Liquor Laboratory

12 Best Cointreau Substitutes & Alternatives For 2024

Best Cointreau Substitute

Cointreau is an iconic orange liqueur used in many classic cocktail recipes known for its bright and zesty flavor with a hint of sweetness.

But what happens when you have a recipe that calls for Cointreau, but you don’t have it?

Well, you’re in luck – we’ve personally taken it upon ourselves to find the best Cointreau substitute. We’ve also tried them out in various mixed drinks to ensure they match and elevate your mixology game.

Finding the right Cointreau substitute is an absolute game-changer, so if you’re ready to discover the best alternatives for the next time you make cocktail drinks, then keep reading!

Top 12 Best Cointreau Substitutes (Alcoholic & Non-Alcoholic)

1. Orange Curaçao Liqueur

Bottle of Marie Brizzard Orange Curaçao Liqueur

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Why We Like It: Orange Curaçao Liqueur is our top choice for the best Cointreau substitute because it shares Cointreau’s signature sweet, citrusy flavor.

“Cointreau: where the sun-kissed essence of oranges meets the art of the liqueur craft.” – Liquor Laboratory

While it might be a bit sweeter and have a touch of bitterness with lower alcohol content, it works beautifully in cocktails, desserts, and savory dishes like Cointreau. Plus, it’s often more budget-friendly.

When swapping out Cointreau for Orange Curaçao Liqueur, it’s a simple 1:1 substitution. Use the same amount the recipe calls for, and you’re good to go.

We don’t recommend using the blue Curaçao version unless you want your drink to have a weird bluish tint. [1]

Orange Curaçao Liqueur is the OG orange liqueur, with a history dating back to the 19th century. It’s made with sun-dried peels from special bitter and sweet oranges that grow in the Caribbean.

2. Orange Flower Water

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Why We Like It: Orange Flower Water is a fantastic option because it has a robust orange flavor with a harmonious blend of bitterness and sweetness.

However, keep in mind that you’ve got to be a bit cautious when using Orange Flower Water because a little goes a long way. Start with just one tiny drop, then add more if needed.

We find that two drops of Orange Flower Water for every tablespoon of Cointreau should be enough, but feel free to adjust to your liking.

3. Patron Citronge Orange Liqueur

Man Holding Patron Citronge Orange Liqueur

Star Rating: ★★★★★

Why We Like It: Patron Citronge Orange Liqueur is another great Cointreau substitute and is a premium orange liqueur with a clean and crisp flavor. It comes from the guys at Patron Tequila, who crafted it specifically for Margarita cocktails. [2]

This tequila-based orange liqueur is a Mexican gem, made with dried peels of Jamaican sweet oranges and Haitian bitter oranges, blended with a neutral spirit and a touch of sugar.

Use the same amount of Patron Citronge as Cointreau in your cocktails. They both have the same alcohol content at 40% ABV, and the best part is it won’t break the bank – you can get it for less than $30 at your local liquor store.

Read: Grand Marnier vs Cointreau

4. Combier Liqueur d’orange

Hand Holding Combier Liqueur d'orange

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Combier d’orange Liqueur is a fantastic substitute for Cointreau in cocktails – they’re like close cousins and can easily swap places in classic cocktails and recipes. When using it as a substitute, replace Cointreau in equal amounts.

This French liqueur, made from bitter and sweet orange peels and French sugar beets, has a pure character and vibrant citrusy flavor resembling Cointreau.

Fun fact: Combier is the world’s very first Triple Sec.

We noticed that Combier Liqueur is slightly more bitter when sipped straight, but in cocktails like the Cosmopolitan or Caipirinha, it performs just as admirably as Cointreau.

In the world of wines and spirits, you’ll find no shortage of orange liqueurs, and Combier Liqueur d’Orange is a proud French tradition that’s been gracing bars for nearly 175 years. It’s definitely a great Cointreau substitute.

5. Bitter Orange Peels

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Bitter Orange Peels are a clever substitute for Cointreau, especially if you want something non-alcoholic. They bring a bold, distinct flavor to your beverages that you would find in Cointreau, minus the alcohol.

