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Cointreau vs. Triple Sec... Margarita Debate

StriperGuy Aug 19, 2002 09:48 AM

I just finished a big expensive bottle of Grand Marnier and found I really can't taste the dif in a Margarita.

Likewise with a small airline size bottle of cointreau I was comparing it to. While both do taste very nice on their own, I would save them for sipping.

Bols make a very nice triple sec that does not have the artificial taste of most of the American brands. It even says on the bottle that it is made from Valencia Oranges, Curacao Oranges, and Lemons.

It is $7 for 1.0 Liter which is less than a third of the price of GM or Cointreau. I even sipped it solo, and while it did not have the complexity of Cointreau or GM it had a very pleasant orange flavor.

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  1. j
    Jambalaya RE: StriperGuy Aug 19, 2002 04:41 PM

    I agree. I did a tasting a while ago when I had bottles of GM, Cointreau and a brand of TS at home, couldn't tell enough difference to justify the price in making a 'Rita. If you are sipping solo, OK then get the good stuff, but for my money mixed with Tequila etc., go with the standard TS.

    To me the proper proportions of all the ingredients are what makes all the difference in the world and that depends on how you like your 'Ritas. One summer I experimented until I got the one I liked, wrote down the recipe and have stuck with it ever since.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jambalaya
      Michele Cindy RE: Jambalaya Aug 20, 2002 07:48 AM

      I prefer the taste of Cointreau. I find triple sec more sweet, and I like my margaritas on the dry side. I do know when I drink a margarita made with cheap liquor I wake up with a huge hang-over, and when I get my usual "golden" margarita I'm fine.

      1. re: Jambalaya
        nolahope RE: Jambalaya May 16, 2008 02:26 PM

        I know this post is from several years back; however, it is my goal to learn how to make the "perfect" margarita this summer and I agree with you that the proper proportions of ingredients are the key! Since you have yours all worked out, would you mind sharing your recipe with me? (and the other chowhounds?) Thanks so much!

        1. re: nolahope
          white light RE: nolahope May 16, 2008 09:58 PM

          These threads are a bit more current and might be of help:



          There are quite of bit of variables/ratios floating around. My advice is to try a bunch and see what is "perfect" for you. As long as you use 100% agave, fresh lime, and a decent orange liquor it should be fun trying to figure it out!

        2. re: Jambalaya
          surfereddie RE: Jambalaya Feb 23, 2012 03:14 PM

          I'm with Michele Cindy, if I start top shelf and have just "one" well (cheap stuff) margarita I'll have a bad day the next day. Always top shelf Tequila and Cointreau. I'm sure I could find a cheaper Cointreau substituent and Tequila for that matter. I'm a 3 times a year margarita drinker so I'll stick with what I know.

          1. re: surfereddie
            marais RE: surfereddie Feb 23, 2012 03:32 PM

            Since this thread has bubbled up, I can share that Citronge is good for a 'Rita but runs a bit hot. My North End packie hooked me up with some real curaçao (namely Curaçao of Curaçao) and I like it in my 'Rita a lot. The original Curaçao oranges, very orange-forward but in a pleasant balanced way.

        3. JK Grence the Cosmic Jester RE: StriperGuy May 19, 2008 03:12 AM

          Something worth noting: Cointreau *is* triple sec, much the same way that DiSaronno is an amaretto. Grand Marnier is an orange liqueur in the same family, but is brandy based while most regular triple secs use neutral spirits.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
            surfereddie RE: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Feb 23, 2012 03:27 PM

            In the spirit of enlightenment: Grand Marnier is "Cognac" based.

          2. k
            kenito799 RE: StriperGuy May 23, 2008 09:48 AM

            Luxardo Triple Sec is a great Cointreau substitute for mixing, at $20 vs $35 per liter for Cointreau.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kenito799
              StriperGuy RE: kenito799 Feb 24, 2012 12:04 PM

              I think the Luxardo product is even superior to Cointreau.

            2. WineUnleashed RE: StriperGuy May 23, 2008 09:52 AM

              Try using Patrón's Citrónge (Orange Liqueur). Trader Joe's sells it. It is less expensive than GM and tastes better than reg. triple sec.

