Episode #042: Orange Liqueurs – Triple Sec and Curaçao


As we’ve talked about before, in our Sours Episode especially, there are 3 fruits that are more essential to making cocktails than the rest: lemons, limes, and oranges. While the former two are typically added to drinks as part of the drink-making, the last one—oranges—has its importance in an earlier stage—production—in the form of orange liqueurs. As pointed out in one of our favorite books for the beginning home bartender, The 12 Bottle Bar: A Dozen Bottles. Hundreds of Cocktails. A New Way to Drink., orange liqueurs are part of the essential building blocks for hundreds of famous cocktails: Margarita, Sidecar, White Lady, Mai Tai, and Corpse Reviver No. 2, to name just a few of the more famous ones. While there are other variations, such as the cognac-based Grand Marnier, the two most famous orange liqueurs are Triple Sec and Curaçao.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • What triple sec and Curaçao are, and aren’t
  • How to use triple sec and Curaçao in drinks
  • Misconceptions about orange liqueurs
  • Why Blue Curaçao in a bottle is bad, but homeland blue Curaçao could be a wonderful thing

So first, what are these liqueurs:


Curaçao (kyur-uh-sao) is a liqueur flavored with the dried peel of the laraha citrus fruit, grown on the island of Curaçao. The laraha comes from a Valencia orange, but is a distinct fruit. It’s barely edible, but the peel has the character of the Valencia orange, and thus, the liqueur follows suit.

Triple sec is a variety of Curaçao, as it is an orange-flavored liqueur made from the dried peels of bitter and sweet orange.

Using Orange Liqueurs

The liqueurs are sweetened with sugar (different kinds), and do have a sweetness to them, but not like that of pure sugar. They can, however, serve as a substitute for sugar most of the time, but you usually have to at least double the volume of orange liqueur as a sweetener compared to simple syrup. So, if a drink calls for ¼ oz of simple syrup, a general rule for the equivalent sweetness would be about ½ oz of orange liqueur, depending on the drink.

To make blue Curaçao the cool way:

Buy some Butterfly Pea Flowers and infuse a regular Curacao. It may be a bit more purple and takes a little more effort, but it’s probably better than whatever chemical dye is used for the bottled stuff.