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Cointreau is a form of triple sec produced by the Rémy Cointreau distillery in France. This liqueur is usually viewed as a premium triple sec, and it may be sipped as a standalone beverage or blended into mixed drinks. Many bars stock Cointreau, and it is also available through liquor stores in many regions. If a recipe calls for this liqueur and it is not available, generic triple sec, Grand Marnier, or Curacao will make an adequate substitute. Consumers may want to be aware that this product is one of the less sweet members of the triple sec family.
The precise manufacturing method for Cointreau has been a closely guarded secret since the first bottle was sold in 1875. However, extrapolating from the techniques used to make other triple secs, it can be assumed that manufacture of this liqueur starts by steeping the dried peels of bitter oranges in alcohol, and then running the alcohol through a distiller. Cointreau has an alcohol content of 40%, which is unusually high for triple sec, due to the distillation process used.
Rémy Cointreau claims that it uses both sweet and bitter oranges in the manufacture of Cointreau, creating a liqueur which mingles the traditionally tart flavor of traditional triple sec with a more mellow sweetness from sweet oranges. The oranges used to produce it come from Brazil, Haiti, and Spain, and presumably the fruit is routinely tested to ensure that the flavor stays consistent, since consumers have come to expect a particular flavor from their Cointreau.
As with more generic triple secs, Cointreau can be used in mixed drinks like Black Bottoms and Wolverhampton Wonders, but some people view this as a waste. This high-quality liqueur makes an excellent digestif or aperitif, especially when paired with chocolatey and slightly bitter sweets like dark chocolate tortes. Cointreau also tends to be less cloying than traditional triple secs, which are often heavily sweetened to temper the bitterness of the orange.
Some people claim that Cointreau is so distinct that lumping it in with other triple secs may do it a disservice. The flavor of this liqueur is certainly very different from that of other beverages in the same family, and people who are not accustomed to using it may want to consider tasting it first to ensure that it will provide the expected flavor.