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35 Top Triple Sec Cocktail Recipes (All Types)

Triple Sec Cocktails collage

Triple sec is a French orange liqueur that is closely tied to cocktail history and the evolution of mixed drinks.

It is an infusion of orange peels with a neutral spirit and sweetener to create a delicious liqueur that is present in all different families of cocktails, deeply versatile and elevating any drink it’s found in. With such a prominence in the cocktail world, it is imperative you have a bottle of this in your bar and even more imperative you know how to use it.

For your drinking pleasure, I have compiled a list of 35 delicious and easily-assembled triple sec cocktails. Then we’ll dive into a crash course on the liqueur itself. First, let’s make a few cocktails.

Related: Kahlúa Cocktail | Tequila Cocktails | Whiskey Cocktails | Gin Cocktails | Rum Cocktails | Vodka Cocktail | Amaretto Cocktail | Cognac Cocktail | Mezcal Cocktail | Frangelico Cocktails | Grand Marnier Cocktail | Peach Schnapps Cocktail | Vermouth Cocktail | Sherry Cocktail | Brandy Cocktail | French Wine | Spanish Wine 

35 Triple Sec Cocktails

1. Margarita

A glass of classic margarita with lime.

To me, the Marg is the most iconic triple sec cocktail. Built like a classic ‘sour’ and finished off with its signature salt rim, the Margarita is one of the most recognizable drinks in bartending and among the easiest to make. The Marg is infinitely riff-able, well-balanced, and highlights each individual ingredient in a way only timeless cocktails can.

Use a solid silver tequila and fresh lime juice. Play around with syrups, infusions, ice types, and different salts to make the Margarita your own.

Recipe

  • 2 oz tequila
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • lime wedge
  • salt (for rim)
  1. Rim a rocks glass or margarita glass with salt
  2. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  3. Shake hard until well-chilled
  4. Single-strain into the glass and top with the crushed-up ice from the shaker
  5. Alternatively, double-strain and serve straight up in a chilled coupette or cocktail glass (rimmed with salt of course)
  6. Garnish with a lime wedge
  7. Enjoy!

2. Jalapeño Margarita

Jalapeño Margarita with lime

With the classic Marg structure, there are many ways to drastically change the flavor with the addition of only a few ingredients.

One of my favorite easy modifications is with the addition of heat. There are numerous ways to do this including infusions and pepper syrups but my preferred way is the simplest: muddle some fresh jalapeño into the shaker and be surprised by how much the flavor comes through.

Recipe

  • 2 oz tequila
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • small jalapeño pepper
  • lime wedge
  • steak spice (for rim)
  1. Rim a rocks glass or margarita glass with steak spice
  2. Cut a few slices of the pepper and muddle with lime juice and triple sec in shaker
  3. Thin slices to start – the specific heat will vary pepper to pepper and you’ll have to develop a bit of a feel for how spicy you want the drink. Remember: the seeds are where most of the heat resides – more seeds = spicier drink.
  4. Add your tequila and ice
  5. Shake hard until well-chilled
  6. Double-strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice
  7. Garnish with a lime wedge
  8. Enjoy!

3. Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan with lime

The Cosmopolitan is a classic and elegant vodka drink that uses triple sec and cranberry juice for sweetening and flavor. It has a lovely pink color which has seemingly blocked it into the nebulous world of ‘girly drinks’ – those that use this label for cocktails listen up: there’s no such thing as a girly drink. There are only good drinks and bad drinks.

The Cosmopolitan is a good drink. It is tart, bright, and balanced with the perfect ratio of acidity to sweetness. Also it’s cute.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz cranberry juice
  • lime wheel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  4. Garnish with a lime wheel
  5. Enjoy!

4. Sidecar

A tall glass of sidecar

The Sidecar is a brandy drink (cognac, usually) that uses lemon juice and triple sec for a tart, deceptively stiff sipper. Similar to the Brandy Crusta from New Orleans, this drink emerged in the early 20th century and has been a classic ever since. The orange twist is the cherry on top for the little hit of citrus oil.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz cognac
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 lemon juice
  • orange twist
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  4. Zest with orange twist and garnish
  5. Enjoy!

5. Midday Mimosa

Midday Mimosa with a slice of orange.

A Mimosa is the perfect brunch drink – refreshing and acidic after a bleary morning, the combination of orange juice and dry bubbles does wonders to perk you up (until 5pm rolls around and then you have a headache).

For those especially bleary mornings, add a tiny hit of triple sec to up the ABV and counteract some of the orange juice acidity. The difference is noticeable and it is a great way to spike the drink without making as much of a commitment as you would with a Screwdriver.

