Bottle Fund preview: Cointreau cocktails

A very generous reader, and great lady, whom we’ll call Mel participated in the first, but private, bottle fund drive by bringing over a bottle of Cointreau, an orange and spiced liqueur that is used as a Triple sec in cocktails. Cointreau is 80-proof (Triple sec generally runs around 40-proof), so it slightly changes the recipes for many traditional cocktails. In a bar or restaurant, ordering a Cointreau Cosmo for instance, would get us a drink with more alcohol, subtle spiciness, and cost twice as much as a regular Cosmopolitan.

Is it worth it? Do we get what we pay for when we order premium liquors at a bar? Mostly no, but a little bit of yes, because the service industries mark up liquor tremendous amounts, usually around 300%, so liquor that’s more expensive to buy wholesale turns into very expensive cocktails. But premium liquors do bring something to table besides a higher tab. And, in this case, Cointreau does add a very nice flavor to some 3-ingredient cocktails listed below. When making cocktails at home, the premium on premium liquors is spread out, so although Cointreau is about 4-times more expensive than generic Triple sec, it might be worth it, especially when it gets to be a star player in these cocktails.

Mel, Mrs. Ferment, and I all tried these cocktails, except the Margarita, which I had to myself, since Mel and my wife don’t like the salt on the rim. Most of these drinks benefitted from the Cointreau, but the three that didn’t will be noted below.

A cocktail glass containing a Kami kaze made with Cointreau

A Kami kaze, ready to serve

Cointreau Kami Kaze

  • 1 jigger of vodka
  • 1 pony of Cointreau
  • 1 pony freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • enough ice to fill bottom third of the large cup to a Boston Shaker
  • lemon peel
Add vodka, Cointreau, and lemon juice to ice in shaker and shake. Strain into cocktail glass and drop in lemon peel.

The Kami kaze definitely benefited from the subtly of the Cointreau, which is far less sweet than the average Triple sec.

A cocktail glass containing a Sidecar made with Chalfonte Cognac and Cointreau

A premium delight: Sidecar made with Chalfonte Cognac and Cointreau

Cointreau Sidecar

  • 1 jigger of brandy
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • ½ oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • enough ice to fill bottom third of the large cup to a Boston Shaker
  • lemon peel
Add brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice to ice in shaker and shake. Strain into cocktail glass and drop in lemon peel. Optional: Rim the cocktail glass with sugar crystals before straining.

The Cointreau was a necessary in this one. Most Triple sec liqueurs are one-dimensional in flavor, and overwhelm the brandy. By the way, don’t rim the cocktail glass with sugar crystals. The Sidecar has a nice complex flavor that sugar just kills dead. Another added bonus using Cointreau over Triple Sec is this Sidecar has 20% more alcohol. It’s pretty toasty for a chilled cocktail.

A cocktail glass containing a White lady made with Cointreau

The White lady--doesn't look much different from the Kami kaze, but it sure does taste differently.

Cointreau White Lady

  • 1 jigger of gin
  • 1 pony Cointreau
  • 1 pony freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • enough ice to fill bottom third of the large cup to a Boston Shaker
  • lemon peel
Add gin, Cointreau, and lemon juice to ice in shaker and shake. Strain into cocktail glass and drop in lemon peel.

Sure, the White lady is just a Kami kaze with gin instead of vodka, but like all cocktails that just substitute vodka for gin, a lot of complexity is lost by going for the plain old potato. Gin adds it’s own spices, and we need to be careful that the Cointreau and gin don’t clash. In this case, we made our cocktail with a speed-rack gin, so the Cointreau added the needed sophistication. I’d think that a top-shelf gin would bring enough to the table to justify not using a premium Triple sec. So, pick your premium, as it were.

A cocktail glass containing a Cosmopolitan or Cosmo made with Cointreau

A sexy Cosmopolitan, for city people.

Cointreau Cosmopolitan

  • 1 jigger of vodka
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. cranberry juice
  • 1 pony freshly squeezed lime juice
  • enough ice to fill bottom third of the large cup to a Boston Shaker
  • orange peel
Add vodka, Cointreau, cranberry and lime juices to ice in shaker and shake. Strain into cocktail glass and drop in orange peel.

We broke the rules on our 3-ingredient cocktail party with this one, but only because Mrs. Fervere’s sister brought over some cranberry juice, and I hadn’t mixed a Cosmopolitan before. Between the cranberry and lime juices, the Cointreau didn’t stand a chance. It adds more alcohol, but not enough orange. It was still tasty, but the added expense of a premium liqueur doesn’t impress at home.

A large rocks glass containing a frozen Caribbean, a drink made with bananas, rum, and Cointreau.

Alas, no tiki mug for our frozen Caribbean. Remember to drink it slowly.

Frozen Caribbean

  • 2½ oz rum
  • 2½ oz. Cointreau
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 cup of ice
  • orange slice
Add bananas, ice, rum, and Cointreau to blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into Tiki mug or other suitable glass. Garnish with orange slice. Drink (slowly) through a straw.

I adapted this from Cointreau’s own recipe, because I don’t know what banana juice consists of. Besides, on the site it looked like a frozen drink, and with that amount of alcohol, it’ll go down smoother as a frozen drink. The Cointreau seems overwhelmed here, though. I don’t think it would suffer from an alternative Triple sec. With over 2oz. of it, I would pick a Triple sec that isn’t too syrupy.

A rocks glass with salt on rim and a lime wedge. The glass contains a Margarita made with Cointreau and La Cofradia Añejo tequila

Margarita, perfection in a glass. I'll review the bottle of La Cofradia tequila sitting in the background, too.

Cointreau Margarita

  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 pony of lime juice
  • enough ice to fill bottom third of the large cup to a Boston Shaker
  • lime wedge
Add tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice into shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into cocktail glass with salted rim. Hint: To salt rim, run the lime wedge on rim of glass first, then run rim upside down on small plate of coarse, kosher salt.

All you haters can hate, but a Margarita without the salt is like beer without the suds. It’s been discussed before. Besides that, I can state that the Cointreau did nothing extra for the Margarita. It’s an amazing drink in any case, and the Cointreau was gilding the lily.

So, not a bad case for purchasing a premium Triple sec. Cointreau brings orange peels and clove-like spices into the cocktails that are delicate to begin with, but drinks with large, pronounced flavors don’t necessarily need the subtleties that the liqueur brings. In a future Bottle Fund, I might try to get a real Curaçao or a Tia Maria, but for now, I’ll be closely guarding what remains of our Cointreau bottle. Thanks again, Mel!


Currently in the Bottle Fund: Pernod Absinthe. Donate today!