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slkinsey

All About Orange Liqueurs

117 posts in this topic

Patron makes an orange liqueur that appears to be intended to be a Cointreau clone....the bottle is even an identical shape. It's quite good...and cheaper than Cointreau. They don't call it a "triple sec" or an orange brandy...but I'd consider it part of the generic family.

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the youngest pierre ferrand.... premeir cru? has so much notes of orange blossoms that i thought it was distilled with them.... and they abandon all those VS VSOP XO markings.... in a white ceramic glass it also looking really orangy in color. stunning stuff but i always wondered how those intense orange notes got in there....


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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This is where it all gets confusing.  I agree that we are usually thinking of something Cointreau-like when we say "triple sec."  And yet, I am also led to believe that Grand Marnier is technically a kind of triple sec (indeed, I think orange curaçao is technically triple sec).

I disagree; I think that triple secs are a type of curacao, not the other way around. To me, only clear products can be 'triple sec' since the term itself implies that the distillation wasdone after the inclusion of the orange flavor (or even as the means of including it). Of course being nitpicky about such minutiae is the fun part of this disease we call 'Cocktailianism' :-P

-Andy


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I have yet to encounter definitions of triple sec and curaçao that are both unambiguous and authoritative--that is, definitive. Do they exist?

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Exactly. It's confusing. What we can say for sure is that they're both orange-flavored. And it seems to be the case that curaçao liqueur is made only with bitter orange peels while triple sec uses both bitter and sweet. Beyond that, it seems fairly ambiguous. I've even heard some people say that "triple sec" indicates triple distillation, and Andy claims above that it also indicates distillation after the orange peel infusion. ("Sec" means "dry" in French, and is also how one might indicate "neat" or "straight" when ordering a spirit -- I'm not sure where the idea comes from that "sec" refers to distillation.) This would presumably mean that curaçao liqueur is not redistilled post-infusion? Regardless, like The Hersch, I have yet to see any definitive information one way or the other.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I've always based my Orange Liqueur assumptions on philip's (Philip Duff, I believe) posts in these two drinkboy topics:

Bols Orange Curacao

Curacao

There is a fair bit of history in both topics, especially the "Bols Orange Curacao" one.

edit - Fair warning, the Bols products available in the US are not the same as the European products that Philip is talking about in these topics. Contract distilled by a different manufacturer, same in name only, etc.


Edited by eje (log)

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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Interesting.

Some of what he says seems contrary to other reliable information I've received. For example, I've been given to understand that the only difference betwen blue curaçao and orange curaçao is color. Now, of course it doesn't have to be that way. Makers can certainly change the formula by color if they wish, and apparently Bols does, but I've never heard that blue curaçao is supposed to have a flavor that is distinct from orange curaçao.

If I can paraphrase what he says about the history, it goes something like this:

<blockquote>First there was curaçao, an orange liqueur produced on the Dutch Carribbean island of Curaçao using the peels of the local bitter oranges.

This liqueur grew in popularity, and before too long the market was full of over-sweet/under-potent orange liqueurs. The balance was so far in the direction of sweet and away from orange, that curaçao came to be used in cocktails primarily for its sweetening properties. [At this point, I think we can assume that many, perhaps most curaçao brands were not made exclusively with bitter orange.]

Cointreau began selling their curaçao as "triple sec," to indicate that this was a dry version of the liqueur. Eventually the classification "triple sec" became diluted and the company began calling the product "Cointreau." Grand Marnier did the same thing with their curaçao.</blockquote>

Not sure that does much to clear up the curaçao/triple sec question. According to those links, production of curaçao has gone back to a more orange-flavored, less sweet aesthetic. Other than color, however, it's still unclear to me what definitively distinguishes triple sec from curaçao. There are certainly cheap triple sec liqueurs that are sweeter than better quality curaçao liqueurs. If we color those triple sec liqueurs orange, do we now have curaçao?


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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Your quotes match what I have heard, too.

Seems like the true reasoning behind the names is lost, but it leans to triple sec being dryer than the sweeter curacaos, and also seems to imply that triple secs are of higher quality. But the "bastardization" of the name curacao rings true if one reads the Senior web site which explains why they call their product "Curacao of Curacao."

We named it "Curacao of Curacao" to differentiate it from other brands of Curacao liqueur that are not original. We are the only original since we have the only Curacao liqueur processed with the dried peels of the "Laraha" (bitter orange native of Curacao).

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My previous post wasn't meant to be an authoritative claim on flavoring and distillation, though upon rereading it does more or less come off that way. I just can't imagine any other way to add a flavor element that also has color and then come out with a clear product.


Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Seems likely from the material Erik linked to thatmany of both kinds are redistilled after the orange infusion -- although the cheap ones are certainly made with alcohol and flavorings. I also have to believe that most curaçao liqueur is colored with added coloring agents. For example, Senior in describing their Curaçao of Curaçao brand says "The original liqueur is clear in color, but it is also available in four (4) other colors: blue, red, mandarine (orange) and green. These colors are available for cocktail purposes. ... The taste is exactly the same." Some of the brandy-based ones (Grand Marnier for sure, and perhaps also GranGala?) likely derive their coloration primarily from the alcohol base.

Grand Marnier, interestingly, seems to infuse orange peels into neutral spirits, then blends the flavored alcohol with "up to 5 years old" cognac, then ages the whole works in oak.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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First there was curaçao, an orange liqueur produced on the Dutch Carribbean island of Curaçao using the peels of the local bitter oranges.

I thought that too, and it may still be possible; but, I'm not sure the dates add up for that version of history.

Grand Marnier, according to their website originally named "Curacao Marnier," has been produced since 1827.

Cointreau has been produced since 1849.

It doesn't seem like the Senior family started distilling on Curacao until 1888 or so. Most of the modern rum houses, (Bacardi, Clement, Havana Club,) were founded around the same time, between the 1830s and 1900.

If there was rum based orange liqueur coming from the West Indies in prior to 1827, it was likely not very nice.

From what I can tell, the European Orange liqueurs probably pre-dated the ones actually produced in the islands.


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Another quote I've never known quite what to make of, is from the Liqueurs de France Website:

Distillery Combier

Triple Sec was invented in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Combier and its recipe has been copied many times, but never bettered. Sun-dried orange skins from Haiti are steeped in alcohol for 24 hours and distilled in 100 year-old copper stills to give a bitter sweet liqueur that can be drunk on its own or used as a irreplaceable ingredient in a top-shelf margarita. Try the original and taste the difference!

The liqueur itself is not excessively expensive, at least once you get over the shipping, or the balance of the other tempting items you might accidentally purchase from LdF.


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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First there was curaçao, an orange liqueur produced on the Dutch Carribbean island of Curaçao using the peels of the local bitter oranges.

I thought that too, and it may still be possible; but, I'm not sure the dates add up for that version of history.

Grand Marnier, according to their website originally named "Curacao Marnier," has been produced since 1827.

Cointreau has been produced since 1849.

It doesn't seem like the Senior family started distilling on Curacao until 1888 or so. Most of the modern rum houses, (Bacardi, Clement, Havana Club,) were founded around the same time, between the 1830s and 1900.

If there was rum based orange liqueur coming from the West Indies in prior to 1827, it was likely not very nice.

From what I can tell, the European Orange liqueurs probably pre-dated the ones actually produced in the islands.

Yea, that's hard to say.

I'm not sure Senior is saying that they are the original producers of curaçao liqueur, but rather that their product is the only "original" because it's the only one made on the island of Curaçao exclusively with local bitter orange peel. It's a bit like Crystal saying, "we're the only ones making the 'original Louisiana-style hot sauce' because we're the only ones making the sauce in Louisiana exclusively with local ingredients" (for clarification: Texas Pete, a Louisiana-style hot sauce, is made in North Carolina). That's not quite the same thing as saying, "we invented Louisiana-style hot sauce" -- although it is cleverly worded to make it seem as though that's what they're saying.

As for precedence, given the fact that sugarcane plantations in the Caribbean were making rum as far back as, say, the 1600s, it's not a far reach to think that someone might have thought of dumping in some dried orange peels and extra sugar. This would put it well before Grand Marnier. I'm not sure we have to believe that the alcohol for the original curaçao liqueur was distilled locally, and I doubt it would have been re-distilled following infusion.

Another quote I've never known quite what to make of, is from the Liqueurs de France Website:

Distillery Combier

Triple Sec was invented in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Combier and its recipe has been copied many times, but never bettered. Sun-dried orange skins from Haiti are steeped in alcohol for 24 hours and distilled in 100 year-old copper stills to give a bitter sweet liqueur that can be drunk on its own or used as a irreplaceable ingredient in a top-shelf margarita. Try the original and taste the difference!

The liqueur itself is not excessively expensive, at least once you get over the shipping, or the balance of the other tempting items you might accidentally purchase from LdF.

I find some of their claims a little dubious, but maybe they're right. What they say in their history is that the Combiers were confectioners who opened a shop in Saumur in 1832, and they "began to make liqueurs in their back shop." By 1848, they became full-time makers of liqueur. Cointreau didn't start making their famous triple sec until 1875.

