Orange liqueur is a staple of mixology; there are any number of classic (or modern) cocktails you just can't make without it. But not all orange liqueurs are created equal. Sure, there are $9 Triple Sec bottles out there… if you like cocktails that taste like bad orange candy and disappointment.
So today, let's talk about a bottle near the top of the orange liqueur heap: Grand Marnier. Made from a base of cognac, it's complex, orangey, a little robust like an aged spirit, 80-proof and not too sweet. You can taste the brandy in it for sure.
Grand Marnier is great as a stand-alone drink, but when it comes to cocktails, be aware that it's not always a straight substitute for other orange liqueurs. Below, we give you three recipes optimized for Grand Marnier; try them next time you're feeling superclassy.
Easy: Marnier & Bubbles
This will transform your mimosa game from mediocre to perfection: orangey Grand Marnier topped off with bubbles. Rather than a Cava or Prosecco, go for something French here. It doesn't have to be Champagne (unless your brunch budget is way bigger than ours), but another French sparkling, like a good Cremant de Limoux, will do the trick.
Instructions: In a Champagne flute, combine 1 ounce of Grand Marnier and 4 of a high-quality sparkling wine. Garnish with a brandied cherry.
Intermediate: Grand Marnier-Ita
"Cadillac Margarita" is the name for a traditional margarita with Grand Marnier floated on top—but we're cutting out the middleman and using it right in the drink. Use a high-quality tequila for this guy and you'll be rewarded with a balanced, punchy margarita that's as refreshing as they come.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of tequila (we're using Roca Patrón Silver), 1 ounce of fresh lime juice and 1 ounce of Grand Marnier. Shake that all up, strain it into a cocktail glass with fresh ice and garnish with a few lime wheels.
Advanced: Cadillac Sidecar
Cognac, lemon and orange liqueur—perhaps one of our favorite classics. And since Grand Marnier is made from cognac, it seems only logical enough to try out a GM Sidecar. We found that using our traditional Sidecar recipe (2 Cognac: 1 lemon: 1 orange liqueur) resulted in a cocktail that was a little too Cognac-y; a quarter-ounce of simple syrup restored the balance. Warning: Although this cocktail seems light and refreshing, there are three full ounces of 80-proof booze in here, so sip slowly.
Instructions: In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine 2 ounces of Cognac (for cocktails, we're fans of H by Hine), 1 ounce of Grand Marnier, an ounce of fresh lemon juice, and 1/4 ounce of simple syrup. Shake all that up hard and strain it into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel, twisting it on top of the drink to spray its citrus oils over the surface.