The other day I was looking through my collection of bar ingredients and realized that there's only been one brand-specific spirit I've always kept consistently on hand over the years: Cointreau.
While favorite labels of other bar staples like whiskey, gin, and vermouth have drifted in and out of regular rotation in my home liquor cabinet, when it comes to the bittersweet orange-flavored stuff, there's nothing quite like Cointreau.
Here are two reasons I consider this proprietarily named spirit an essential for any bar:
1. It Mixes Well in Margaritas and Other Classic Recipes
Although Cointreau can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, it's probably best known for the important role it plays in cocktails. Cointreau's always been my go-to choice for any recipe calling generally for triple sec - and that includes one of my very favorite drinks in the sours family, the Margarita. Although Cointreau costs considerably more than many triple secs (at my local store, it's $36 for a 750 ml bottle, as compared to $11.95 and $19.95 for some other brands), it's so much drier and more complex tasting that I find it's really worth the splurge. Combined with some good-quality blanco tequila and freshly squeezed lime juice, it makes a truly top-notch Margarita. Other classic uses for Cointreau: Sidecars, Cosmopolitans, White Ladies, and Pegu Club cocktails, to name a few.
2. It's an Original
Cointreau was the very first brand of triple sec to appear on the market. Made from the same secret formula by a French distiller since 1875 (the company was founded in 1849 and focused on other fruit liqueurs before then), its sophisticated flavor comes from a combination of orange peels brought in from the Carribbean, North Africa, the Middle East, as well as Europe.
According to spirits expert Anthony Dias Blue, the company's founder Edouard Cointreau was the first distiller to produce such a remarkably dry-tasting orange liqueur. Cointreau was, in fact, heralded as being "three times drier" than most of its contemporaries. Hoping to cash in on the liqueur's popularity, opportunistic imitators soon muscled in on the market, producing their own admittedly sweeter versions of "triple sec." In a move to distinguish his product from all the others, Monsieur Cointreau named his liqueur after himself.
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Is Cointreau part of your home bar? Any other favorite brand-name spirits on your must-have list?
Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC's Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers' Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.
(Images: Nora Maynard)