Sunday, March 20, 2011

Triple Sec

The world of orange-flavored liqueurs is a big one. Let's get a few things straight at the start. Triple Sec is orange liqueur usually made from dried bitter and sweet orange peels and grain alcohol. There are many different brands of triple sec, like Cointreau and Grand Marnier. Cointreau is apparently brandy-based, though a trip to their purple-prosed site reveals nothing but very funny copy.  Grand Marnier is a cognac-based orange liqueur. I'm sure I've had my fair share of "well" orange liqueurs, like De Kuypers and Marie Brizard, but I think I've stayed clear of Curaçao, that crazy blue stuff.

A while back I was sent some sour oranges from my mother in Florida and being fairly marmaladed out, I decided to make some booze. I had brandy in the house so I decided to go with it. I guess this is a Cointreau-style triple sec? There were a few recipes I sifted through, but what I was most intrigued by was a technique to bake orange slices at a low temperature first and then to soak the slices.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

4 large sour oranges, sliced 1/8"

Arrange the slices on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper in a single layer. Bake them for two hours and then leave them in the warm oven. Doing this step at night works well--leave them overnight in the oven. Place citrus slices in a quart jar, cover with brandy and let sit for four weeks. Then strain the fruit, leaving the brandy in the jar. Add one cup of sugar and let sit for two more weeks, inverting jar daily until sugar is dissolved.

Note: I froze my brandy soaked citrus, thinking it might be a lovely addition to a marmalade whenever I get the impetus to make marmalade again.

I didn't add a simple syrup to the brandy because I wanted to really taste the oranges. As I'm writing this, I'm sipping a small glass. It's not as sweet as triple sec (though I must admit, I haven't had a straight slug of triple sec since I was what, 13?), and the taste of oranges first, followed by a bitter tang afterwards is very pleasurable. I now know why this was at one time a digestif, or aperitif.

Check out these other recipes:
Mrs. Wheelbarrow's version with Cara Cara oranges and vodka
An interesting version from Thursday Happy Hour that "tastes like orange hard candy"
and one from Food, Literature, Philosophy

Roasted. About to be soaked in brandy.


  1. I'm waiting on our version of an orange liquor to mellow--should be ready in a few months. (I posted about it last month:

    Your method sound really great--I'm bookmarking it right now, and will have to give it a try some time!

  2. Jules: I am so excited that you did this. If I ever get the right kind of oranges, I would like to do it, too. I have been enjoying adding Cointreau to things lately -- including marmalades before I, too, burned out on all things marmy. (I'm assuming that is a temporary condition for both of us, but we'll see.) That said, I didn't know that Cointreau and Grand Marnier were types of triple sec. I thought they were all their own thing. Thank you for teaching me!

  3. Zemmely - Thanks for posting your link! I knew I saw another recipe somewhere, and it was yours! I'll add it to the post.

    Shae - I know you've been wanting to do this, too. I think you can do a version with sweet oranges, no? Though, do you ever get seville oranges by you?

  4. Hey - I'm doing this. I'm just about out of Cointreau, which is a good enough reason to me... what kind of brandy did you use?

    Wonder if the Cointreau is brandy based, but then distilled somehow - since it's clear? Hmmmm.

  5. Nice post. One correction: Grand Marnier is actually a curaçao. Curaçao comes in many different forms, not just the nasty blue variety.

    RCakeWalk: Cointreau is made from GNS (grain neutral spirits). However, brandy does come off of the still crystal clear, not brown, and you could make triple sec out of this "immature" brandy and yield a clear (or probably slightly orange-tinted) end product.

  6. This is such a tempting recipe! It's really got me thinking...

  7. @RCakeWalk: brandy can be clear - it's the aging process (and the addition of coloring in some cases) that turns it brown.

  8. RCakewalk - I used an inexpensive variety. Forgot what it was called. And it looks like your question was answered below!

    Anon - Thanks for pointing that out! It's true, the blue is only in some instances, from blue dye added to a colorless liqueur. Actually, it looks as if Curaçao was the progenitor of all of this Triple Sec madness. "Triple sec is a variety of curacao" (according to Wikipedia) so logic dictates that Cointreau too is a variety of curaçao. I saw a lot of conflicting information, so I tried to simplify it, but I'm by no means a pro on this topic!

    And thanks for noting what the base of Cointreau is, again, it was hazy and a few random posts said it was brandy-based. It wasn't even conclusive on their site, but perhaps I didn't dig deeply enough.

    Sarah - Good thing I was sick of marmalade!

    Protected Static - Thanks for "clearing" that up! (Sorry, ugh...)

  9. Loving it! Great for margaritas too. Seville oranges are found in the Sacramento area of CA or Arizona...which is where I am headed this week. Hope to snag some.

  10. That looks great! I love the idea of cooking the oranges first (and saving them for later marmalading!) Looks great! I followed Mrs Wheelbarrows recipe except used regular oranges. I should give it a taste. I have no idea how long it has been hiding now =)

  11. This looks great! Are you refrigerating the finished product or is it shelf-stable?

  12. Two by the Sea - Thanks! Indeed-y, on the 'ritas. I hope you get some Sevilles!

    Meg - Ooo. Can't wait to hear how yours came out! Gosh, still haven't made that milk liqueur...

    Fatemeh - Thanks! Shelf stable. No refrigeration required!

  13. Oh wow--now THIS is a cure for being marmaladed out. PS I want family in california that sends me more citrust that I know what to do with!

  14. Sara - I know, right? (On both counts!)

  15. And it all makes me think of Lemoncello, (spelling?) Have you done Lemoncello? What is it really?

    Thanks for all this though, I'm just loving your blog, but the pictures are making me really hungry, kofta? brisket? WTF? I gotta go eat something!

    Saw Shanna today, we had them over for a Vermont pancake brunch with local Vermont maple chicken sausage and hot cakes with Maple Syrup, (by the gallon!) that we got straight from the sugar house down the road when we were picking up horse hay. The farmer we get hay from brought us right into his sugar house and gave us hot "shots" of syrup right out of a tap from the steamy cooking trays. It was amazing! Thought of you. You'd love it!

    So, this a.m. as we chowed down maple style, Shanna mentioned reading your blog and we talked of you and your preserving ways. :) And although I'm not too bloggy usually, (cept equine) as you and I talked about, I am REALLY enjoying yours today J, and will check it more often. Thanks. D

  16. Super sweet of you, Sub-Tropicaligal!! So nice you got to hang with Shanna, that sounds fun and delicious. Jealous of your maple syrup exploits! Want to tap my trees next year...been saying that for a while now, though! Thanks for coming to "visit," and all your kind words! xo! (Even if it's not horses, though I don't think you'd want me preserving any horses, Oui?)
    p.s. I made limoncello in the summer, and I'm not sure if I like it too much. I'll bust it out next time I see ya!