Cointreau vs. Triple Sec: What's the Difference?
Published by Abigail T

Cointreau vs. Triple Sec: What’s the Difference?

If you’re a cocktail enthusiast or a bartender, you might have heard of the terms “Cointreau” and “triple sec.” Both are types of orange liqueurs that are used in many classic cocktails. While they share some similarities, they’re not the same thing. What exactly differentiates them? Let’s explore the differences between these orange liqueurs, how they’re similar, and some recommendations on which one to use and how to use them in cocktails.

What is triple sec?

Triple sec is a type of orange liqueur that originated in France in the mid-19th century. It’s made from the dried peels of bitter and sweet oranges. If you think that triple sec is distilled thrice in conjunction with its name, you’d be right!

The name “triple sec” comes from the fact that it’s made by triple-distilling the orange peels with alcohol. Triple sec is a generic term that can refer to any orange liqueur that’s made in this way. As a result, the taste and quality of triple sec can vary widely depending on the brand. 

What is Cointreau?

Cointreau is also an orange liqueur originating from France made of sweet and bitter orange peels. It’s by definition a type of triple sec, and a more premium one at that. It was created in 1875 by Édouard Cointreau, who was looking for a new and unique spirit to add to his family’s distillery.

The recipe has remained a closely guarded secret since then, but as far as the world knows, Cointreau is made from a blend of sweet and bitter orange peels, sugar beet alcohol, and water. Like triple sec, Cointreau is triple-distilled, which gives it a smooth and refined taste.

The differences between Cointreau and triple sec

Based on the above explanations, it may seem like there is virtually no difference between the two orange liqueurs. However, there’s a reason why they aren’t classed as the same thing! Take a look at some of the ways in which Cointreau and triple sec differ.


As aforementioned, Cointreau is a type of premium triple sec. So of course, it would be a little more expensive than triple sec. Depending on volume, a bottle of Cointreau could set you back upwards of $30. On the other hand, you can get yourself any other kind of triple sec starting at $9.

Alcohol By Volume content

Cointreau and triple sec also differ in ABV content. Cointreau has a higher alcohol content than triple sec, coming in at 40% thanks to triple distillation, while triple sec contains about 30%.


Because they’re made of the same base ingredients, you may think that there isn’t too much of a difference between how Cointreau and triple sec tastes. However, it all depends on the quality of the drink you buy.

Triple sec is much sweeter in general and has a syrupy feel to it. This drink tastes unmistakably orange-based. Meanwhile, the premium type of triple sec represented by Cointreau has a more nuanced flavour. There is a nice balance between the sweetness and bitterness on the tongue, as well as a fragrant, more pronounced orange peel aroma on the nose. It also has a smoother, more refined aftertaste.

Cointreau and triple sec in cocktails

Because Cointreau and triple sec are essentially the same kind of liqueur, you can interchange one for the other when making cocktails, depending on what is available to you.

Use either triple sec or Cointreau in cocktails such as margaritas, sidecars, Long Island iced teas, and cosmopolitan. Or, if you don’t feel like mixing these with other ingredients, you can consume them straight or on the rocks!

In conclusion, whether you prefer Cointreau or triple sec, both orange liqueurs offer their own unique taste profiles that can be used in a variety of cocktails. While Cointreau is a premium option with a higher price point and ABV, triple sec is a more affordable and sweeter alternative. Regardless of your preference, Red & White offers both options for purchase, making it a convenient one-stop-shop for all your liquor needs. So the next time you’re making cocktails at home, consider using either Cointreau or triple sec to add that extra burst of citrus flavor to your drink.

Red & White

Red & White is Indonesia’s leading full-service wine and spirits retailer since 2014. I'm very happy to provide you information about the liquor world and let's have a drink together at the nearest Red & White store.

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