Time to learn something.
I am not sure how exactly I came to this conclusion, but I was always under the impression that orange liqueur was orange liqueur, and for fun there were various grades/types that you could select. There was the poor mans version – triple sec in all its generic forms. If you were in the mood for crazy colors you could opt for blue curacao. Then once you graduated college and could afford a little better you could upgrade to Cointreau. If you were crazy you then go all the way for the Grand Marnier – for the baller in you.
Funny thing is, I was wrong. While they are all technically orange liqueurs, they are each made in a very distinct way with different ingredients. They can all be drunk as an aperitif, often over ice or used as the ingredient of a fun libation. Here is the summary:
- Triple Sec. The generic standby. This is actually a type of curacao, but not as sweet as the other varieties.
- Curacao (including the fantastically blue version I sampled here). This is a specific type of liqueur made in the Dutch West Indies using dried sour orange peels. Surprisingly, it was originally made with fruit from the island of Curacao.
- Cointreau. This is technically another curacao, but it has no relation to its Caribbean cousin. This is made from a complex recipe, but the primary difference is that it made from a base of grape brandy – who knew? There is also a secret mix of plant ingredients included to enhance the flavor.
- Grand Marnier. This once should be different – it is the only one that has a brown coloring. This is a further refinement of a curacao, this time using cognac as a base. To mellow the taste it is also cask aged. This is fine enough to enjoy neat if you are no inclined.
Now I know how they are different – how do they taste different? To be honest I had never tried any of these outside of a cocktail recipe, so no time like the present for a taste test.
- Triple Sec – smooth and sweet. When sampled alone almost has the taste of an orange tic-tac. While it is certainly sweet, it is not as sweet as I was expecting.
- Curacao – sweeter, harsher, and in this case blue! While I have to say it is only subtly different from the Triple Sec, it tastes like a less refined version.
- Cointreau – one word – sweet! This is a whole different level of orange liqueur. The smell lures you in with the pleasant hint of orange peels, but the taste is powerful, almost spicy.
- Grand Marnier – totally different again, very much the taste of cognac, and the orange flavor is almost secondary. Not as sweet and definitely more robust a flavor.
Now you know – there is a difference, so my years of reckless substitution are over!
Another fun and easy way to make your own mixers, this time we are making Sweet and Sour Mix! If, like me, you buy bags of lemons and limes from Costco and you can never get through them all before they start to look a little strange. Or maybe you have a citrus tree that produces a bigger bounty than you could hope to use. Well my friends, here is a use for all those soon to be wasted fruit.
Another recipe from my favorite bar book, and if you have followed along, it uses the home-made simple syrup I made last week.
- 1/2 cup of simple syrup (home-made!)
- 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup of water
Simple enough, just measure it out, pour into a clean glass container, shake it up to mix and throw it in the refrigerator ready to make your next Midori Sour, or if that’s not for you, perhaps a Long Island Iced Tea!
After you try this, you’ll never need to slum it with those Mr & Mrs. T folks that make the store-bought stuff.
My standby beverage is a Makers and Coke. For me it is the perfect combination of the sweetness of coke with the flavor of bourbon, and frankly, it is delicious. The other great thing is that anyone can make it. Rocks glass, ice, Makers Mark and fill with coke – how hard is that? You would be surprised.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked those terrible words – “Is Pepsi ok?” – did I order a Makers and Pepsi? No, Pepsi is not okay. Sometimes they don’t even ask, they just pour away oblivious to the crime they are in the process of committing. Does anyone out there really believe there isn’t a difference?
If I ordered a Makers and Cola, then I just made my own bed, but Coke – that is a trademarked word that can only mean the delicious beverage in the red can. Good liquor requires good mixers. Many a fine cocktail has been ruined by bad ingredients. Let’s face it, when was the last time you requested “your worst vodka” for your vodka tonic?
So bar owners/party throwers – do us all a favor and get with the program – stock Coke not Pepsi – your customers/guests will appreciate it. At least I will.
Just wait until I tell you about Mexican Coke!
Why buy the store brands when you can make this simply and quickly in comfort of your own kitchen!
This comes from my favorite bar book and is ridiculously easy to make. Just remember that it will need to cool and will last about 30 days – so prepare it ahead of your next cocktail party.
- 1 cups of water
- 2 cup granulated sugar
Place the water in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Stir in the sugar until completely dissolved and then allow to cool. Makes approximately 2 cups. Store in a clean glass container and you are ready for some amazing cocktails and you just saved yourself $5!