When you read cocktail books or look up recipes online, there are always plenty of exotic sounding drinks that make one or two cocktails that you wonder what they are.  Triple sec is one of these exotic sounding ingredients but is actually featured in a lot of cocktails, in one of its many forms.  So what is triple sec?

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Background

Like many spirits, no-one is entirely sure who came up with the idea for triple sec but it was definitely around by 1849.  It was known as curacao triple sec originally and was a version of Curacao liqueur, made with dried peels of both sweet and bitter oranges.

The original orange liqueur was brought to Europe by the Dutch, who loved to experiment with the spirits they found on their travels.  The French then created a version of this orange liqueur that they gave it the name because it three times distilled and because it was less dry ‘sec’ than the original Dutch version.

Triple sec comes under a number of famous brand names such as Cointreau and Grand Marnier.  It is also produced by well known companies such as Bols.  As a rule, it is around 15-40% alcohol and is used in a lot of drinks in its many variations.  It is normally clear but versions such as Blue Curacao are, obviously, blue.

Cointreau

Cointreau was first made in Saint-Barthelemy-d’Anjou in 1875 and is 40% alcohol.  It was created in the Cointreau distillery by Adolphe Cointreau, a confectioner, with his brother Edouard-Jean after the success they had with a cherry liqueur called guignolet.  Around 13 million bottles are sold each year over 150 countries and the brand is now owned by Remy Martin, now trading as Remy Cointreau.

triple sec

Cointreau is a type of Triple Sec (and very tasty!)

Triple sec cocktails

The Blue Hawaii is a good example of a cocktail that uses triple sec along with rum, pineapple juice and a sweet and sour mix.  Alternatively, the Blue Hawaiian is the same idea only instead of sweet and sour, crème de coconut was used.

Simple Blue Hawaii recipe

The Cosmopolitan is one of my favourite drinks and is usually made with Cointreau along with vodka, cranberry juice and a squeeze of lime.  This bright red drink is served in a cocktail or martini glass and is sharp but delightful.

Triple sec is also used alongside tequila and either lemon and lime juice in a margarita.  Cointreau is again a favoured option for this drink but any triple sec will do nicely.

The Sidecar combines any of the triple sec with cognac and lemon juice in another drink served in a cocktail or martini glass.