What Is Triple Sec?


Welcome back again everyone. Today we’re talking about Triple Sec. Sometimes confused with Curaçao, this orange liquor varies slightly. Don’t worry, you have to talk about one with the other so we’ll clear that up too.


Triple sec is an orange flavored liqueur, low in alcohol, primarily used to add orange flavor to cocktails. If you’ve had a margarita or a cosmo and a slew of other classic drinks, you’ve had triple sec. 

To create the liqueur, orange peels are dried, soaked in a still with alcohol and water for several days, then the peel is removed and other spices are added. 

Triple sec is variation of Curaçao, they’re basically interchangeable due to recipe differences lost to marketing. We’ll talk more history in a bit, but basically thanks to marketing, triple sec is the top dog orange liqueur in the bar world.

Cointreau, among the best-known brands of orange liqueur, is a triple sec in style, even though it's not labeled as such. Grand Marnier, the other heavyweight in the category, is in the slightly sweeter curaçao camp.

Numerous other brands fill out the current market, as well as the flavor spectrum, for orange liqueur. Products range from spicy and bitter and nicely restrained in their sweetness, to cloying and syrupy and hardly bitter at all. Choices, choices!

A Brief History:

The Combier distillery claims that triple sec was invented in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Combier in Saumur, France.

According to Cointreau, its orange liqueur was created in 1849.

Triple sec was certainly widely known by 1878; at the Exposition Universelle of 1878 in Paris, several distillers were offering "Curaço triple sec" as well as "Curaço doux"

Jean Baptiste Combier claims to have invented the term Triple Sec to mark it as triple distilled.

However, Cointreau claims to have invented the name Triple Sec, based on the 3 different types of oranges they use. We’ll leave that battle to them.

Curaçao gets its name from the island off the Venezuelan coast, where the Spanish cultivated Valencia oranges following their arrival from Europe. The island would later become a Dutch property. 

The fruit evidently wasn't great eating, due to the dry climate, and over time the island's increasingly rugged oranges came to be known by a different name: Laraha. 

The bitter, aromatic peels of these wild-grown oranges, when dried out, would ultimately prove a popular flavoring for spirits back in the Old World.

This is how curaçao was likely born. You might expect that products labeled "curaçao" would have to include oranges from that island, but no such rule exists.

Triple sec probably originated in France as an offshoot style of orange curaçao. Sec means "dry" in French, and, while the meaning of the "triple" in the name remains in dispute.

Triple secs are known to be drier (i.e., less sweet) in style than curaçaos leading some to believe that "triple" is meant to suggest three times as dry. 

Random Fact:

In parts of the United States, liqueurs may also be called cordials or schnapps.

Hopefully this cleared up a few things in the citrus-y world of orange liqueurs. Triple Sec is a great liqueur that has stuck around in cocktails for over 100 years due to great flavors and great branding. Also as weird as it might sound, the next time you’re sipping a margarita, don’t forget to thank the Dutch for their part in it. 

Also as weird as it might sound, the next time you’re sipping a margarita, don’t forget to thank the Dutch for their part in it.

Thanks for reading and as always....

Cheers from,

Happy Hour City