Here’s a cool bartender trick: steep the peels in hot water for a few minutes. This helps extract those delightful flavors before you blend them into your recipe.

Add a bit of simple syrup to this Cointreau substitute to balance the bitterness.

6. Orange Extract

Jar of Homemade Orange Extract

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Orange Extract is one of the best Cointreau substitutes when you’re looking for that robust orange essence. You only need a little bit – start with around half a teaspoon of Orange Extract for every shot of Cointreau in your recipe.

However, keep in mind that Orange Extract isn’t as sweet as Cointreau, so you might want to sprinkle in a touch of simple syrup or sugar to balance out the flavors.

Orange Extract is crafted by drawing out the oils from an orange peel and concentrating them into a mixture of water and alcohol, typically containing 75% to 85% alcohol.

Also Read:

7. Triple Sec

Bottle of Cointreau Triple Sec

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Triple Sec liqueur is a common Cointreau substitute because, guess what? Cointreau is actually a type of Triple Sec! Triple Sec first came onto the scene in 1834 in France, and Cointreau joined the party in 1875.

Substituting Triple Sec for Cointreau is relatively easy – follow the 1:1 ratio. However, keep in mind that Triple Sec orange liqueurs can have slightly different flavors depending on the types of oranges and recipes they use. [3]

In this case, Cointreau is more refined, while Triple Sec is more zesty. Triple Sec is also more affordable compared to Cointreau.

Triple Sec refers to a dry style of liqueur. It is crafted by soaking sun-dried orange peels in alcohol for at least 24 hours and triple-distilled before it is bottled.

8. Hiram Walker Triple Sec Orange Liqueur

Bottle of Hiram Walker Triple Sec Orange Liqueur with Oranges on a Table

Star Rating: ★★★★☆

Why We Like It: Hiram Walker Triple Sec is another type of Triple Sec and one we would be remiss if we didn’t mention.

Like other orange liqueurs, this is one of the best substitutes for Cointreau because it can bring that perfect citrusy zing to your drinks and desserts. Replacing Cointreau with Hiram Walker is straightforward – use it in a 1:1 ratio. Add a bit more if you’re craving more sweetness, bitterness, or citrusy goodness. 

9. Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge

Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge with Orange

Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

Why We Like It: Grand Marnier is a well-known French brand of liqueurs, and the Cordon Rouge (“Red Ribbon”) is their high-quality orange-flavored liqueur. It’s also one of the best substitutes for Cointreau.

Crafted by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge has been in the business since 1880 and boasts a unique blend of cognac brandy, distilled sweet and bitter orange essence, and a touch of sugar.

While Cointreau and Grand Marnier are orange-flavored liqueurs, they have distinct taste profiles, with Cointreau having a cleaner, purer orange flavor.

Conversely, this French liqueur brings a more complex and bold flavor, with hints of vanilla and subtle oak notes (which you may want to avoid if you’re not a fan of oaky triple-distilled liqueurs).

Substituting Cointreau for Grand Marnier is pretty straightforward: you only need a ratio of 1:1. Like other Triple Sec liquors, Grand Marnier works extremely well in cocktail drinks like Margaritas, Cosmopolitans, and Sidecars (or just about any recipe that calls for Cointreau).

10. Luxardo Triplum Triple Sec Orange Liqueur

Bottle of Luxardo Triplum Triple Sec Orange Liqueur

Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

Why We Like It: Luxardo Triplum is a classic Italian triple sec that offers a unique twist as a Cointreau substitute. It’s less sweet than Cointreau but still delivers the essential citrus punch you want in your cocktails.

This type of orange liqueur is the perfect choice for recipes that require a milder sweetness or when you want to highlight bitter or herbal flavors. It follows a strict distillation process dating back to the 19th century and is crafted with curaçao, sweet orange, and mandarins.

When substituting this for Cointreau, use the same amount as the recipe calls for, like other Triple Sec liqueurs.

11. Orange Juice Concentrate Plus Orange Zest

Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

Why We Like It: Orange Juice Concentrate plus Orange Zest is another excellent Cointreau substitute, especially if you’re after a more concentrated orange flavor.

Zest the orange peel if you want an extra kick. The zest adds a touch of bitterness to elevate the flavors of your cocktails and recipes to a whole new level.

