Cointreau vs Triple Sec: what’s the difference between these orange liqueurs? When to use one or the other? Here’s what you need to know.

Cointreau vs triple sec

Cointreau vs Triple Sec: what’s the difference? Which should you use in your margarita? It’s a complicated question, because you see: Cointreau is a Triple Sec. (But Triple Sec is not a Cointreau.) It’s confusing, we know! Which one to use in all your cocktails? We’ve got answers. Here’s what to know!

And what about Grand Marnier? Go to Cointreau vs Grand Marnier.

First, what’s the difference?

Cointreau and Triple Sec are orange liqueurs with several key differences (and one is also the name of the style of liqueur). Here’s a breakdown:

Cointreau overview

  • 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, which translates to “triple dry” in French. Cointreau was introduced in the 1880’s in France.
  • 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 higher in alcohol than Triple Sec, weighing in at 40% ABV.

Triple Sec overview

  • What it is: Triple Sec is any clear dry orange-flavored liqueur, including Cointreau. In most liquor stores, bottles labeled Triple Sec are lower in quality and more affordable than Cointreau.
  • Flavor: Triple Sec has a more straightforward flavor vs Cointreau: it’s very citrusy, almost like an orange-infused vodka. The quality ranges based on the brand.
  • Price: Triple Sec is very inexpensive. A 375 ml bottle costs around $7 to $10, and a 750 ml bottle costs around $10 to $15.
  • Alcohol content: Triple Secs have a lower alcohol content vs Cointreau; bottles range from 15% to 30% ABV.

Cointreau vs Triple Sec: when to use them?

In summary: Cointreau is a type of Triple Sec (a family of dry orange liqueurs). Triple Sec is both the name of a category and also refers to an inexpensive, lower quality orange liqueur.

  • Cointreau has a stronger, smoother and more complex flavor vs Triple Sec. It’s slightly more expensive and higher in alcohol level. When to use it? Always. Make it your default and use it in any recipe that calls for a Triple Sec, like the Margarita, Sidecar and Cosmo.
  • Triple Sec is less complex, but it’s very inexpensive. When to use it? Use Triple Sec if you’re looking for a budget option. We like the Drillaud brand. If you’re ok with the price tag, use Cointreau: you won’t regret it!

Which famous cocktails use Cointreau or Triple Sec? Here are a few famous Cointreau drinks and Triple Sec cocktails to try:

  • Cointreau Margarita or Triple Sec Margarita The most popular Cointreau or Triple Sec 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 or Triple Sec, and lemon.
  • Cosmo This classic pink cocktail rose to fame in the 1990’s! It features vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau, and lime.
  • White Lady A sophisticated, citrus-forward classic cocktail! This sour features gin and lemon with a frothy egg white topping.
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Sidecar cocktail

Sidecar


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Here’s how to make one of the best classic cocktails of all time: the Sidecar cocktail! This sour is the perfect balance of Cognac, Cointreau or Triple Sec, and lemon.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) Cognac (VS or VSOP)
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) Cointreau
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) lemon juice
  • For the garnish: lemon twist or orange twist
  • Superfine sugar* rim, optional

Instructions

  1. Cut a notch in a lemon wedge, then run the lemon around the rim of a cocktail glass. Dip the edge of the rim into a plate of superfine sugar.
  2. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a handful of ice and shake until cold.
  3. Strain the drink into the prepared glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or orange twist.

Notes

*Superfine sugar works well for a sugar rim since it sticks to the glass better than granulated sugar. You can use granulated sugar if it’s all you have; note it can tend to fall off into the drink, making it taste a shade sweeter.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Cointreau vs Triple Sec

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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1 Comment

  1. Thought you might like to try a drink recipe that I invented few years ago. I call it “Trisola”.
    Ingredients:
    1 tot Triple Sec
    2 tots Tequila
    Dash Cola Tonic
    Lots of ice
    Half a small can of Tonic Water (note the words “Half and Small)
    Pieces of lemon
    3 cherries on a stick