So the questions are: Is the liqueur sold by the Combiers today meaningfully similar to the one they were making back in the 1840s -- which is to say, would we recognize it as "triple sec"? Or might it be the case that they were making something a bit different, and simply called it "triple sec"? Or were they making something we might recognize as "triple sec-like" but calling it something else? If they were making something called "triple sec" and that we would recognize as triple sec as early as 1834, why is it that the product seems to be unknown until Cointreau's 1875 debut? Regardless, it seems clear that the Cointreau model is the one that defined the category (so much so that Cointreau removed "triple sec" from their bottle and re-branded as simply "Cointreau" after the market was flooded with cheap immitators in knockoff bottles).


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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An interesting orange liqueur tidbit in Gary Regan's column for the San Francisco Chronicle this week.

New Orleans cocktail journeys to Cognac

At the house of Cognac Frapin I met a remarkable man by the name of Max Cointreau. He's now the patriarch of the Frapin household and a descendant of the people who created Cointreau in the mid-1870s. It's one of my very favorite liqueurs. And Max Cointreau is a delight.

I didn't hear any earth-shattering secrets about Cointreau from Max, save the fact that it was originally deemed a "triple sec" because the third recipe used during the development phase of this fine, dry, peppery orange-flavored liqueur, was the one that is still used today.

Also includes a rather nice sounding orange liqueur and Cognac based drink called "La Tour Eiffel".


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Why on earth would you "boycott" Cointreau and Grand Marnier?  Not only are they two of the oldest and highest quality orange liqueurs in the world, but Cointreau is a fundamental ingredient in a huge number of the best classic cocktails.

they are so expensive. i started drinking creole shrub.


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Hmm. I get Cointreau for 30 bucks a liter at Warehouse Spirits here in Manhattan. Doesn't strike me as all that much money compared to, e.g., any of the Van Winkle or Anchor Distilling whiskeys; gins such as Hendrick's, Junìpero, etc; Favorite and Niesson Rhum Agricole, etc. And I would argue that Cointreau is at least as high quality a spirit as the others I listed, not to mention that Cointreau is used in much smaller amounts than these base spirits and therefore one bottle's worth equals a vastly larger number of cocktails.

Creole Shrub is fine, for what it is. But I wouldn't consider it a substitute for Cointreau. A Sidecar with Creole Shrub instead of Cointreau? No, thanks.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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has anyone tried Mandarine Napoleon ? (sp)


"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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Hmm.  I get Cointreau for 30 bucks a liter at Warehouse Spirits here in Manhattan. 

I am so jealous. The cheapest I have ever seen Cointreau in Texas is $28/fifth. I know that the cost to my place of employ is closer to $40-45/liter. Of course we buy from a local package store that seems to get kicks from screwing us over. I do love me some Cointreau though.


Andy Arrington

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Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Hmm.  I get Cointreau for 30 bucks a liter at Warehouse Spirits here in Manhattan.  Doesn't strike me as all that much money compared to, e.g., any of the Van Winkle or Anchor Distilling whiskeys; gins such as Hendrick's, Junìpero, etc; Favorite and Niesson Rhum Agricole, etc.  And I would argue that Cointreau is at least as high quality a spirit as the others I listed, not to mention that Cointreau is used in much smaller amounts than these base spirits and therefore one bottle's worth equals a vastly larger number of cocktails.

Creole Shrub is fine, for what it is.  But I wouldn't consider it a substitute for Cointreau.  A Sidecar with Creole Shrub instead of Cointreau?  No, thanks.

i'm just naturally iconoclastic....

when you see a polarization of the classes you react. i see that too many people associate cocktails with the upper class and think therefore its not for them. it may seem different in a different city.... but i try to make my focus not about the perfect nuanced whiskey for a drink that some one else just might not get, but much more about acid/brix/bitter.

so i try to throw out established bourgeois things and make stuff for the blue collar.

cointreau may be perfect but from my strange seeming perspective there is negative cultural resonance....


abstract expressionist beverage compounder

creator of acquired tastes

bostonapothecary.com

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Something to toss into the debate about curacaos on page one of this thread. This advertisement, from 1899 or very soon thereafter, is one of the many interesting ads found nestleed among all the wack drinks contained in the 1985 Larousse Book of Cocktails.

gallery_15117_5010_128874.jpg


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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I recently was looking through some old books about distilling (M. McKENNIE's 1871 English translation of Duplais' "A TREATISE on the MANUFACTURE AND DISTILLATION of ALCOHOLIC LIQUORS.")

The book fairly large sections on liqueurs.

I did notice that there is a classification for liqueurs called "double" and another called "Third Fine". Notwithstanding Messrs Cointreau et Regan, I do wonder if the use of the word "triple" is somehow related to these traditional classifications.

Classification of Liqueurs.

  Liqueurs which are prepared by distillation (or maceration), or by the solution of the essences, are divided into four principal classes : common (ordinaires), half fine (demi-fines) , fine (fines), and superfine (surfines) liqueurs.