Recipe

  • 3 oz orange juice (fresh pressed)
  • 3-4 oz sparkling white wine
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  1. Add your orange juice and triple sec to a flute or wine glass
  2. Top with as much sparkling white wine as your heart desires
  3. No garnish
  4. Enjoy!

6. Long Island Iced Tea

A glass of Long Island Ied Tea topped with a slice of orange.

The Long Island Iced Tea is a wild drink. The first times I’d ever made them as a bartender I remember finding it almost comedic how many different spirits were used. This drink is cumbersome to make and with such a small amount of mixer calling it a highball feels… wrong.

It sits around 22% ABV and has a little lemon juice to cut into the spirits but with the splash of cola the drink actually looks a lot like an iced tea. It’s a tasty cocktail and surprisingly smooth despite all the random spirits in it – they’re all relatively neutral as ingredients however, probably the main reason this drink can be drank in the first place.

Recipe

  • 0.5 oz gin
  • 0.5 oz tequila
  • 0.5 oz vodka
  • 0.5 oz white rum
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1-2 oz cola
  • lemon wheel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a highball or Collins glass with fresh ice
  2. Top with cola
  3. Garnish with lemon wheel
  4. Enjoy!

7. Kamikaze

Kamikaze with a slice of lime.

The Kamikaze is a tasty ‘sour’ style cocktail that uses vodka and lime juice with triple sec to make a tasty straightforward drink. It’s tart, sweet, and doesn’t taste too strong. A good drink for someone who wants a single cocktail before calling it for the night.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • Lime wedge
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled coupette or martini glass
  4. Garnish with lime wheel
  5. Enjoy!

8. Classic Sangria

Classic Sangria filled with fruit slices.

Sangria is a wine punch that originates from Spain. There are many variations to this family of drinks – the similar themes among them include wine, a sparkling mix of sorts, fruits, citrus, and oftentimes a spirit base with a sweetening liqueur. While this recipe is by no means a standard for the many different kinds of sangria out there, it is a solid and balanced iteration of the iconic wine punch that ticks off all the boxes.

Recipe

  • 3 oz dry red wine
  • 1.5-2 oz soda water
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz brandy
  • 0.75 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 2 apple slice
  • 2 orange slices
  • 2 lemon slices
  1. Add all your ingredients (save the soda) into a jar together and let sit in fridge for at least two hours
  2. Batching a large quantity is recommended if you’re serving them to guests
  3. Once chilled, pour over fresh ice with some of the fruits stuffed in the glass, top with soda
  4. Enjoy!

9. Pegu Club

Pegu Club with a slice of lime.

Like the Sidecar, the Pegu Club emerged during the Golden Age of Cocktails and unlike many in the sour family these drinks take their structure from, both use triple sec (instead of simple syrup) as a way to sweeten their drinks and add to the ABV.

The Pegu Club was a cocktail bar in Burma and the eponymous drink became extremely popular before and during the Prohibition Era. It isn’t as iconic as it once was but it’s great to have in the back pocket. Bitters are optional – the classic versions of this drink tend to omit them.

Recipe

  • 2 oz gin
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 1 dash angostura bitters
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled coupette or martini glass
  4. Enjoy!

10. Cherry Martini

Cherry Martini dipped with a fresh cherry.

This is considered more of a ‘sweet’ martini in the same way a Lemondrop is called martini. Instead of the spirit-forward classic martini served with dry vermouth and/or other flavoring like olive brine, the Cherry Martini uses lemon juice and cherry juice to impart the subtle sweetness of cherry into the drink, heightened by the citric and sweet triple sec.

It ends up being similar to the Cosmopolitan in how the light red/pink color comes through, making for a pretty-looking and sweet sipper.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • 0.5 oz cherry juice
  • 0.25 simple syrup
  • lemon wheel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled coupette or martini glass
  4. Garnish with lemon wheel
  5. Enjoy!

11. White Lady

White Lady topped with foam.

The White Lady is an egg-white sour made with triple sec instead of simple syrup. A little less lemon juice makes for a more downplayed egg white sour that seems to focus more on the textural elements of the drink family than the tart and sweet flavors typical of other variations. Stiff and elegant, the White Lady is worth shaking hard for the best quality foam you can muster.

Recipe

  • 2 oz gin
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • egg white
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker without ice
  2. Shake hard until mixture is incorporated (dry shake)
  3. Add ice, shake hard until well-chilled
  4. Double-strain into a chilled coupette or cocktail glass
  5. No garnish
  6. Enjoy!

12. Between the Sheets

Between the Sheets with orange peel.

