Cointreau vs Grand Marnier: what’s the difference between these orange liqueurs? When to use one or the other? Here’s what you need to know.
Cointreau vs Grand Marnier: what’s the difference? There are so many orange liqueurs: Cointreau, Triple Sec, Curacao and Grand Marnier. Which should you use in your margarita? Which is best as a slow sipper? We’ve got answers. Here’s what to know!
What about Triple Sec? Go to Cointreau vs Triple Sec.
First, what’s the difference?
Cointreau and Grand Marnier are both orange liqueurs, but they taste different and are used in different ways. Here’s a breakdown:
- What it is: Cointreau is a clear, orange-flavored liqueur made from sweet and bitter orange peels. It is known as a type of Triple Sec, the name for a category of dry orange liqueurs. Cointreau was introduced in 1885 in France and is used in many classic cocktails.
- Flavor: Cointreau tastes balanced between bitter and sweet, with warm spices that add complexity and nuance. It has a fragrant aroma and a smooth, clean finish.
- Price: Cointreau is mid-priced. A 350 ml bottle costs around $20 to $25, and a 750 ml bottle costs around $30 to 35.
- Alcohol content: Cointreau is 40% ABV, the same as Grand Marnier.
Grand Marnier overview
- What it is: Grand Marnier is a brand of French liqueurs, best known for its product Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge. This is a French orange liqueur that’s mixture of Triple Sec and Cognac, created in 1880. It’s considered a top shelf orange liqueur and has a sophisticated, developed flavor.
- Flavor: Grand Marnier tastes like orange-flavored brandy. Compared to Cointreau, the flavor is darker with notes of vanilla and oak.
- Price: Grand Marnier is more expensive vs Cointreau. A 375 ml bottle costs around $15 to $20, and a 750 ml bottle costs around $30 to $45.
- Alcohol content: Grand Marnier is 40% ABV, the same as Cointreau.
Cointreau vs Grand Marnier: when to use them?
In summary: Cointreau is a high quality French orange liqueur with a smooth, complex flavor: part of the Triple Sec family. Grand Marnier is slightly more expensive with an even more complex flavor, a blend of Triple Sec and Cognac. You can use Grand Marnier as an upgrade for Cointreau in cocktails, or drink it straight or on the rocks.
- Cointreau has a smoother flavor than Grand Marnier: it’s used in many popular and classic cocktails like the Margarita, Sidecar and Cosmo.
- Grand Marnier is more expensive vs Cointreau and used in more high-end cocktails like the Cadillac Margarita.
Popular Cointreau and Grand Marnier cocktails
Which famous cocktails use Cointreau or Grand Marnier? Here are a few to try:
Popular Cointreau Cocktails
- Margarita Arguably the most popular Cointreau cocktail of all. Make it on the rocks with 3 simple ingredients: lime, tequila and Cointreau (or a very good Triple Sec).
- Sidecar The Sidecar is one of the best classic cocktails of all time! This sour is the perfect balance of Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon.
- Cosmo This classic pink cocktail rose to fame in the 1990’s! It features vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau, and lime.
Popular Grand Marnier Cocktails
- Cadillac Margarita The most popular Grand Marnier cocktail? Give your margarita an upgrade with the Cadillac! It’s got both Grand Marnier and Cointreau for ultimate sophistication. (Scroll down.)
- Cadillac Sidecar You can upgrade your Sidecar with Grand Marnier too! Swap out the Cointreau for this sophisticated liqueur.
- Mai Tai Use Grand Marnier in your Mai Tai for maximum flavor. It’s breathtakingly complex, featuring rum and orgeat, a fancy almond syrup.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 5 minutes
- Yield: 1 drink 1x
Step up your margarita game with the Cadillac Margarita! It uses top-shelf tequila and Grand Marnier liqueur to add sophistication and style.
- 3 tablespoons (1 ½ ounces) best quality tequila reposado
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Cointreau
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Grand Marnier
- Kosher salt or flaky sea salt, for the rim
- For the garnish: Lime wedge
- Cut a notch in a lime wedge, then run the lime around the rim of a glass. Dip the edge of the rim into a plate of flaky sea salt (or for a festive look, use our Margarita Salt).
- Place tequila, Cointreau and lime juice in a mixing glass and fill with ice. Stir until cold.
- Strain the margarita into the glass with the salted rim. Then carefully pour the Grand Marnier onto the top of the drink over an inverted spoon (float it!). Serve immediately.
- Category: Drink
- Method: Shaken
- Cuisine: Cocktails
- Diet: Vegan
Keywords: Cointreau vs Grand Marnier
I was impressed with your review of both Orange liquors. Both are good at different things.
I make a French Sponge cake with a glaze using Grand Mariner in my glaze sauce. I also use this glaze for duck and chicken recipes. It’s my own recipe for this cake which was created by me in the 70’s for my catering business (Edible Art-SF, CA).
Love the idea of a Grand Marnier glaze!
French woman here: Basic research and basic attention to detail would show you the dates that GM and Cointreau were created. Not toward the end of the 19th century but respectively in 1827 and 1849.
What’s with he constant reference to 1880? Is that something you found on wikipedia? The dates clearly appear on the pictures splashed on top of this page!!!
Thanks for asking! Per the Cointreau website, date on the Cointreau bottle of 1849 is when the Cointreau Distillery was founded, but Cointreau wasn’t formulated and trademarked until 1885. (Here’s the link: https://www.cointreau.com/us/en/art-cointreau/history) The same is true about Grand Marnier per their website — the distillery was formed in 1827, but Grand Marnier wasn’t formulated and named until 1880. (Here’s the link https://www.grandmarnier.com/grand-heritage/)
Oh snap? No apology?
She’s French, so I doubt it. Thank you again to the Overhisers for a helpful (and historically accurate) article.