Don’t Judge Me Mondays: Orange Liqueurs
Happy Monday everyone!
A few weeks ago my husband made crème brûlée for his coworkers (it was delicious!) and the recipe he was using called for Grand Marnier. I picked up a mini bottle for him at Cost Plus, but while I was there I noticed mini bottles of Cointreau for sale also. I bought one of those too. It got me wondering how many orange liqueurs are out there (turns out there are a lot!) and what differentiates them from one another. I decided to get to the bottom of this and did a taste test. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it and you as my reader are just that important to me. 😉
It turned out that we had two full size bottles of different kinds of orange liqueur in our liquor cabinet already (we really need to organize that thing) so I just went to Total Wine and found a few other selections in the mini bottle size. It turns out there was a wide selection of the regular size bottles so I focused on just orange liqueurs (instead of broadening it to mandarin, blood orange,etc.). I was also curious what the differences were between Triple Sec, Cointreau and Grand Marnier. To sum it up, Triple Sec is the generic term for a clear orange liqueur. Cointreau is just a specific brand of Triple Sec and Grand Marnier is different because it is an orange-flavored Cognac. Even though it’s Cognac, I decided to keep Grand Marnier in my taste test because I think it’s still one of the names we all think of when we hear the term orange liqueur.
I sampled seven brands in total and tested them in several ways: first I poured each one into a little dish and took note of the color and appearance and scent.Then I sampled each one, tasting a sip of water in between so as not to confuse flavors. I tasted them in order of price, lowest to highest based on the prices of a 750 ml bottle. I should also note that the prices were based on Total Wine and were before taxes. The final thing I did was taste them over ice mixed with a little seltzer water to see if being chilled changed the flavor profile. After all, orange liqueur is used a lot in chilled cocktails.
Let’s get to my findings!
- Cost: $8.29
- Appearance: Clear and thin
- Scent: This one did not have much of a smell, which was disappointing
- Flavor: This Triple Sec was really sweet and had an artificial orange taste. It actually tasted more like booze than anything else to me. Like several of the other ones, the taste did not change much when chilled.
- How to use: Don’t. Honestly, we’ll probably use it because we already had it. The taste of this one just doesn’t compare to some of the others in the same price range though, so I wouldn’t bother with it if you have the choice.
- Cost: $8.99
- Appearance: Clear with a viscous or syrupy consistency
- Scent: Slight orange smell
- Flavor: Very sweet, but had more orange flavor than the DeKuyper
- How to use: In a sweet cocktail like a margarita or rum punch. It would also add a nice flavor to a Dark & Stormy.
- Cost: $10.99
- Appearance: Blue (obviously)
- Scent: Only a slight orange smell and smelled more of booze than anything else
- Flavor: This one was less sweet but had more of a boozy taste. The orange flavor was more than the first two but still artificial tasting. The orange flavor was even more pronounced when chilled.
- How to use: In a sweet cocktail that requires blue coloring like a Blue Hawaiian or Blue Lagoon.
- Prince: $16.99
- Appearance: Clear and slightly syrupy
- Scent: Fresh orange and floral
- Flavor: This was the first one that had a true orange flavor. It was a strong flavor of real orange rind.
- How to use: Because of the floral notes in this, I would use it in gin-based cocktails or as an orange flavoring in a mousse or custard.
- Price: $24.99
- Appearance: Orangish amber color from the Italian brandy used.
- Scent: Bright orange smell with a hint of herbiness
- Flavor: Really orange flavor with a boozy burn and thick mouth feel. However, it had a bitter note to it when chilled.
- How to use: Because of the bitterness when chilled I would use this for baked goods or to make a boozy coffee drink.
- Price: $33.99
- Appearance: Clear
- Scent: Faint smell of true orange
- Flavor: Sweet with the taste of real orange peels. This one also had an alcohol burn to it and had a slightly bitter taste when chilled.
- How to use: This one would also be good in baked goods, boozy coffee, or sipped on its own (just not over ice).
- Price: $35.99
- Appearance: Orangish amber color from the cognac in it.
- Scent: This one had the freshest orange smell
- Flavor: This is the only one that tasted like the actual fruit of the orange, rather than the rind. That did not change when chilled.
- How to use: Since the flavor is so tasty I think it would be great in many things! It would make an amazing boozy hot cocoa, or as an addition to a chocolate mousse. It would also be the best one to use in a classic cocktail like a Manhattan or Old Fashioned where the flavor will really shine.
So, let’s re-cap. If money were no object, the Grand Marnier would be my top choice. The fresh orange flavor was intense and it would be tasty on its own, over ice, or in a chilled cocktail. If I wanted something on the more frugal end, I would choose the Vita Divine. It had a decent orange taste that could hold its own in a chilled cocktail. Obviously, people are choosing the Blue Curacao for its fun color and I wouldn’t shy away from using it in a cocktail that required that great blue hue.
I will be sharing a cocktail recipe next week that uses orange liqueur, so stay tuned!
Do you have a favorite orange liqueur? How do you like to use it?