3 Forgotten Grand Marnier Classics
Even if you’ve never tried a sip of Grand Marnier, odds are, you recognize its bottle as a staple of bars big and small or from the liquor cabinets of half your relatives. But don’t discount this elegant Cognac-based orange liqueur in cocktails, either.
Distinguished by a base largely made from aged French brandy, Grand Marnier is richer and weightier than most other orange liqueurs; the smooth, supple Cognac flavor is unmistakable. And at up to 80 proof, it’s just as boozy as most spirits.
It’s delicious in well-known drinks such as the margarita or the Sidecar, but—more-or-less unchanged since its introduction to the world at the end of the 19th century—Grand Marnier has also played a role in a number of lesser-known classics over the years. Ever heard of The Marny? The Red Lion? Neither had we. But now that we’ve tried them—and, in some cases, oh-so-slightly tweaked them—we’re loving these all-but-forgotten drinks.
Easy: The Marny
The only thing better than discovering a new favorite pseudo-classic cocktail? Finding out it only needs two ingredients. Yep, two. Stirring together a good London dry gin and Grand Marnier results in a rich, surprisingly smooth cocktail that has all of gin’s herbal-botanical character, but it's oh-so-slightly toned down by the rich orange flavor. Dating to the 1930s, we think it’s high time for this drink to return to the scene.
Instructions: In a mixing glass with ice, combine two ounces of a good London dry gin (such as Beefeater) and an ounce of Grand Marnier. Add a dash of orange bitters. (Okay, that makes it three ingredients.) Stir until very well chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass; twist a long orange peel over the surface.
Intermediate: The Moonwalk
In 1969, a bartender at London’s Savoy Hotel—beloved to cocktail nerds for more than a century—invented this drink for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Any guesses what occasion it commemorated? After the two men returned to Earth—and sat through a government-imposed quarantine—this was the first drink they were lucky enough to sip. Fresh grapefruit, rich orange liqueur, and a good pour of bubbles; what’s not to love?
Instructions: In a champagne flute, combine an ounce of fresh grapefruit juice, an ounce of Grand Marnier, and three drops of rosewater (available at many grocery stores, Middle Eastern or Indian shops in particular). Stir briefly and top with two ounces of chilled sparkling wine. (Champagne is incredible, but if you’re not actually celebrating your own return from space, feel free to use something a bit less pricey). Top with a short grapefruit twist.
Advanced: Red Lion
Plenty of brands, bars, and the like host cocktail competitions these days; but few of the award-winning drinks will stick around for posterity. Yet the Red Lion, a first-place winner from a 1933 London competition, has found its way into many classic cocktail tomes. Perhaps it’s the simplicity that explains the appeal—a lovely gin sour, vibrant with fresh orange and lemon, with Grand Marnier adding depth and a supplementary orange note. Easy drinking as can be.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine an ounce of gin, an ounce of Grand Marnier, half an ounce of fresh lemon juice, and half an ounce of fresh orange juice. Shake until very well-chilled, then strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange half-moon.