Review – Cointreau
Founded in 1849 in France by two confectioner brothers, the distilling firm Cointreau first produced the product we know today some 22 years later. Using a base of neutral alcohol, and with the addition only of sugar and water, Cointreau produces this famous triple sec using the peel from bitter Caribbean, and sweet European oranges. These are first macerated in the alcohol before being distilled in copper stills. The original product was in fact sweeter than which we currently enjoy today, and it is cointreau that therefore holds claim to the creation of the ‘triple sec’ (extra dry) category.
Nose: A pleasing balance of fresh and zingy orange oil with a more waxy and sweet, almost earthy character underneath. Hints of other citrus fruits, particularly lemon and grapefruit offer complexity although the neutral spirit base remains evident.
Neat: Don’t be fooled by this liqueur being a triple sec, the palate is intensely sweet, at least on the entrance as it dries a little towards the finish. A moreishly rounded profile of predominantly orange but with hints of lemon and nutmeg spice tails off on the finish to leave a mildly cloying note of sweetened freshly juiced orange.
Mixing: Triple sec is listed as an ingredient is more recipes than I would care to shake a stick at, and for most of these it is assumed that Cointreau is the desired product. Having been around since 1871, for much of its existence Cointreau was the go-to product for your orange-liqueur needs. From the Chanticleer Society, to the Breakfast Martini and from the Picador to the Oh Gosh!, Cointreau a contributing ingredient to many of the world’s tastiest libations. It’s intense sweetness does however make it unsuitable to be used as the predominant ingredient in the majority of instances, and there is a distinct bias towards cocktails that include citrus juice in their ingredient list as it does benefit from the acidity to balance. This does mean that Cointreau is often relegated to a supporting role, another reason for which becomes clear when tested alongside richer-tasting orange liqueurs in drinks such as the Red Lion or Between the Sheets which whilst perfectly serviceable using Cointreau, enter a new level of palate-pleasing with some of this products competitors. Being a solid all-rounder built for everyday performance is however not a terrible thing and drinks such as the signature Margadita (recipe below) show that this liqueur will likely be around for a long time yet as it continues to be one of the first quality liqueurs to be discovered by new generations of cocktail drinkers.
Signature Cocktail – Margadita
1.5oz Cointreau, 1.5oz Silver Tequila, 1oz Lime Juice, 0.5oz Rose Syrup, 1 Pinch Chipotle Spice
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupette. Garnish with rose petals and an optional salt/chipotle rim.
Cointreau is the quintessential orange liqueur for good reason. Whilst in some respects it might be considered a little too sweet, and the neutral spirit base does on occasion show, there is no faulting its delicious orange flavour profile that is perfect for adding a little extra something in many a cocktail.
Cointreau is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.