Orange Curacao vs Cointreau: Which One Do You Get?


Among the myriad liqueurs out there, the orange liqueur is the most commonly used in cocktails.

You can always find this behind bartenders on bar shelves, and if you’d like to try making cocktails yourself, then orange liqueurs are a staple!

But just like how liqueurs have different categories, there are different kinds of orange liqueurs as well, such as orange curacao and Cointreau. This probably leaves you wondering if there’s a difference between orange curacao vs Cointreau.

While you can use these two orange liqueurs interchangeably, they have differences that can impact your drink’s overall appearance and flavor!

Let’s take a further look as we compare orange curacao vs Cointreau.

What is Orange Curacao?

image of Orange Curacao vs

As the name suggests, curacao comes from the island of Curacao! It’s made from pot-stilled brandy, then flavored with dried peels of Curacao oranges.

Fun fact: Curacao oranges were first introduced to the island by Spanish settlers, and it was first called Valencia oranges. However, Valencia oranges didn't survive well in the island's dry climate, becoming bitter and inedible. However, since the plants began growing wild, someone discovered the orange peels left a fragrant aroma, and by 1896, distillers on the island used them to add aroma and flavor to their products.

You can find many traditional curacaos still available, particularly from the brand Curacao of Curacao, produced by the Senior family. There are other kinds of curacao you can get other than orange curacao. Another popular variety is blue curacao, or you can find it in a clear version!

Fun fact: Curacao isn't a protected appellation, unlike other products like champagne or cognac. That's why distillers can make it anywhere, using any method.
image of  vs Cointreau cocktails

What is Cointreau?

Cointreau is a type of triple sec and the first registered brand of it in 1885, invented in France. Today, it’s the most popular triple sec!

Fun fact: Cointreau actually dropped “triple sec” from its name during the early 1900s, repositioning itself as a product apart from the liqueur! Back then, it was called the Cointreau Triple Sec.

This orange liqueur is made from bitter and sweet orange peels macerated in neutral alcohols. It is then distilled using two other simple ingredients: Sugar and water.

This is a popular liqueur for a good reason. It has perfectly balanced flavors falling between sweet and bitter orange, with the warm spices lending complexity as it complements the orange flavors.

Fun fact: Cointreau is clear with a 40% ABV. It’s pretty strong and will give a kick to many cocktails, though it’s not best to sip on its own.

Cointreau is a triple sec variety made with less sugar than curacao. That’s why it’s called sec, meaning “dry.”

Orange Curacao vs Cointreau

It all boils down to flavor when it comes to the difference between orange curacao vs Cointreau. Curacao is usually made in a way that it’s more spice-forward than Cointreau or other triple sec varieties.

As such, orange curacao has more flavors beyond the orange! Moreover, curacao is sweeter than Cointreau, a drier orange liqueur. Curacao tastes like a dried, peeled orange, having a good balance of bitter and sweet, though it will depend on the oranges it’s made from.

Cointreau has a crisp, smooth, orange flavor, so you can enjoy it neat, over ice, or in cocktails. Personally, we don’t recommend drinking it straight but using it in fruity cocktails like the Cosmopolitan and Margarita. Moreover, orange curacao would have a 15-40% ABV, whereas Cointreau has a 40% ABV.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you left with questions related to orange curacao vs Cointreau? Read on!

1. What can you make with Cointreau?

You can make many cocktails with Cointreau, such as Cointreau Margarita, Cosmopolitan, White Lady, and Classic Sidecar, among others. You can also use it for cooking and baking dishes like pancakes, glazed meat dishes, risotto Brulee, puddings, relish, etc.

Fun fact: If you’re looking for mixers, opt for citrus juices, apple cider, club soda, amaretto, dry sparkling wine, or even coffee and hot chocolate!

2. What can you make with orange curacao?

Make cocktails like the Man o’ War, Margarita, Purple Rain, Orange Sundown, Pegu Club, and more! It’s also possible to use this orange liqueur for baking desserts like cake.

3. What are the best orange liqueur brands?

You can find many different orange liqueurs available, and these are the most popular brands to get for your cocktails and recipes:

  • Bols is a triple sec that isn’t as flavorful but comes at a low price for those on a budget
  • Clement Creole Shrubb is a rum and orange liqueur that works well in tropical rum drinks
  • Cointreau is a popular triple sec (which we talked about above)
  • Combier Liqueur d’Orange is a triple sec but not as balanced as Cointreau, going towards the sweeter route.
  • Grand Marnier is a curacao-inspired blend of orange liqueur and cognac with dry, subtle brandy, and bitter orange flavor.

And those brands are just on the top of our heads! You’ll surely find many more in your major supermarket or liqueur store.

Wrapping It Up

Who knew that there are so many things to learn about orange liqueurs? We hope you learned more about the differences between orange curacao vs Cointreau from our guide!

If you’d like to learn even more about these two liqueurs or other alcoholic beverages, you can explore our offerings here at Nomspedia.

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