A few weeks ago I came home to find that the booze fairy had left me a delicious package in the form of Hiram Walker Triple Sec. Also included in the box was a tiny bottle of Cointreau and the suggestion (challenge perhaps?) that I try them side by side. Always being up for a good cocktail related experiment I kept it in mind and waited for the right time to do some experimentation. This week was the perfect opportunity. To get some other opinions I enlisted the help of my Mom and Stepdad as well. We tried both liqueurs side by side, straight up to really get the true flavor.
A bit of an editors note before we get too deep down the rabbit hole. Cointreau is a triple sec, so the title of this post is a bit of a misnomer. I’m not ready to detail all the different orange liqueur varieties just yet. But, if you’re looking for more info take a look at this thread on eGullet. It’s long, but well worth the read if you’re interested in knowing the intricacies of triple sec, curacao, and brandy based orange liqueurs. Okay, back to the task at hand.
Cointreau: At 80 proof this liqueur comes in a bit strong, but you don’t detect it much from the smell or taste. The orange scent is sharp and reminiscent of orange peels. On the palate you’ll find that both liqueurs are at about the same level of sweetness which is a plus because it makes it easier to interchange them in recipes. I felt that the Cointreau had a slightly more intense and deep orange flavor but both my Mom and Stepdad were hard pressed to tell the difference.
Hiram Walker Triple Sec: This triple sec comes in at 60 proof. A bit lower than the Cointreau, but I don’t really have a problem with that. The orange scent is still present but a bit more muted here. The flavor follows suit. It is very good, but lacks the intensity and depth found in the Cointreau.
The final verdict is another time where I’ll veer from cocktail snobbery. The Hiram Walker Triple Sec is very good. I would not hesitate to use it when making cocktails for parties or other times when I’ll be using a lot. The price difference is simply too attractive. The HW Triple Sec rings in at $15-20 for a 750 where you’ll be paying $35-45 for same size Cointreau.
The orange flavor in the HW, although very good, is a bit muted. As such, when I’m mixing drinks for myself or a couple friends I’m always going to reach for the Cointreau. The intensity and depth of flavor win hands down. However, and you’re probably already thinking this, you could easily bump up the orange flavor in the HW with a couple dashes of orange bitters. And that’s exactly what I would recommend you do. The triple sec coinoseur might be able to tell the difference in a cocktail, but I highly doubt it.