin:Martinique.
Nose:Bitter orange, funky rum, spices.
Palate:Dry, pungent, bitter orange, notes of agricole rum and spices.
Overall impression:This liqueur is made by Rhum Clément, producer of Rhums Agricole in Martinique. It is made in a similar style to a Curaçao, using a basic pot spirit flavored with bitter orange and spices. The base drink here is Cléments Rhum Agricole, which gives this product a healthy (and delicious for my palate) note of funk and complexity. Such a spirit is wonderful in tropical rum drinks like Mai Tai. Expect to pay around $40 for a 750ml bottle.


A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (3)

Style:Triple second, 80 Proof.
Country of origin:France.
Nose:Subtle orange, spices, some alcohol.
Palate:Well balanced. Dried, bitter orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.
Overall impression:Cointreau is highly respected and for good reason. The flavors are perfectly balanced between bitter orange and sweetness. Warm spices add complexity to the spirit and complement the orange. In a great orange liqueur, the other flavors should serve to enhance the orange flavor, not mask it, and this is where Cointreau excels. It's not my go-to for an after-dinner sip neat, but it's the best for cocktail versatility. A 750 will set you back around $40, but most stores also stock them in 12-ounce bottles, which you can expect to pay around $20 for. Most drunks.


As a standalone sipper, the Cointreau is better, but for cocktails, save yourself a few bucks and buy the combiner.

(Video) Orange liqueurs

Licor de laranja Combier

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (4)

Style:Triple second, 80 Proof.
Country of origin:
Nose:Subtle orange, alcohol.
Palate:Medium dry, bitter orange, not very spicy. Not as balanced as Cointreau, quite sweet.
Overall impression:Combier is a more recent arrival in the US and is being marketed as a slightly cheaper replacement for Cointreau. I found Cointreau more balanced on the nose and on the palate, but I confess that when mixed with cocktails I don't notice much difference. As a standalone sipper, Cointreau is better, but for cocktails, save a few bucks and buy the Combier ($32 for 750mL).

Grand Marnier

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (5)

Style:Curacao-inspired blend of cognac and orange liqueur, 80 degrees.
Country of origin:France.
Cor:Bernstein Gold.
Nose:cognac, orange, alcohol.
Palate:Dry, bitter orange, subtle brandy notes, very subtle wood aging notes, some spice.
Overall impression:As I said before, Grand Marnier is a Curaçao-style liqueur made from a blend of still brandy, bitter orange peel, and spices. Grand Marnier is a clear winner as a standalone after-dinner sipper. The flavors are well balanced and the palate is dry and not overly sweet. As a blender, the Grand Marnier can be tricky. For example, many bartenders think it's too spirited for sidecars and skew the flavor profile of such overly alcoholic cocktails. I urge you to experience it for yourself and enjoy the effort, but know that you must tread lightly with the Grand Marnier. You can add more at any time. A 375 ml bottle will leak about the same as a similarly sized Cointreau: $20.

Hiram Walker Triple Second

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (6)

Style:Triple second, 60 proof.
Country of origin:USA.
Palate:Very sweet (sweet), artificial orange.
Overall impression:Another keg scraper for around $9 for a 750ml bottle. Sweet and nasty, it tastes mostly like artificial orange. Just one note, and it's hard. If you stay on the bottom shelf, stay with Bols.


A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (7)

(Video) Orange Liqueur Taste Test - Will The Real Curaçao Stand Up? Cocktails After Dark

Style:Triple second, 78 Proof.
Country of origin:Italy.
Nose:Orange, alcohol, light spice.
Palate:Dried Orange, Bitter, Spices.
Overall impression:Well-balanced blend of bitter orange, sweet orange and spice. Good to smell and even better to taste. I was blown away by this as I had never experienced it before. If I were to replace Cointreau with a cheaper one, it would be this one: a 750ml bottle costs around $26.