You can use two to three tablespoons of it to replace ¼ cup of Cointreau in your recipes.

12. Orange Juice Concentrate

Bottle of Orange Juice Concentrate

Star Rating: ★★★☆☆

Why We Like It: You can use only the Concentrate (without the orange zest) if you need a quick substitute for Cointreau. Unlike freshly squeezed juice, the concentrated version packs a sweet and bitter orange flavor like Cointreau. [4]

“Cointreau… has been inspiring mixologists for generations, making it a timeless classic in the world of spirits.” – Dale DeGroff

One of the best things about this Concentrate is its flexibility – you can tweak its sweetness to suit your preferences. Add sugar or simple syrup and adjust accordingly.

Use it in a 1:1 ratio to Cointreau in your recipes, and it might end up being the zesty companion you’ve been looking for.

Note: Each product was evaluated on its perceived flavor profiles, popularity, and availability.

FAQs

What is the closest Triple Sec to Cointreau?

Many consider Combier Liqueur d’Orange as the closest Triple Sec to Cointreau. It shares a similar profile with Cointreau and is often used interchangeably in cocktails and recipes. Hiram Walker Triple Sec and Grand Marnier are other great options.

What liquor is the same as Cointreau?

Grand Marnier is the closest liquor to Cointreau. Grand Marnier is a French orange liqueur that combines Cognac, bitter orange essence, and sugar.
While it has a slightly different flavor profile due to the addition of Cognac, it can be an excellent substitute for Cointreau in any cocktail recipe.

Is Grand Marnier better than Cointreau?

It depends. Grand Marnier has a more complex flavor with hints of oak and vanilla due to the Cognac, while Cointreau offers a cleaner and purer orange flavor. Some people prefer one over the other for certain drinks.
For example, we prefer Cointreau’s bright profile in Margaritas, while Grand Marnier’s depth and complexity shine in drinks like Sidecars.

Can I use orange juice as a substitute for Cointreau?

While orange juice can add a hint of orange flavor to a cocktail, it’s not a direct substitute for Cointreau because it lacks the concentrated orange flavor and sweetness of a liqueur.

Are there non-alcoholic substitutes for Cointreau?

Yes, there are non-alcoholic orange-flavored syrups or extracts that can be used as substitutes for Cointreau if you want to avoid alcohol.

How does substituting Cointreau affect the flavor of a cocktail?

Substituting Cointreau with a different orange liqueur or homemade alternative may slightly change the flavor profile of a cocktail.

Can I substitute Cointreau with plain vodka or brandy?

Plain vodka or brandy can’t be used as a direct substitute for Cointreau because they lack the orange flavor. However, you could add some orange zest or orange extract to vodka or brandy to create a makeshift orange liqueur.

Are there any cocktails where Cointreau is essential, and there are no good substitutes?

While Cointreau is a common ingredient in many cocktails, there are usually alternatives that can be used without significantly compromising the flavor of the drink. However, some cocktail purists may argue that certain classic cocktails, like the Margarita or Sidecar, require Cointreau for authenticity.

On A Final Note

After trying out these alternatives, the best Cointreau substitute is, hands down, Orange Curaçao Liqueur, even when it has lower alcohol content.

Orange Curaçao Liqueur retains the essential orange flavor required in Cointreau while adding a delightful touch of bitter notes to balance the flavors. This orange liqueur is also a budget-friendly option and can elevate your cocktails and culinary endeavors without sacrificing quality.

Orange Extract, Triple Sec, Hiram Walker Triple Sec, Grand Marnier, and Luxardo Triplum Orange Liqueurs each have their own unique characteristics and are excellent Cointreau substitutes.

However, if we want to ensure we’re not missing the Cointreau experience, we always go for Orange Curaçao Liqueur.

References:

  1. https://www.thekitchn.com/blue-curaao-the-other-orange-liqueur-the-9bottle-bar-205847
  2. https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016358-margarita
  3. https://www.seriouseats.com/diy-orange-liqueur-homemade-triple-sec-curacao-for-cocktails-recipe
  4. https://greatist.com/eat/juice-concentrate
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