Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Picture this: you’re at the counter of your favorite watering hole, and the bartender is shaking up a storm, adding dashes of this and splashes of that. Most bartenders will have simple syrup and Triple Sec on hand, alongside other common bar staples.
Today, we’re excited to share a few flavorful insights about our personal exploration and taste tests surrounding this showdown of Triple Sec vs simple syrup.
We’ll tell you what makes one different and when you should reach for one over the other.
We’ll discuss everything in detail below and why adding just a few dashes of both can be a total game-changer for many cocktails.
In-Depth Comparison of Triple Sec & Simple Syrup
Triple Sec and Simple Syrup may seem similar at first glance, but let’s set the record straight – Triple Sec and Simple Syrup are not twins.
While both are commonly used in cocktails and desserts, they don’t have the same flavor profile or are made from the same ingredients.
Triple Sec is also known as an orange-flavored liqueur, and, as the name suggests, it packs a strong orange flavor with a hint of sweetness. This colorless liqueur adds a bit of acidity and tartness to cocktails.
“Triple Sec: Citrus twist that turns ordinary into extraordinary cocktails.” – Liquor Laboratory
Meanwhile, simple syrup is made by boiling equal parts of sugar and water until the sugar dissolves into a syrup. Unlike Triple Sec, simple syrup is non-alcoholic and adds a sweet taste to cocktail drinks (without the added sugars).
What’s Triple Sec?
Triple Sec is an orange-flavored liqueur crafted from sweet and bitter orange peels, soaked in alcohol, and triple distilled (hence its name). This three-step distillation process gives the liqueur its unique flavor profile.
The alcohol content in Triple Sec varies depending on the brand, but most brands of orange liqueur, like Cointreau, Orange Curacao, and Grand Marnier, have an alcohol content of 40 percent.
You can use orange juice or orange extract if you want a non-alcoholic substitute for Triple Sec.
Popular Triple Sec cocktails include the Valencia, Sidecar, and Cosmopolitan.  It is also commonly used in desserts like apple pies and cake.
What’s Simple Syrup?
Simple syrup is made by boiling granulated sugar and water until the mixture turns into a smooth syrup. Then, it’s cooled down and stored inside the fridge.
Simply put: when a drink or dessert needs a touch of sweetness, simple syrup swoops in to save the day.
This natural sweetener can be found in many popular cocktails like Mojitos and Daiquiris, and it even makes appearances in sweet treats like puddings and cakes. 
If you’re looking for a few alternatives to simple syrup, consider using honey syrup, agave syrup, agave nectar, or maple syrup.
Triple Sec & Simple Syrup Cheat Sheet
|Orange liqueur|| |
Main Flavor Notes
|Bitter oranges|| |
|Around 40%|| |
|Slightly sweet and bitter|| |
|For cocktails|| |
For cocktails and desserts
|Sidecar, Margarita, Curacao|| |
Daiquiri, Mojito, Margarita
|Widely available|| |
Battle of Flavors
In 1834, Jean-Baptiste and Josephine Combier of Saumur, France, crafted Triple Sec, an orange liqueur, using pure orange essences. Differing from other orange liqueurs with complex additives, Triple Sec focused solely on natural orange flavors.
Meanwhile, simple syrup’s origins are undocumented, arising alongside cocktails. This sweet solution emerged as a remedy to sugar crystals settling in drinks, providing a smoother experience.
Triple Sec is all about the complex flavor of bitter and sweet oranges. This orange-flavoured liqueur adds a zing to your sips and a lively citrusy essence to cocktails.
It’s also slightly dry, hence the “sec” in its name, which translates to “dry” in French.
On the other hand, simple syrup can be considered a liquid sweetener.
Triple Sec is an orange-flavored liqueur with a smooth, velvety, and luxurious texture, thanks to its triple distillation process.
The simple syrup has a thicker, more syrupy consistency. But how long can Triple Sec last?
Because Triple Sec is an orange-flavored liqueur, it is known to add a zesty kick to a Margarita, a touch of sweetness to a Cosmopolitan, and a burst of flavor to a Sidecar.
On the other hand, simple syrup isn’t just about adding sweetness; it’s about finding a perfect balance in flavors.
