Tag Archives: Cointreau

mandarin sky vodka cocktail feature

Mandarin Sky

The Mandarin Sky is a great winter cocktail since blood oranges are in season. And yes, you must use FRESH blood oranges—not the bottled juice. Please read the Viva la Cocktail Welcome page so you understand my thoughts on this. It’s a little more work, but you’ll enjoy your drinks more.

This cocktail is a little tart based on the recipe below, but I think the balance is just right. You can always add a little more simple syrup if you like your drinks a little sweeter.

Mandarin Sky
2 oz Absolut Mandarin vodka
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh blood orange juice
1/2 oz simple syrup

Fill a shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Cointreau, juices and simple syrup. Cap the shaker and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Strain into a 10 oz chilled martini glass and garnish with a quarter slice of blood orange.

Tip: If you are making this drink for a group, it is a good idea to juice your oranges ahead of time and store it in the fridge. I use a Cuisinart electric juicer which saves a lot of hand work.

mandarin sky vodka cocktail Mandarin Sky

Triple Sec: do you know what’s in it?

I want to call your attention to something that gets overlooked often: triple sec. It’s a basic ingredient in many cocktails such as the margarita, cosmopolitan, sidecar and hundreds of others. Triple sec is used as a flavoring agent and to make your drinks taste a little sweeter. Unless you’re paying attention to the label or drinking at an upscale bar, the triple sec that you’re probably drinking is poorly made. In fact, most name brand triple secs are made from vodka, artificial orange flavor and fructose.

I know what you’re thinking: why spend 2 to 4x more? Considering that triple sec can make up to 20% of the ingredients in your glass, you’ll notice a big difference if you use the good stuff. And, if you’re going to the trouble of juicing fresh lemons and limes for your drinks (which you should be doing in my opinion), then you want natural ingredients in your triple sec.

My advice when making drinks at home is to leave the triple sec at the store and upgrade to a higher quality substitution: Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Harlequin.

Cointreau is considered a premium triple sec, which is made with the peels of bitter Caribbean and sweet Spanish and Brazilian oranges with neutral spirits, cane sugar, and water. It also has higher alcohol content (40%) than regular triple sec (15-40%).

Grand Marnier is similar to triple sec, but is considered an orange-infused cognac. It’s richer and more complex than triple sec due to the distillation and aging process.

Harlequin Orange Liqueur is similar to Grand Marnier in that it is made with cognac. In fact, I prefer Harlequin for mixed drinks because it is less expensive and the difference is difficult to distinguish in cocktails.

Cointreau is lighter in taste than orange-infused cognacs, so it is nice for drinks that need a lighter touch—like a lemon drop or cosmo. I usually use Harlequin or Grand Marnier when I am looking for a richer taste, like in a margarita. Experiment and try out other high-quality brands of triple sec and orange-infused cognacs. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about what tastes good to you. Let me know which brands that you like.