  The third fine (liqueurs teirs-fines) liqueurs are known only in the city of Paris ; they are prepared by mixing the common and half-fine in equal parts.

  Double liqueurs (liqueurs doubles) are manufactured everywhere else in France except in Paris; and the suburbs of the city ship them in considerable quantities.

  The classification of liqueurs depends on the proportions of alcohol, perfume, sugar, and water employed in the manufacture, as well as in the care given to their preparation.

  The names waters and oils (eaux et huiles) are applied more particularly to common (ordinaires) liqueurs ; there are, however, some liqueurs of superior quality which are also known by these names. The names creams and elixirs (cremes et elixirs) are given almost exclusively to fine and superfine liqueurs. These last are further divided into several kinds, as French, foreign, and West Indian liqueurs (Francaisee, etrangeres et des Iles) . The ratafias are liqueurs composed of infusions of fruits or aromatic substances.


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Something to toss into the debate about curacaos on page one of this thread. This advertisement, from 1899 or very soon thereafter, is one of the many interesting ads found nestleed among all the wack drinks contained in the 1985 Larousse Book of Cocktails.

Huh, so I guess using Grand Marnier when a cocktail recipe calls for Curacao, is appropriate?

Also answers my question about there being Curacaos other than the Brizard made with aged brandy!

So, if the Brizard Orange Curacao was originally a Curacao Marnier clone, does that mean Brizard now has two products on the market based on Marnier's orange liqueur?


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Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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First of all, my caption to that picture should read 1889, not 1899; by 1901, Curacao Marnier was calling itself Grand Marnier (perhaps as a result of winning all those medals). And yeah, this pretty much proves that Grand Marnier is to orange curacao as Cointreau is to white or triple-sec curacao.

As for the teminology. Unfortunately, the history of curacao is a sort of third rail for the would-be drink historian; I've found it so, anyway--as soon as you think you've got something figured out, something else comes up to prove you wrong.

Case in point, that extract from Duplais. This could very well explain the "triple orange" in the poster. But then there's this, from Artaud de Montor's 1837 Encyclopédie des gens du monde & c.:

EAUX DISTILLÉS

…les eaux distilleés ont été divisées en odorantes et non-odorantes, et l’on a remarqué que leur vertu dépendait en grand partie de la manière dont la distillation avait été conduite. Lorsqu’on veut les avoir parfaits, il faut faire passer plusiers fois la meme eau sur de nouvelles plantes: c’est ce qu’on nomme eaux distillés doubles, triples.

A rough translation:

Distilled spirits have been classified as fragrant or non-fragrant, and it has been remarked that their virtue depends in large part on the manner in which the distillation has been performed. Should one wish them to be perfect, one must pass the same distillate several times over new botanicals; this makes for what are kown as "double" spirits, "triple" spirits etc.

So--a "triple" curacao is one that has been distilled three times, with a fresh batch of orange peel used in each distillation. All well and good, but by the time Curacao Marnier and Cointreau were on the market, pot-still distillation (a batch process) was being replaced by the continuous column-still process, which makes those three separate distillations obsolete.

Then again, as far as I can tell these terms weren't regulated, so it could be mere empty verbiage, stating in effect merely that it's a high-quality product with a concentrated orange flavor. But I'm not sure what to make of the passage from Duplais, or how Grand Marnier's cognac base figures into things.

P.S. I think this last factor explains the two MB products: most curacaos use a neutral spirit base, not a brandy base like the GM Cordon Rouge (indeed, there used to be--and maybe still is--a cheaper, neutral spirit-based Grand Marnier, the "Cordon Jaune," or Yellow Ribbon). Thus two grades of orange curacao, with an MB for each.


aka David Wondrich

There are, according to recent statistics, 147 female bartenders in the United States. In the United Kingdom the barmaid is a feature of the wayside inn, and is a young woman of intelligence and rare sagacity. --The Syracuse Standard, 1895

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I was thinking about Curacao based on some discussion over at the DrinkBoy MSN forums.

Then, a friend asked to borrow some Orange Curacao so he could try to make himself a Mai Tai. Of course, one of the most famous uses of Curacao is Trader Vic's Mai Tai.

To the best of my knowledge, however, Vic always recommended DeKuyper, (or another Dutch Curacao,) based on neutral spirits, rather than the ones blended with brandy, like Brizard or Grand Marnier.

Were the original Curacaos then orange macerations, probably based on rum, like the Creole Shrubb liqueur? Then when the europeans got ahold of them, they started distilling the peels, and it evolved into the more sophisticated liqueurs like Cointreau and Grand Marnier.

In reproducing older recipes, what is the best thing to look for in a Curacao? Is its function mostly for sweetness? If so, then why is it so often used in combination with gum syrup? Or is it also there for the bitter orange kick you'd get from a macerated liqueur?


---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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