For example, if the cocktail drink you’re making ends up being too tart, you can add a bit of simple syrup to offset the tartness and balance out the flavors.
Triple Sec adds a zesty burst of orange flavor and a touch of sweetness to cocktails. It’s the secret behind cocktails like Margaritas and Cosmopolitans, where the tangy and sweet are in perfect harmony.
Now, let’s talk about simple syrup – this elixir isn’t just about adding sweetness; it’s about creating a balanced flavor profile. It steps in when a drink or dish needs that gentle touch of sweetness to enhance other flavors.
What It Does To Cocktails
Triple Sec adds a vibrant orange flavor to cocktails, infusing them with a lively and tangy essence. From classic Margaritas to timeless Cosmopolitans, Triple Sec is the secret ingredient that adds a dose of citrusy magic.
“Triple Sec, the sunny essence that dances on the palate.” – Ernest Hemingway
Simple syrup steps in whenever a drink needs a touch of sweetness to balance everything out. It can be found in Mojitos and Daiquiris. 
Price & Value
We’re not going to lie – Triple Sec can be a tad pricey compared to other mixers. Orange-flavored liqueurs are crafted with care, from the triple distillation process to the vibrant citrus flavor.
And while Triple Sec might require a bit more investment, the value it adds to your cocktails is truly remarkable. We recommend using Triple Sec in signature cocktails and special events. 
Simple syrup is undoubtedly the cheaper option and can be whipped up at home with just a few simple steps, saving you a trip to the store. It’s easy on the wallet yet packs a big punch when it comes to value.
Similarities Between Triple Sec & Simple Syrup
One of the key similarities between Triple Sec and simple syrup is their shared love for sweetness. While Triple Sec adds a touch of sweet orange essence to cocktails, simple syrup provides that perfect balance of sweetness in various drinks and dishes.
Furthermore, Triple Sec and simple syrup are like trusted sidekicks to mixologists and home bartenders.
They may not always take center stage, but they play a crucial role in shaping the taste experience to ensure every sip you take is a delightful journey.
But do you know what are some orange bitters substitutes?
How Do You Make Them At Home?
Creating Triple Sec at home is easier than you think. Here’s a simple recipe to create your own orange-flavored liqueur at home:
- 2 cups vodka
- Dried orange peels
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
Instructions: Combine the orange zest and vodka in a clean jar and set aside in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Strain all the solid particles until you’re left with only the essence.
Boil the sugar and water on the stove until you have a syrup, let it cool, and combine it with the orange-infused vodka. Transfer the Triple Sec into a clean container and store it in the liquor cabinet or fridge until future use.
Here’s how you can make simple syrup at home:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
Instructions: Combine equal parts sugar and water in a pan. Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture cool completely before transferring it into a clean container and storing it inside the fridge.
Pro Tip: If you want to get creative, you can infuse your simple syrup with flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, or citrus zest. Just add your chosen flavoring to the saucepan while heating the mixture, and strain it out before storing.
Why do bartenders use simple syrup?
Bartenders use simple syrup to add sweetness to cocktails without the grainy texture that regular sugar can sometimes bring.
Can I use triple sec instead of simple syrup?
No, you can’t substitute Triple Sec for simple syrup. While they are both flavor enhancers, they play different roles – Triple Sec adds a zing and dryness, while simple syrup adds sweetness.
What should you use for your lemon drops, simple syrup or triple sec?
When it comes to lemon drops, you’ll usually find that bartenders lean towards using simple syrup. It helps balance the tartness of the lemon juice and makes the drink sweeter.
Triple Sec can also be used to add a citrusy twist, but it might taste slightly different.
Having worked with both simple syrup and Triple Sec, we can say that each of them has a special job in making flavors pop. And while both ingredients may seem similar at first glance, how they are used in cocktails could not be more different.
Triple Sec is the flavor enhancer that brings a burst of citrusy complexity. This orange liqueur can be found in many citrusy cocktail recipes, such as Sidecars and Cosmopolitans.
On the other hand, simple syrup brings a gentle sweetness to balance out the overall flavor of the drink. If you find a cocktail recipe too tart or bitter, consider adding a dash of simple syrup to add a sweet flavor and round out the palate better. Simple syrup can be found in Daiquiris and Margaritas.