              7 Replies
              1. re: WineUnleashed
                kenito799 RE: WineUnleashed May 23, 2008 11:28 AM

                yes, it is sweet like GM, much sweeter than Cointreau, i wouldn't use it in place of Cointreau

                1. re: WineUnleashed
                  Mr Lee Ho RE: WineUnleashed Jun 5, 2008 05:39 PM

                  Exactly, Cointreau is overpriced. The Citronge is just as good, cheaper and a higher proof (I think).

                  1. re: Mr Lee Ho
                    yarm RE: Mr Lee Ho Feb 23, 2012 04:07 PM

                    Both Cointreau and Citronage are 80 proof.

                    Cointreau is a very balanced spirit and you will notice the difference in straight spirits drinks. Probably less so in juice containing ones like Margaritas. Most bars opt not to use Cointreau solely on the price point; I have only been in a few bars that actually stock Cointreau and boast how Combier, Bauchant, or Bols is much cheaper and no one seems to complain.

                    1. re: yarm
                      ncyankee101 RE: yarm Feb 23, 2012 11:37 PM

                      I finally sprung for bottles of Cointreau and Grand Marnier a couple months ago when I found them out of state at very good prices ($30 and $26 respectively, vs $40 for both here in NC).

                      I have yet to do a serious side-by-side comparison in margaritas, but I have tasted them alone vs their cheaper counterparts. The Grand marnier is almost indistinguishable from the cheaper harlequin I always stock (or Gran gala depending on which I happen to find on sale.) The orange flavor might be slightly more intense in the GM but not by much.

                      The Cointreau vs the Bols triple sec was no contest. I think maybe the Bols that Striper Guy had 9 years ago was not the same it is today, because it says bottled in kentucky and nothing about any of the fruit being used in it. Whereas the Cointreau is not very sweet and has an intense bitter orange flavor, the Bols TS (and nearly identical Curacao) tastes syrupy sweet with a very mild fake orange flavor.

                      I have yet to try Senior Curacao, Luxardo Triplum, Combier, or Marie Brizard triple sec, but they are all on my list as I have heard very good things about all of them - and all except the Combier are about half the price of their more expensive counterparts.

                      1. re: ncyankee101
                        nickls RE: ncyankee101 Feb 24, 2012 07:11 AM

                        I loved the Luxardo Triplum when I first got it, but have since cooled on it. It has a strong and distinctive perfumey or orange blossom flavor that I find sticks out where I don't want it in some drinks.

                        Cointreau is still my go to, got a 1L in duty free for around $20 so I am set for a while. I do like Clement Creole Shrubb in rum drinks like the Mai Tai, though.

                        1. re: nickls
                          yarm RE: nickls Feb 24, 2012 07:29 AM

                          I like Creole Shrubb too, but the orange flavor is more subtle.

                          There is at least one reputable blogger who I know who swears by Hiram Walker triple sec, and a few other bloggers who have done side by side tastings of the stuff (against Cointreau) and like it (or felt it held up).

                          Grand Gala is one that gets used in Spanish restaurants around here.

                          As for Grand Marnier, I use it when a drink recipe calls for it specifically. The richer, darker flavors in it can shine in certain straight spirits drinks, but are lost in some citrus drinks.


                          1. re: yarm
                            ncyankee101 RE: yarm Feb 24, 2012 09:24 AM

                            I've never tried the Hiram Walker version but I guess I will put it on my list too.

                            I also love CC Shrubb, I can't believe I forgot to mention that one. I just tried a little side by side with Cointreau and I don't know if I would say more subtle, they seem equally orangey to me, but the Shrubb definitely a little sweeter so might seem that way.

                            Gran Gala and Harlequin are nearly identical in taste and price, I have kept one or the other on hand for years.

                2. StriperGuy RE: StriperGuy Feb 24, 2012 12:07 PM

                  Hah, glad folks have sparked up this thread. Can't believe it was 9 years ago that I bought that bottle of Bols... I'm getting old.

                  Have since taken to making my own orange liquer, blows away the commercial stuff, all of it. See thread here:


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