Tangerine Napoleon

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (8)

Style:Orange liqueur and brandy, 76 proof.
Country of origin:Belgium.
Cor:Dark amber.
Nose:Not just orange flavor, but specifically and obviously tangerine.
Palate:Sweet, one note, not specifically mandarin orange.
Overall impression:I was delighted and surprised at how specifically the Mandarine Napoleon smelled like tangerines. I mean, it's right there in the name, of course, but still, the strong specific hint of tangerine is unexpected. But unfortunately, something happens between smelling and drinking, and the tangerine flavors are dominated by the sweetness of this liqueur. Disappointingly unbalanced and unfortunately not worth the $32 for a 750ml bottle.

Marie Brizard Orange Liqueur

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (9)

Style:Triple second, 78 Proof.
Country of origin:France.
Nose:Orange, Alcohol.
Palate:Moderately sweet, orange, with some spice.
Overall impression:Another budget offering, slightly pricier than the Hiram Walker, is $19 for 750ml. More balanced than the old Hiram, with only moderate sweetness and some spice to complement the orange flavor. If you can't find Bols for your bottom shelf, Marie will hook you up well enough.

lemon pattern

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (10)

Style:Triple second, 80 Proof.
Country of origin:Mexico.
Nose:Orange (almost artificial), alcohol.
Palate:Moderate sweetness, orange (slightly bitter), some floral notes.
Overall impression:If you expect or expect this product to have a tequila base, you will be disappointed; It is a triple sec based on purely neutral spirit. It's okay for what it is: a mid-range triple-sec device priced at around $25 for a 750ml bottle.

Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (11)

(Video) How to make Orange Liqueur

Style:Dry Curaçao, 80 Proof.
Country of origin:France.
Cor:golden brown. (You could almost mistake it for whiskey just by looking at it.)
Nose:Bitter orange, spices.
Palate:Dry, bitter orange, cloves, vanilla, nutmeg, alcohol at the end.
Overall impression:I said earlier that in a great orange liqueur the other flavors should serve to enhance the orange flavor, not mask it, and Pierre Ferrand's version proves it. Ferrand's Curaçao was created to complement their excellent cognacs and other spirits aged in cocktails, but also to be drunk and enjoyed alone. Try to mix it not only with Ferrands brandies, but also with rum; Ferrand owns the Plantation Rum brand and is therefore interested in producing an orange that goes well with rum. Ferrand's offer is an excellent choice for an after-dinner sip. I might rate Grand Marnier a little higher, but that's only because retailers sometimes struggle to stock Curacao Ferrands. If you can find it, it costs around $30 for a 750ml bottle.

real combiner

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (12)

Style:Orange liqueur and brandy, 76 proof.
Country of origin:France.
Cor:Bernstein Gold.
Nose:Bitter orange, a touch of cognac, a little alcohol.
Palate:Dry, bitter orange, lots of spice, some cognac notes.
Overall impression:Marketed to compete with the Grand Marnier. It's a reasonable replacement, albeit a little more expensive (about $40 for 750ml). Like Grand Marnier and Ferrand, Royal Combier starts with cognac and bitter orange zest, adding spices to round out the flavors. Another excellent choice as a sipper.

Santa Teresa Rum Orange Liqueur

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (13)

Style:Rum and orange liqueur, 80 proof.
Country of origin:Venezuela.
Cor:golden brown.
Nose:It smells strongly of rum, with orange and vanilla in the background.
Palate:It tastes like funky orange-flavored agricole rum. The rum dominates the palate, with hints of orange, spice and vanilla on the finish.
Overall impression:Similar to Clément's Creole Shrubb, the Santa Teresa starts with Rhum Agricole and adds bitter orange. I think this tastes more like orange flavored rum and less like orange rum flavored liqueur. It might be a little too sweet to drink alone, but some might like it. But it is complex and funky with hints of barrel ageing. It's also one of the most surprisingly delicious products I've tried this year. Eighteen dollars is a 12-ounce bottle.

