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.
I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing worse than drinking a terrible margarita at the neighborhood Mexican restaurant. All you are able to taste is premade sour mix and you wonder if there’s any tequila in there at all.
Well, you don’t have to suffer at home if you do one important thing—ditch the “margarita mix” and treat yourself to a REAL margarita. It’s surprisingly simple to make.
2 oz Sauza Hornitos Añejo Tequila
1/2 oz Harlequin Orange Liqueur
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz agave nectar
Fill a shaker with ice. Add the tequila, orange liqueur, juices and agave nectar. Cap the shaker and shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds. Pour (without straining) into a 12 oz double old fashioned glass with a salted rim.
You can use either Reposado or Añejo tequila, but make sure it is 100% pure agave. Otherwise, you are only getting half tequila and fillers. On the other hand, don’t use ultra premium tequila either because you can’t tell much difference with the additional ingredients. Ultra premium tequilas are meant to be sipped straight. That’s why I like to use Sauza Hornitos or a similarly priced brand.
For those of you who don’t know, agave nectar is a sweetner and can be found in the grocery aisle (usually near the honey).