If you like margaritas, you probably know of Triple Sec, the orange flavored liqueur best known for its use in them. Triple Sec is also used in other drink and food recipes that call for its distinctive sweet orange flavor. It is made from dried orange peels from the island of Curacao, in the Caribbean. If you need a clear, strong, orange-flavored liqueur and don't have Triple Sec in your cupboard, you have a few alternatives available.
Triple Sec is a variety of the liqueur, Curacao. However, regular Curacao is made from bitter oranges and therefore is about one-third less sweet than Triple Sec, which uses a sweeter orange varietal. Curacao is also more expensive than Triple Sec.
Cointreau is produced in France and uses both bitter and sweet orange peels sourced from all over the world for its premium pricey liqueur. Cointreau has a similar flavor to Triple Sec but is slightly less sweet. The alcohol content of Cointreau is 40 percent which makes it quite strong for an orange liqueur. The alcohol content of Triple Sec is between 15 percent and 40 percent.
Grand Marnier is a premium brand of "Grand Curacao" and is up to three times more expensive than Triple Sec. It is also in the orange flavored liqueur family but usually uses cognac as its base alcohol which it gives it a darker, richer color. It is not as sweet as Triple Sec, which typically uses alcohol derived from sugar cane for its base. Like Cointreau, Grand Marnier is also made in France.
Brandy is often used in baking and is an acceptable substitute for Triple Sec in baking recipes. Brandy is not recommended as a substitution for Triple Sec in drink recipes because it lacks an orange flavor. If you are looking for the taste of orange in your baking recipes and do not have Triple Sec or another orange flavored liqueur available, add a small amount of orange extract, orange oil, or orange zest to your recipe in addition to the brandy.
Orange Extract, Orange Oil, Orange Zest
Orange extract, orange oil, and orange zest can be used in place of Triple Sec in baking recipes but they are not commonly used in drink recipes. They are all more concentrated than Triple Sec, so when using a recipe calling for 2 Tablespoons of Triple Sec, substitute either 2 teaspoons of orange extract, or 2-4 drops of orange oil, or 2 teaspoons of orange zest.