Senior Curacao von Curacao

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (14)

Style:Dry Curaçao, 62 Proof.
Country of origin:Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles.
Cor:Orange. (The label says the color has been added; I think it would be clear otherwise.)
Nose:Orange and some alcohol.
Palate:Slightly sweet, bitter orange, moderately balanced. Some clove notes.
Overall impression:As this is Curaçao's only Curaçao and is made by a family who claim to have invented Curaçao, I guess I expected more from this. It is significantly sweeter than Pierre Ferrand. The Senior family also markets a clear version and a blue Curaçao, but the orange bottling is what I tried. If you really need Blue Curacao for your cocktails, Senior Blue is for you. It supposedly tastes the same as orange and egg white, which means it's a lot less sweet and a lot more balanced than any other blue product on the market. $25 for 750ml.

Solerno Bluto orange liqueur

A Complete Guide to Orange Liqueur Types (15)

(Video) The Top 8 Liqueurs You Need for Your Home Bar

Style:Blutoragenlikör, 80 Proof.
Country of origin:Italy.
Orange, a little alcohol.
Palate:orange and has a specific taste of blood oranges.
Overall impression:While Mandarine Napolean smells like tangerine and tastes mostly like sugar, this liqueur smells like a generic orange but has a very specific blood orange taste. I was very pleasantly surprised. If you want to tweak your cocktails with an unexpected flavor profile, this is a possibility. However, it's on the expensive side at around $40 for a 750.

august 2012


How many types of orange liqueur are there? ›

The three main types of orange liqueur are triple sec, Curaçao, and brandy-based. Still not sure where to start?

What is the name of the 5 orange liqueur? ›

You will see the names triple sec, curaçao, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier in cocktail recipes, though some simply list orange liqueur as an ingredient. Of all of the liqueurs on the market, orange liqueurs are used most often and that makes them essential for a well-stocked bar.

What type of liquor is orange liqueur? ›

Cointreau is a clear, orange-flavored liqueur made from sweet and bitter peels. It is a type of Triple Sec and was introduced in the 1880's in France.

Which is better Cointreau or Grand Marnier? ›

Cointreau and Grand Marnier have quite a bit in common, and in a pinch you can certainly substitute between the two. If you do, expect the flavor profile to change. Cointreau will make the drink lighter and brighter, with a stronger citrus aroma. Grand Marnier will bring weight and oaky sweetness.

What is a top shelf orange liqueur? ›

Top Shelf Liqueurs is a range of flavourings inspired by liqueurs from all over the world. Each flavouring is beautifully presented in 50 ml (1.7 US fl oz) bottles. Triple Sec Flavouring. Makes an orange style liqueur flavouring with a rich but dry taste.

Is triple sec and Cointreau the same thing? ›

In summary: Cointreau has a more balanced, well rounded flavor than Triple Sec, which tends to simply taste strongly of sweet oranges. Cointreau has a smoother finish and is a bit higher in alcohol. It is also more expensive.

Is Curaçao the same as orange liqueur? ›

Orange Liqueur, Triple Sec, and Curaçao can be used interchangeably as labeling terms. Orange Liqueur is the general category for orange flavor distilled spirit that contains sugar.

What is the sweetest orange liqueur? ›

Made with tropical oranges that were planted by the Spanish, quality Curaçaos are typically sweeter than other orange liqueurs. They range in strength from 15 to 40 percent ABV.

What is the difference between orange liqueur and Grand Marnier? ›

In summary: Cointreau is a high quality French orange liqueur with a smooth, complex flavor: part of the Triple Sec family. Grand Marnier is slightly more expensive with an even more complex flavor, a blend of Triple Sec and Cognac.

