Cocktail & Other Recipes By Spirit Other Cocktails

The 10 Best Cocktails to Make with Cointreau

You’ve tried a Sidecar. Now what?

Cointreau bottle against teal background with illustrations of various cocktails / Laura Sant

There are plenty of orange liqueurs on the market, but few are referred to on a name-brand basis as much as Cointreau. Throughout its centuries-long history, the liqueur has been listed as an ingredient in cocktails ranging from the Sidecar to the Cosmopolitan, and many modern bartenders would add that it’s an essential component of a well-made Margarita.  

Cointreau was one of the first orange liqueurs in the world when it debuted in Angers, France, in the 1880s (the producer and Combier both claim to be the first). Brothers Adolphe and Eduoard-Jean Cointreau, who diversified their family’s confectionery business by making fruit liqueurs, had recorded a recipe for orange liqueur in 1857. Eduoard-Jean’s son, Eduoard, developed the Cointreau recipe in 1885, which reportedly remains the same today. 

In the early 20th century, the liqueur took on a new life as a cocktail component. In 1922, a Sidecar that called for Cointreau was featured in both Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails by famed bartender, Harry MacElhone, and Robert Vermeire’s Cocktails: How to Mix Them. Since then, the orange liqueur has appeared in countless classics and modern classics, from the White Lady to the Cosmopolitan. In 1989, the brand merged with Rémy Martin to form Rémy-Cointreau, which today owns eight spirit and liqueur brands. 

Cointreau is produced at the Carré Cointreau distillery in Angers, France, where it has been made since its inception. Although the exact recipe is proprietary, fresh and dried sweet and bitter orange peels are steeped in beet liquor, which is then distilled twice in copper alembic pots. Unlike its competitor Grand Marnier, Cointreau is not aged. 

The liqueur can be sipped neat or on the rocks, particularly as an after-dinner drink. However, it’s perhaps most well-known for its versatility in cocktails, where it adds both sweetness and a natural citrus flavor. With an ABV of 40%, Cointreau has a higher alcohol content than many orange liqueurs and triple secs on the market.

Here are 10 essential Cointreau recipes to know.

  • Sidecar

    Sidecar cocktail / Tim Nusog

    A direct descendant of the Brandy Crusta, which calls for orange curaçao, the Sidecar first appeared in two classic 1922 cocktail books: Harry MacElhone’s Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails and Robert Vermeire’s Cocktails: How to Mix Them. These books listed a drink with equal measures of cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice, but subsequent recipes have altered the ratios, calling for two parts cognac to one part Cointreau and one part lemon. 

    Although the sugared rim is optional, it’s an unmistakable trademark of the Sidecar—and a nice complement to this classic’s natural tartness.

    Get the recipe.

  • Cosmopolitan

    Cosmopolitan cocktail / Tim Nusog

    This cranberry-vodka modern classic has been tied to different creators, including Cheryl Cook at The Strand in Miami and Toby Cecchini at The Odeon in New York City, but Cecchini is widely credited with popularizing the most modern iteration of the drink in the late 1980s. The pink-hued drink reached peak popularity in the ‘90s, thanks in large part to the television show Sex and the City

    Perhaps one of the more unfairly-scorned drinks, the Cosmopolitan is still delicious when made in proper proportions with quality ingredients, including citron vodka, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, and cranberry juice.

    Get the recipe.

  • Margarita

    Margarita / Tim Nusog

    The origins of the Margarita are hotly-debated, as is the use of orange liqueur (variations like Tommy’s Margarita opt for agave nectar instead). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cointreau leans into the theory that Dallas socialite Margaret Sames invented the Tequila Daisy riff in 1948 with a mixture of blanco tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau, proclaiming that “A Margarita without Cointreau is not worth its salt.” 

    Today, variations abound, but many use orange liqueur, agave syrup, or a combination of the two to sweeten the tequila-lime combination. However you make yours, fresh lime juice and a high-quality orange liqueur are easy ways to elevate the classic.

    Get the recipe.

  • White Lady

    White Lady cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Reportedly created by famed bartender Harry MacElhone at Ciro’s Club in London and featured in his book Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails in 1922, this silky-smooth sour originally included brandy, crème de menthe, Cointreau, and lemon juice. However, a drink of the same name that combined gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and often an egg white supplanted the original by 1929—a version that still persists today. The results are similar to a classic sour with the usual sugar swapped out for orange liqueur.

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • Corpse Reviver No. 2

    Corpse Reviver No. 2 cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Corpse Revivers date to the 1870s, and this citrusy variation—by far the most popular of the category—was included in Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book. The absinthe-rinsed combination of London Dry gin and lemon juice, sweetened with both Lillet Blanc and orange liqueur, was revived in the early 2000s, as bartenders looked to old-school bar manuals for inspiration.

    Get the recipe.

  • Test Pilot

    Test Pilot cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Often overshadowed by the Jet Pilot, this Donn Beach creation actually took off first, around 1941. While the Jet Pilot is made with cinnamon syrup, the Test Pilot calls for Cointreau to sweeten a potent combination of two rums, falernum, lime juice, Angostura bitters, and six drops of Pernod. A short spin in the blender gives the classic a pleasing crushed-ice texture.

    Get the recipe.

  • Deshler

    Deshler cocktail / Tim Nusog

    This lesser-known pre-Prohibition classic first appeared in Hugo R. Ensllin’s 1917 Recipes for Mixed Drinks and was “probably the first cocktail created in New York with Cointreau,” claims the brand. The spirit-forward drink combines rye whiskey, the French wine-based aperitif Dubonnet Rouge, Cointreau, and Peychaud’s bitters. While original recipes called for rye whiskey and Dubonnet Rouge in equal parts, this variation from bartender Brian Miller uses the two-to-one proportions of a standard Manhattan, producing a drier drink.

    Get the recipe.

  • Churchill

    Churchill cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Winston Churchill was a famous Scotch whisky drinker, but he didn’t care much for cocktails. That didn’t stop legendary bartender Joe Gilmore from inventing a drink in honor of the politician at his famed hangout, the American Bar, in London. This combination of scotch, sweet vermouth, lime juice, and Cointreau first appeared in print in a 1939 Esquire magazine article. Although it’s sometimes called a Churchill Manhattan, the shaken drink bears few similarities to the classic cocktail apart from its inclusion of sweet vermouth.

    Get the recipe.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • Mai Tai

    Mai Tai cocktail / Tim Nusog

    Victor “Trader Vic” Bergeron is often credited with creating this irresistible blend of two rums, orange curaçao, lime juice, and orgeat at his namesake bar in the 1940s. If you’ve only tried saccharine-sweet versions of the classic, you’ll be delighted by the complexity of this citrusy and slightly nutty drink when it’s made with quality ingredients. Keep in mind that what is already a boozy drink will be made even boozier by a higher-ABV orange liqueur like Cointreau. 

    Get the recipe.

  • Pegu Club

    Pegu Club cocktail / Tim Nusog

    This aromatic Gin Sour’s origins date to the 20th century, when it was served to British officers at the club of the same name in what is now Myanmar. The combination of gin, lime juice, orange curaçao, and both Angostura and orange bitters appeared in The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930.

    Get the recipe.