Cointreau is an orange-flavored triple-sec (“sec” dry, “triple” three-time distilled) liqueur produced in France. Originally it was called Curacao Blanco Triple Sec. Curacao is an island where sour but very aromatic oranges are imported. The distillery was founded by the Cointreau brothers Adolphe and Edouard-Jean in 1849. The distillery initially had reasonably successful products, but the real success came when the brothers invented a mixture of sweet and bitter orange peel with sugar beet alcohol. The first bottle of the new Cointreau drink was sold in 1875. Today, it is sold in 13 million bottles a year, in more than 150 countries.
Cointreau remained a family business until 1990, when it merged with Remy Martin to form a new, publicly traded company, Remy-Cointreau. Remy-Cointreau owns several well-known alcohol brands, e.g. Metaxa, Mount Gay, St. Remy, Bruichladdich and The Botanists. Cointreau can be enjoyed neat or with ice. However, it is most commonly used in various drinks and Cointreau is included in many popular cocktail recipes such as Margarita, Cosmopolitan and Sidecar. In Estonia, a 50cl bottle of Cointreau costs about €15.
The fresh and sweet nose clearly identifies the pungent citrus and orange peel. The mouthfeel is smooth and the taste has an intensive orange flavor. The taste has a bitter orange peel, a sweet aroma of orange pulp and also mandarin-like fresh and juicy flavor. Despite the sweetness, a sharp bite of ethanol exists, which luckily remains very short. Cointreau is also not as sugary as many other triple-secs or orange liqueurs. The bitter aroma of the orange peel remains for a long time. The sharp and bitterly fresh taste is very different and unique among liqueurs.
Cointreau can be sipped on its own for sure, but for me it is a bit too sharp and bitter, so maybe better to add ice cubes or splash of soda water to the glass. Of course, most commonly it is used in various cocktails and it really shines in that purpose. Cointreau has enough kick to give the drink a tart and fresh orange flavor. Cointreau is perhaps the best known triple-sec and probably the most commonly used ingredient in cocktail bars. It is a very high quality product but also quite expensive. A person who makes drinks at home could well replace it with a half-cheaper triple-sec. If it is used only 1-2 cl in the recipe, the difference might be very difficult to notice.