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Make Your Own Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec

Cointreau and Grand MarnierMake Your Own Cointreau or Grand Marnier

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Cointreau and Grand  Marnier are excellent top shelf liqueurs, but also very expensive. But the low end substitutes like Triple Sec taste, well, awful. But you can make your that's very good quality for much, much less than the French brands. It's easy.  Grand Marnier is a but sweeter and thicker than Cointreau.  With this recipe you can make it exactly the way you like!

Both Grand Marnier and Cointreau are 80 proof (which is 40% alcohol). Some recipes on the internet add a lot of water, which means the finished product would be closer to 40 proof, This recipe adds very little water. Another oddity of some recipes: they claim it needs to age for 6 months.  that's fine if you have the time, but I've found it tastes great after just 3 weeks of aging.
 For other liqueurs you can make, see this page.  

Here's how:


Yield: about 750 ml)

  • 1/3 cup (100 ml) orange zest (translation for Martha Stewart speak: use a grater to scrape off the outside peel from 6 Mandarins.
     I find Mandarins work best. They are easier and have a deeper orange flavor.
    If you can't get them, use 3 small oranges.
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 fl oz, 15 ml) dried bitter orange peel.   
    Yep, the bitter peel adds a  crucial element of flavor. 
    You can get it at most grocery stores in the herbs section.
  • 3.5 cups (500ml) brandy - don't go cheap on the brandy, you want a good quality smooth brandy.  I've found E&J or Christian Brothers VS are very good for this.  Other recipes use a mix with vodka, but that's not how the genuine Cointreau or Grand Marnier is made; they just use brandy. Orange peel
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 cups (500 ml) sugar
    or... for lower calories.. the equivalent amount of Stevia or Splenda
  • 1/2 cups (125 ml) water  -
    again, quality filtered water. You can use brandy instead of water to keep the alcohol content exactly like the original product. 


  • Large glass jar (quart jars or 1/2 gallon) with sealable lid
  • Fine metal sieve
  • Large size coffee filter to fit the sieve



Directionschopped peel

Step 1 - Grate the Mandarin or Orange peelOrange zest

Orange zest is simply grated orange peel.  More specifically, I use Mandarin oranges.  They are easy to peel and don't have the bitter white part attached to the peel like oranges do.

So, I just peel a half dozen mandarins, then put the peels in a cheese grater (shown in the photo) and grind them up. 


Or... for much faster and easier, use a blender or food chopper, too.


The dried orange peel (which you ALSO need) is available at any grocery store.Orange zest and orange peel

peel in jarStep 2 - Mix ingredients


Combine the  orange zest, dried bitter orange peels, brandy in a clean glass jar, like a mason jar / Ball jar.  I use half-gallon size glass canning jars.

 Seal the jar and shake it vigorously for 15 seconds or so.



Step 3 - Soak, Steep and Mature

Now let the flavors infuse the  eau de vie (alcohol). Gently carry the flask down to your barrel aging room 

What, don't have one?  OK, Put the jar on your kitchen counter for 2 or 3 weeks (3 weeks is better!) at room temperature.


Step 4 - Add cloves and age again

Add the add the cloves, then reseal and shake again.

 Let the mix steep for two more days.

Step 5 - Make the sugar solution

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small pot, stirring occasionally to help the sugar dissolve. It won't dissolve completely, but later it will when you combine the cooled slurry with the brandy. FYI, a sugar solution like this is called a "simple syrup". Allow it cool to room temperature.

aging grand marnier

Step 6 - Strain the alcohol mix

 Pour the aged alcohol mix through a fine mesh strainer once to get the larger pieces.

Discard the debris in the sieve than line it with the coffee filter and filter the liquid again.

Step 7 - Combine the syrup and the alcohol mix

Combine the strained aged alcohol mixture with the simple syrup (the sugar solution) the glass jar(s) and shake.


Step 8 - Final aging

Now let the mix age for at least a day or two.



Finished homemade Grand Marnier / Cointreau


Cost comparison

  • water - free
  • orange peel  $0.25
  • Orange zest - $0.25
  • 2 cups granulated sugar - $1.00
  • 4 cloves   negligible
  • Brandy: 900 ml (3.5 cups)  Brandy.  I prefer brandy from Costco or Sam's Club, $22 for 1.75 liter.  = $14.00 for 4 cups.

Total cost: $11 per 750 ml or about $15 per liter


Cointreau generally costs about $40 to $50 for 1 liter of Cointreau or Grand Marnier  plus tax  (2020, Atlanta, GA retail)

Sam's Club in 2021 charged $30 `(plus tax) for 750 ml.


So, the homemade is about 1/3 the price of original. 



Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book