Is triple sec the same as Grand Marnier? ›

Grand Marnier is different from both a basic triple sec and Cointreau. Grand Marnier is a cognac-based orange spirit. As a refresher, cognac is a special type of brandy. Because this liqueur starts with cognac, it's darker in color than its triple sec cousins, though it has a similar ABV—about 40%.

Is triple sec always orange liqueur? ›

Triple sec and Curaçao are types of orange liqueur that can be made by many different brands, while Cointreau and Grand Marnier are proprietary blends. Here's an overview of the four types of orange liqueur.

Is orange curacao the same as Grand Marnier? ›

All these are interchangeable in the recipe. Of course, they will give a different taste, but they serve the same purpose. Usually, Curaçao and Triple Sec are based on sugar cane alcohol and around 40% abv. Grand Marnier is also an orange-based liqueur, but made with brandy.

Is Patron orange liqueur the same as triple sec? ›

That's the basic idea behind Patron Citronge, essentially a triple sec (and not, it should be pointed out, a tequila-based product). This surprisingly thick and clear spirit is made in Jalisco, made with oranges from Haiti and Jamaica and sweetened with cane sugar.

Why do bartenders drink Grand Marnier? ›

Because Grand Marnier comes in a dark bottle, Schmuecker says, you can never really tell how much is left. Thus, it became popular among bartenders because it was a bottle their bosses could never really monitor all that closely. (“It was a great way to kinda hide what you're drinking,” adds Bernadyn.)

Why is Grand Marnier more expensive than Cointreau? ›

Grand Marnier is more expensive than Cointreau because it's made from a more expensive base spirit. The main ingredient in Grand Marnier is Cognac, which is distilled from grapes. Cointreau, on the other hand, is made from neutral alcohol, and then infused with orange peel and other flavors.

Why is Grand Marnier so good? ›

Grand Marnier is a liqueur made with centuries-old traditions. The nobility of Cognac and the exoticism of bitter orange essence that comprise it offer it unrivaled aroma and flavor that are both powerful and complex.

What kind of liquor is Grand Marnier? ›


What is sweeter Curaçao or triple sec? ›

Curaçao is more frequently pot-distilled with brandy, cognac, or sugar cane spirit and has a sweeter quality and a darker coloring. Triple sec is more frequently column-distilled with neutral grain spirit and has a drier quality and a clear appearance.

Is orange bitters the same as triple sec? ›

If you have some leftover, just freeze it for your next margarita session. We love orange bitters, instead of triple sec, which is an orange flavored liquor. Using orange bitters lets you taste the tequila and isn't that what a margarita's all about? We use agave sweetener rather than a simple syrup.

What is the most popular orange liqueur? ›

10 Most Popular Orange Liqueurs in the World
  • Orange Curaçao. CURAÇAO. ...
  • Blue Curaçao. CURAÇAO. ...
  • Curaçao. CURAÇAO. ...
  • Picon. Marseille. ...
  • Triple sec. FRANCE. ...
  • Aperol. Padua. Italy. ...
  • Grand Marnier. FRANCE. Created in 1880 by Louis Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle, Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge (lit. ...
  • Cointreau. Saint-Barthélemy-d'Anjou. France.
Jan 25, 2023

Which is more orange Grand Marnier or Cointreau? ›

In summary. Cointreau has a cleaner, more straightforward orange flavor than Grand Marnier, which is a blend of cognac and orange. Grand Marnier is more complex with notes of oak and vanilla, and is even delicious sipped on its own.

Is triple sec and orange liqueur the same thing? ›

Triple sec and Curaçao are types of orange liqueur that can be made by many different brands, while Cointreau and Grand Marnier are proprietary blends. Here's an overview of the four types of orange liqueur.

Is Grand Marnier better than triple sec? ›

Grand Marnier offers a richer, sweeter flavor that triple sec just doesn't have. If you think that Grand Marnier's flavors will work with your recipe in lieu of triple sec (or vice versa), go ahead and give it a go! After all, these liqueurs are both orange-forward and will do nicely.


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