When you’re building your own home bar, triple sec might not be the first thing that comes into mind. After all, you don’t usually consume this drink on its own, since most people would fancy a glass of fine bourbon or whiskey, or maybe smooth tequila or vodka.
But this is a versatile orange-flavored liqueur when it comes to whipping up your own cocktails, particularly the margarita, cosmopolitan, or Long Island Iced Tea.
But did you know that it can also be used for baking? That’s why we recommend having a bottle at home!
If you don’t have a bottle around, that’s fine, too.
You can always opt for a triple sec substitute. There is a lot to choose from, so read on for our comprehensive list specially made for you!
The 6 Best Alcohol Substitutes for Triple Sec
For those who aren’t familiar with triple sec yet, it’s a clear and dry style of orange-flavored liqueur with a bright, citrusy flavor. Think of it as orange-flavored vodka.
- Fun fact: Sec translates to “dry” in French, so it literally means “triple dry” or “triple distilled.”
Triple sec was created in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Combier in Samur, France.
It’s made from bitter and sweet orange peels, which contributes to its unique taste. However, you won’t usually find people drinking triple sec on their own. Instead, it’s a great addition to cocktails and certain baked goods. (*)
While you can purchase it online or in liqueur stores, there’s a chance you can’t find triple sec around. Again, totally fine, as you can use a substitute for triple sec.
Choose among the different drinks below:
We believe Cointreau is the best substitute for a triple sec since it’s actually considered a kind of triple sec anyway!
This liqueur has the similar orange flavor triple sec offers, with the irresistible balance between sweet and bitter.
We also like that Cointreau is a higher-quality spirit than other generic bottles of triple sec, so this liqueur may actually elevate your drink or baked good!
That said, expect a slightly higher price tag. If budget is an issue, you may want to look for another triple sec replacement.
It’s also important to note that these two orange liqueurs have a noticeable difference, namely their alcohol content.
Cointreau has an ABV of 40%, while triple sec ranges from 15-40%. For those conscious about the alcohol in their drinks, you may want to add less Cointreau.
Another excellent alternative to triple sec is the Grand Marnier, which works amazingly in many cocktails and recipes.
2. Grand Marnier
Grand Marnier has notes of citrus and sweetness, which adds complexity and depth to various dishes, like cranberry sauce or crepes. For us, it’s a favorite staple during the holiday season.
However, these two orange liqueurs have two primary differences.
Triple sec is much sweeter than Grand Marnier, so it’s best to add a bit more sweetener to your cocktail when using Grand Marnier as a substitute. But if you want something less sweet, then you’ll appreciate Grand Marnier as a substitute triple sec.
Also, while triple sec is usually clear, Grand Marnier has a slightly amber hue, so Grand Marnier may affect your drink’s overall appearance. Like Cointreau, Grand Marnier has a slightly higher ABV than a triple sec, so you’ll want to add just enough!
You’re probably familiar with blue curacao, a liqueur that gives cocktails that bright, vibrant hue. But how about orange curacao?
This is another orange-flavored drink sharing many similarities with triple sec, making it a suitable alternative.
3. Orange Curacao
In fact, triple sec’s original name was curacao triple sec, so it’s safe to say that orange curacao is a fantastic substitute, though they still have notable differences.
For starters, while orange curacao and triple sec have similar citrus flavor notes, the former is more spice-forward. That means it would pair better with aged or dark spirits like brandy, rum, and specific tequilas. The additional complexity is great for certain cocktail recipes, but it may not suit all, especially if you’re looking for more of a neutral taste.
Pro-tip: Look for orange curacao matching the similar ABV as the recipe’s recommended triple sec has. You can use equal amounts. But if you’re in a pinch and only have blue curacao, this also works as a substitute with the same flavor notes, just be wary of the blue hue!
4. Combier Liqueur d’Orange
As the name suggests, this is a type of orange liqueur that infuses all the citrus flavor notes in your drink, making it an ideal substitute for triple sec.
- Fun fact: If you take a look at Combier’s official website, they refer to their spirit as the world’s first triple sec.
The Combier Liqueur d’Orange was first created in 1834 in France without any synthetic flavorings.
As such, you’ll only get high-quality ingredients for your cocktail. This clear orange liqueur is well-balanced with a hint of sweetness, so you’ll enjoy your cocktail as you would if it had a triple sec.
The only downside is that it’s more difficult finding Combier compared to other more common spirits, though it depends on your location.
If you’re not a fan of triple sec’s orange flavor notes and want a simpler drink without the fruitiness, then regular brandy works excellently.
