Now I really can’t be the only person in this world to wonder what the difference between the two are. If I had really followed any coherent thought process, I’d have thrown in some curaçao as well. However, I only have the blue version (don’t judge!) so I thought it wouldn’t look right. So let’s get down to business.
Triple sec would appear to be the French answer to the Dutch curaçao (named for the island from which the fruits used to make it were taken). It is most certainly the generic name for orange liqueur today, the same way you’d use the term vodka. You could use Ketel One, Smirnoff, Konik’s Tail or even Asda Smart Price where the term “vodka” is used in a recipe. Hopefully, you would exercise common sense!
Now I’ve used Cointreau (which was created in 1875 in Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou, France) which is a branded triple sec, but it won’t make any difference than using a non-branded triple sec. In saying that, you would notice the difference if you used them in cocktails. Same as using Smirnoff vodka or that cheap off-licence stuff. Triple sec is an orange flavoured liqueur as we all know. It is drunk as an aperitif and digestif but we’ll discuss that later.
It is a clear spirit, fresh on the nose with an overwhelming sweetness and, of course, is rather orangey. The taste is betrayed by the smell as the taste of orange is not as strong as you might expect. Nor is it as sickly sweet as the aroma hints toward, but it does have a mild heat at the beginning of the rather long finish. It has a very thick mouth feel too, almost like a weak syrup.
It is rather palatable and I can see why it is drunk as an aperitif or digestif. I suppose you could have it neat or over ice as your preference may be, but personally I find it is better suited to cocktails.
This is a cognac based orange liqueur and most certainly branded as a premium one, but there aren’t that many to begin with. It was created in France in 1880 by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle.
It is a deep amber colour and the cognac really dominates the fragrance, but the orange still comes through. Doesn’t smell as fresh as triple sec, due to the heaviness of the cognac. Again, this drink is deceptive as the orange flavour is not as strong as the colour and aroma would have you assume. It is a deliciously smooth drink, not as sweet as triple sec, but far more balanced. Perhaps a slightly drier finish to the triple sec and thinner in the mouth. This would be an excellent drink to have on the rocks or neat, more than triple sec. The colour also makes it great for layered shots.
So What is the Difference?
Side by side tasting them, they are alike in taste (both orange), both are alcoholic so why does one recipe specify triple sec and another Grand Marnier? That is to do with the colour. Triple sec is light and Grand Marnier is dark and so should be paired with cocktails using the same base. For example, triple sec with a margarita.
In saying that, my usual and slightly cheap mantra makes another showing: rules are meant to be broken. There is no reason you can’t substitute one for the other. If you prefer one over the other, substitute it out (from personal experience, keep a B-52 with Grand Marnier). You never know, you may end up making your favourite cocktail even more to your liking!
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