Grand Marnier is a triple sec liqueur invented in 1880 and still produced by the same family in France. The company boasts that it is the most exported liqueur in France, as well as being the first liqueur exported from that country. It is sold in over 150 countries and used in a wide range of drinks and desserts.
Triple secs are liqueurs that are distilled, and then have orange peel left in them to macerate and flavor the alcohol. The first triple sec, Cointreau, was created in France in 1849, and a number of imitators followed. Without a doubt, the most popular of these was Grand Marnier, created by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle some 30 years later. Oranges at the time were a rare and exotic fruit, and by blending them with high-quality brandies, Marnier-Lapostolle was able to create an enduring legacy.
The brandy used in all but the lowest grade of Grand Marnier comes from the region of Cognac in France, a place well regarded for its fine liquors. The quality of Cognac used in the liqueur depends on the type, and ranges from lower-end Cognacs to extremely high-grade 50-year-old Cognac. The lowest grade of Grand Marnier is known as Yellow Label, or Cordon Jaune, and is not usually available for sale in the United States. This is not made from Cognac, unlike all other varieties, but is instead made from common grain alcohol. It is rarely used as a drinking alcohol, and is instead used in cooking, such as in the preparation of Crêpes Suzette.
The most common grade of Grand Marnier, and that which most people are acquainted with, is known as Red Label, or Cordon Rouge. Cordon Rouge is made from Cognac, using essentially the same technique as the original Grand Marnier in 1880. Cordon Rouge is often used in cooking, but may also be enjoyed in various mixed drinks or by itself.
The next level of Grand Marnier is the Centennial Edition, or Cuvé du Centenaire, which is made using the same technique as the Red Label, but substituting 25-year-old Cognac for the normal Cognac used. This costs nearly $200 US Dollars (USD) per bottle and is meant to be drunk on its own. At the top of the heap is the Grand Marnier 150, a blend made using the highest-quality 50-year-old Cognac. It costs in excess of 200 USD per bottle and is often very difficult to find — indeed, an advertising campaign for it used the line: "Hard to find, impossible to pronounce, and prohibitively expensive."