Grand Marnier is an icon of the liquor industry, and is regarded as a standout in the world of liqueurs. And while most imbibers have likely had a few Grand Marnier cocktails created for them, many are only familiar with it from a passing perspective. What it actually is and how to use it is something of which they’re just vaguely aware.
Created in 1880 by Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, Grand Marnier is made from pot-distilled cognac, bitter orange peel and spices. Moreover, it’s an orange cognac liqueur in the vein of curaçao. This is an important distinction, and what sets it apart from Cointreau, which is a triple sec. The two liqueurs are commonly used interchangeably—and in many cases, as you’ll see below, this can be done to good effect. However, they aren’t just different products, they’re in different categorical subsets.
The word “sec” means “dry” in French. As such, triple secs like Cointreau skew drier, with less sugar added than a curaçao-style liqueur. Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are a few Grand Marnier cocktails to try at home to get you more acquainted with its flavors.
Classic Grand Marnier Cocktails
-2 ounces tequila -1 ounce Grand Marnier -1 ounce lime juice
Directions: Shake all ingredients together with ice. Strain and pour over fresh ice. Alternatively, shake and strain the tequila and lime juice, and float the Grand Marnier atop the drink.
In the world of Grand Marnier cocktails, The Cadillac Margarita is probably the most well known application. In fact, the orange liqueur essentially replaces simple syrup from a standard Margarita recipe. It further fortifies the drink, and offers its orange profile as a perfect complement to the tequila and lime tandem.
Cadillac Margarita /Photo Credit: Grand Marnier
Grand Champagne Cocktail
-1 ounce Grand Marnier -3-4 ounces Champagne -1 dash Angostura or orange bitters
Directions: Pour the Grand Marnier into a flute or wine glass, top with chilled Champagne and bitters, and lightly stir. Optionally garnish with an orange twist or brandied cherry.
The general rule of thumb is that if you add Grand Marnier to something, you can append the name with Grand and you’re off to the races (the Cadillac Margarita is sometimes called the Grand Margarita as well). This is therefore a riff on a classic Champagne Cocktail.
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-2 ounces cognac -.75 ounce Grand Marnier -.75 ounce lemon juice
Directions: Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain and serve up. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The Sidecar traditionally calls for triple sec, but Grand Marnier will work just fine. Note though that it provides extra sweetness and viscosity than Cointreau would, so feel free to adjust the ratio of lemon juice in the drink, though an even split does the job.
People lose track of the Sidecar as a classic, perhaps because of the sugar coated rim which is en vogue in the modern world. Use it if you want, though if you make the drink without it, you’ll see there’s no need for the adornment. The Sidecar deserves a place among the revered classics of the realm.
More Grand Marnier Cocktails to Try
-1 ounce gin -1 ounce Grand Marnier -1 ounce sweet vermouth
Directions: Stir all ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve up.
No, not that Bijou cocktail made with gin, green Chartreuse, and sweet vermouth. Although this Bijou is actually a longstanding classic as well, first appearing in CF Lawlor’s 1895 The Mixicologist. At first glance you may not envision these ingredients playing well together. However, think of this as being adjacent to the Negroni, replacing Campari with Grand Marnier. Now you can see it.
Feel free to play with the ratios of the ingredients until you hit the right note. Perhaps amplify the gin to 1.5 ounces and tamper the Grand Marnier and vermouth to .75 ounces apiece. Also, consider garnishing with an orange twist as well. This is one of those Grand Marnier cocktails that you can adjust to your taste.
Bijou /Photo Credit: Grand Marnier
-3 ounces Champagne -1 ounce orange juice -.5 ounce Grand Marnier -.5 ounce armagnac -.25 ounce simple syrup
Directions: First, dry shake all ingredients minus the Champagne. Then pour into flute or wine glass and top with chilled Champagne. Garnish with orange twist.
Grand Marnier and Champagne are fast friends. In fact, this amplified version of the simple Grand Champagne cocktail will make you reconsider your next brunch menu. You’ll never dirty your palate with a Mimosa again.
-2.25 ounces bourbon -.75 ounce Grand Marnier -.25 ounce orange juice -1 teaspoon lemon juice -2 dashes Angostura bitters
Directions: Shake all ingredients well with ice. Strain and serve up. Garnish with a lemon twist.
The Esquire came about via a contest with the magazine, when David Wondrich was manning its drink column. The winning submission came from reader Phil Broadhead, who presented this riff on a Ward Eight cocktail.
Blood Orange Moon
-2 ounces Grand Marnier -1 ounce lemon juice -1 ounce blood orange juice -.25 ounce honey simple syrup -soda water
Directions: Shake first four ingredients well with ice. Strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice, and top with soda water.
In most cocktails, Grand Marnier is the modifier. It’s second fiddle to somebody else’s first chair. Here though, Grand Marnier gets the top listing as the sole spirituous ingredient in a refreshing long drink that’s ideal in the warmer months.
Ready to stir up some Grand Marnier cocktails?
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