It’s very accessible and easy to find In liqueur stores, or even in your own liqueur cabinet.
Brandy offers a great depth of flavor and is great for cooking, especially for flambe! That said, brandy isn’t as sweet as triple sec, even tasting a bit bitter.
If you’re creating a sweet cocktail or dessert, it’s best to taste test as you go, adding some sweetener to compensate. Furthermore, brandy is dark amber compared to the clear triple sec, so it can change your dish or drink’s appearance.
- Pro-tip: For the best results, start with only half the amount of brandy a recipe needs, adjusting the amount until you reach your desired flavor.
Grenadine mimics triple sec’s unique flavor profile or orange and tartness with a good amount of sweetness.
It’s a colorful ingredient popular in cocktails like the tequila sunrise.
Grenadine features the similar sweet and tart combination found in orange liqueurs, but it has no orange flavor notes.
Rather, it has a bit of pomegranate flavor. Furthermore, grenadine is vibrant red, with even just a bit of it changing your drink’s appearance. If the appearance matters to you, then it’s best to look for another replacements.
- Pro-tip: There are two kinds of grenadine: Non-alcoholic and alcoholic. You can choose non-alcoholic grenadine for mocktails, while the alcoholic version contains only 3-4% ABV.
The Best Triple Sec Substitutes (Non Alcoholic)
There are many reasons why people may want a substitute for triple sec (like you).
It can be from not having a bottle at home, you prefer a different flavor, or your local liqueur store doesn’t carry it.
Another major reason why people look for a triple sec substitute is alcohol. Not everyone likes alcohol, nor would we like serving cocktails to children!
That’s why we thank goodness for mocktails that use ingredients that emulate liquor’s flavor without the alcohol.
If you’re abstaining from alcohol or want to serve mocktails to younger ones, use a non-alcoholic instead of a triple sec from our list below:
7. Orange Extract and Zest
If you need to replace triple sec for baking recipes, then orange extract or orange zest is a suitable substitute. Whether it’s a cake or sauce, these alternatives will do just fine as they will add the citrus flavor you want in your recipe.
The best part is: There’s no alcohol!
The extract may have a hint of alcohol, but it won’t be noticeable and will more likely burn off as you bake. Even without the alcohol, you get the same vibrant orange flavor notes that triple sec offers.
Just be wary about the amount you add to your recipes or mocktails. These substitutes pack a ton of flavor in such a small amount.
For every tablespoon of triple sec required, only add a teaspoon of orange extract or orange zest. Unless you want the citrus flavor to overpower the food or drink, you’re better off with less.
8. Orange Juice
If you want to create mocktails, you can’t go wrong with orange juice!
You most likely have this in your fridge already, or you can easily find it in the grocery store.
Of course, you won’t get a similar depth of flavor or complexity compared to orange-flavored liqueurs, but you’ll get the citrus flavor notes for non-alcoholic recipes.
You get a tang from orange juice but note that this is a sweet drink, so you’ll want to get unsweetened orange juice, or better yet, fresh-squeezed oranges!
Since you don’t get as much potency with orange juice, we recommend adding a bit more than the recipe requires.
What are the best cocktails that use triple sec?
There are so many different cocktails that use triple sec thanks to its unique orange flavor. Here are our favorite cocktails that contain the beloved triple sec:
- Blood orange margarita
- Citrus Margarita
- Pineapple coconut margarita
- Prickly pear margarita
- White Lady
- Man o’ War
Fun fact: There are three kinds of triple sec depending on the oranges that are used. It was traditionally made with Curacao orange peels. Curacao oranges were created by accident during the process of making Valencia oranges.
What else can you do with triple sec?
Triple sec is a great ingredient for baking!
We love its citrus flavor in desserts like orange liqueur cake, pound cake, triple sec cream scones, crepes, puff pastries, and more!
Pro-tip: The best triple sec brands include the Cointreau and Combier for cocktails or cooking. You can even make your own triple sec!
Frequently Asked Questions
For those who have more questions about the triple sec, we answer them below!
Wrapping It Up
Triple sec is a favored alcoholic beverage popularly used for cocktails and dishes, but if you don’t have any at home, there are many triple sec substitutes to use.
From famous alcoholic beverages like Grand Marnier to non-alcoholic kitchen staples like orange juice, there’s always something to pump up your drinks and baked goods.
Let us know what you think of any of these items in the comment section below! You can also learn more about food and drink substitutions from the rest of our blog.