Savoring the Differences and Uses of Triple Sec and Curacao in Cocktail Making
Triple Sec and Curacao are orange-flavored liqueurs, very sweet and fragrant, that every bartender must learn to use and dose to make great cocktails.
Specifically, they are liqueurs used to flavor and sweeten iconic cocktails (for better or for worse) such as the Margarita, Kamikaze, Apple Martini, Long Island Iced Tea, Lemon Drop Martini, Between the Sheets, Sidecar, Cosmopolitan, and White Lady. So, as you can see, we are not talking about minor cocktails, but the pillars of mixing.
Differences between Triple Sec, Orange Curacao, Blue Curacao, and Curacao
On a practical level, they are the same thing; there are small differences, but above all, the origin and culture of the product change. Let’s say that the two names reflect two philosophies, not so much the final result.
Curacao is a liqueur of Dutch origin produced (in theory, but it is not always true) with Laraha oranges from the island of Curacao, not far from Venezuela, to which spices such as cumin and coriander can be added.
We often find it colored blue, and in this case it is called Blue Curacao, or orange, and this is called Orange Curacao. So the first difference is that Curaçao is more floral, broad, and spicy, but also sweet and colorful.
The big difference is that triple sec comes from triple distillation, as the name implies.
The alcohol is infused with the bitter oranges and then distilled to emphasize and concentrate the bitter citrus flavor. And this practice leads to a more austere liqueur that is also clean and citrusy. It is usually a transparent liquor.
It is true that some Triple Secs, such as Cointreau and Grand Marnier, are made using cognac or brandy as the alcohol base. The result is different; the taste is broader and more sumptuous, and in this case, you can also drink them with ice in a shot glass as a digestif or classic French cordials.
What are Triple Sec and Curacao good for?
Finally, we come to the most important point: how to use triple sec, curacao, orange curacao, or blue curacao? One thing is certain: you will never drink a glass of medium-low quality Triple Sec straight.
They are excellent products, but they are gregarious; indeed, they are enhancers of magnificence. If you think about it, they are used in the most aromatic cocktail of all: the Margarita.
And in fact, in combination with tequila and lime, the triple sec releases crazy citrus aromas, creating a unique whirlwind of fruity and floral scents. All thanks to a very low dose of liqueur—we are talking about 2 cl of liqueur, or a drop.
So if you love making cocktails or are a bartender, triple sec and orange curacao will become your best friends.
Their knowledge goes beyond knowing how to handle distillates, because it assumes that you have the sensitivity and delicacy to know how to sip and add a flamboyant nuance.
You don’t have to revolutionize the world of mixology, but learn to understand the tools we have at our disposal.
Triple sec is a key that opens the doors of paradise: squeeze an orange, put in 2 cl of tequila and 2 tablespoons of triple sec, mix, and you will have improvised a wonderful, fresh, and elegant cocktail in a few seconds.
Triple sec, orange curacao flavors, and alcohol content
They are velvety liqueurs, very sweet but not like creams; we are close, but the taste of bitter oranges serves to balance the sweetness, creating a unique contrast. The cheaper products are sweeter and more mellow and have less of an alcoholic backbone and fewer nuances, since sugar costs less than alcohol. So always taste them before using them.
The finest liqueurs have a sharper and more spicy, broader taste. Avoid the 6-euro triple-secs; they are practically a squeeze of glucose. To give you an idea of their use, they are the opposite of bitters; the real ones, however, are not the industrial products full of sugar like Montenegro.
Okay, so we said triple secs were delicious, but that doesn’t mean they’re all the same.so much so that new and exciting liqueurs, such as Triple Sec, are being created today. Pierre Ferrand dry curacao is a little gem.
And as you can see, it is dry in the sense that it is not cloying; it has its own personality, and you can also drink it as an aperitif or digestive with ice and orange zest.
The alcohol content of triple sec and orange curacao starts at 21 degrees for the lighter ones and easily reaches 40 for Cointreau, the legendary triple sec Pierre Ferrand dry curacao, and Grand Marnier. The more it costs, the more alcoholic and clean the taste; this is a very simple concept.
Blue Curacao is a different story: it was born to be bitter, pungent, and fragrant. The sugar base is there, but the extract of essential oils from bitter oranges is very strong. Even when smoked, the burnt-skin flavor is more intense. If used correctly, it can be a great help; don’t mix it just to make blue cocktails…
How are Triple Sec and Curacao made?
Curacao is a liqueur that comes from alcohol or brandy in which the peels of bitter Laraha oranges, cumin, and coriander are macerated. The alcohol is distilled, then sweetened and stretched to reach the desired alcohol content, and then it is ready to be bottled.
All this is true up to a certain point; by law, curacao can also be made with oranges of other types not coming from the island, so much so that Laraha oranges are now mostly produced in Spain.
The name “Triple Sec” comes from the triple distillation it undergoes, because the alcohol with the infusion of oranges is distilled three times so that the liqueur is increasingly refined and clean.
Some, such as Grand Marnier, are born from the blending of cognac with macerated oranges. So there is no discipline that can guide us or rules written in stone, so don’t trust labels and press announcements but taste with your palate.
If the Bols orange curacao costs 10 euros and has the taste of big bubbles with tripe, the Triple Sec Pierre Ferrand dry curacao costs 30 euros, but the reason is very clear: it is the quality.
What to use instead of Triple Sec and Curacao
In Italy, there are orange liqueurs such as Aurum, produced in Abruzzo; it is worth a try.
Curacao and Triple Sec: Who Created Them?
The history of the Triple S and of Curacao is fascinating and helps us understand the change of power in the Caribbean. The first were the Dutch, who produced curacao using cumin, spices, and the peels of bitter oranges from the island of Curacao, not far from Venezuela, including the famous Citrus aurantium var. curassuviensis.
In reality, the oranges of this species were imported by the Spaniards; they are not indigenous to the island; it’s just that here they have found excellent soils to achieve the right flavor. Bols was the first company to make orange-flavored liqueurs, and they are still in business even though their products are very sweet and not very valuable.
Then the French came, and because they already knew how to make Cognac and agricultural rum, they knew that the alcohol base for these liqueurs could be either neutral alcohol to make the bitter taste of oranges stand out more, or a luxurious product like cognac.
And in fact, they began to produce triple sec using, at a later time, cognac as the starting alcohol. Jean Baptiste Combier was the inventor of the French triple sec, with the first product, the Combier, created in 1834.
The second innovator was Edouard Cointreau, who in 1875 produced the first Cointreau, which we recall bore the name Curacao Triple Sec on the label. Since then, there has been a schism between Dutch and French liqueurs.
Today, Cointreau rightly no longer puts the name “triple sec” on its label because it has created a name and fame all of its own and does not want to mix with other products, but in reality it always remains an orange-flavored liqueur.