Cointreau vs. Grand Marnier Knife Fight

In preparation for an article on making a decent Margarita, I picked up a bottle of Cointreau (pronounced [kwan'-tro]). Since I can talk about booze for hours on end, let’s divert from the Margarita discussion to talk about orange flavored liqueurs. I had actually never tasted Cointreau “bare” before, whereas Grand Marnier is an old favorite of mine. It was interesting. For drinking neat, the Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge wins hands down: it’s silkier, and has more body, and the cognac base gives it a more complex flavor.

These same factors, however, make Cointreau the better mixer. Cointreau has a bitter orange bite that is missing from its wealthier, more attractive cousin. It’s harsher, but that makes it stand up better to being in a mixed drink. I’ve been at various bars that offer a top-shelf margarita by using Grand Marnier, but this seems to me to be a bad deal for both the mixed drink and the liqueur.

Cointreau bills itself as “the original triple sec,” but most of the products you can buy that call themselves “triple sec” are undrinkable and unmixable (yes, Jacquins, I’m looking at you – how does that company stay in business?).

There’s only one type of Cointreau. Grand Marnier comes in a number of variations, from the difficult-to-get-in-the-US-but-that’s-OK-because-it’s -not-very-good Cordon Jaune up to marketed-to-yuppie-philistines Grand Marnier CuvĂ©e Speciale Cent Cinquantenaire. (Actual quote from the owner of the ad agency promoting this $220 booze: “The more obscure and more expensive, the harder it is to find, the better it is.” I guess it’s nice to know that money doesn’t buy brains.)

Coming soon: tequila, the gentrification of liquors, and Margaritas as a serious drink instead of as slurpees for stupid drunk sorority chicks and frat boys.