Between the Sheets is a brandy and rum cocktail that was made by the same 1920s New York bartender credited for the Old Pal and the White Lady. It uses equal parts of cognac, rum, and triple sec with a splash of lemon juice – the result is a sweet and stiff drink that tastes perfect before a meal (or just after, if that’s your style). Like a sidecar with rum, Between the Sheets is an excellent classic cocktail from the Golden Era.

Recipe

  • 1 oz cognac
  • 1 oz light rum
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 0.25 oz lemon juice
  • orange peel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  4. Flaming zest with orange peel and discard peel
  5. Enjoy!

13. Rasputin

Rasputin with orange peel.

This is a cocktail from a bar I used to work at – all credit goes to them and the original bartender that created it. Using equal parts bourbon, triple sec, lemon juice, and Lillet, it’s extremely easy to make and even easier to toss down. This drink is well-balanced, tart, and very tasty.

Recipe

  • 0.75 oz bourbon
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lemon juice
  • 0.75 oz lillet
  • orange peel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  4. Zest with orange peel and use as garnish
  5. Enjoy!

14. Mango Drop Martini

Mango Drop Martini with a lime wheel and sugar rim.

Riffing on the Lemondrop, the Mango Drop will use a little bit of mango nectar to sweeten the cocktail and add a subtle hint of texture. Fresh lime juice really makes a difference here.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz vodka
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz mango juice nectar
  • sugar (for rim) – optional
  1. Rim martini glass with sugar
  2. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  3. Shake hard until well-chilled
  4. Double-strain into a chilled martini glass
  5. Garnish with lime wheel
  6. Enjoy!

15. B52 Shot

A shot of layered B52.

A B52 is a layered drink made as a cocktail or as a shot. It uses Irish cream, triple sec, and coffee liqueur for a rich, sweet, and coffee-flavored shot that looks really pretty before you put it in your stomach. Layering the ingredients takes a little skill but you’ll have it down in no time.

Recipe

  • 0.75 oz Irish cream liqueur
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz coffee liqueur
  1. Pour (in order) the coffee liqueur, the Irish cream, and triple sec in a shot glass, carefully layering them by pouring over a barspoon
  2. Enjoy!

16. Zombie (Bacardi Recipe)

Zombie garnished with orange wedge and cherry.

The Zombie is a classic tiki cocktail that uses white and dark rum with a few syrups and juices to create a tasty and sweet cocktail. There are a few variations of it with different juices but I like this stripped-down Zombie that Bacardi offers up on their website.

Recipe

  • 1 oz white rum
  • 0.75 oz dark rum
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz orange juice
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 0.25 oz grenadine syrup
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Single-strain into a highball glass over crushed ice
  4. Garnish with orange wedge and maraschino cherry
  5. Enjoy!

17. Spring Fling (Absolut Recipe)

Spring fling garnished with a lime wedge.

From the Absolut website, I pulled the Spring Fling cocktail. It is a tequila-based cocktail with pineapple juice and triple sec. It tastes close to a tiki drink and definitely takes some influence – a fun tequila drink that isn’t too sweet.

Recipe

  • 1.25 oz silver tequila
  • 0.75 oz orange juice
  • 0.75 oz pineapple juice
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • Lime wedge
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Single-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice
  4. Garnish with lime wedge
  5. Enjoy!

18. Martini Mexicano

Martini with olive and sugar rim.

We’ll be making another sweet martini here that is a bit weird on paper. We’re adding a splash of soda into a shaker but also throwing some olive brine in there for some savory elements. It’s delicious, sweeter than you expect, and fun to explore with the interplay of flavors. If you don’t like olives, you probably won’t like this drink.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz white tequila
  • 1 oz lemon-lime soda
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz orange juice
  • 0.25 oz olive brine
  • salt (for rim)
  • 1 olive
  1. Rim a martini glass with salt and chill
  2. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  3. Shake until well-chilled
  4. Double-strain into rimmed martini glass
  5. Drop an olive in the glass
  6. Enjoy!

19. Churchill Cocktail (Absolut Recipe)

A glass of Churchill Cocktail.

The Churchill is an interesting scotch cocktail that I found on the Absolut website. With red vermouth, lime juice, and triple sec, this drink is an exciting way to explore scotch whisky in a new medium – I liked it with a less peaty ingredient.

Recipe

  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 1.25 oz Scotch whisky
  • 0.5 triple sec
  • 0.25 oz red vermouth
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a mixing glass with ice
  2. Stir until well-chilled
  3. Strain into a chilled coupette
  4. No garnish
  5. Enjoy!

20. White Cosmo

White Cosmo with orange peel.

The White Cosmo is a cosmo made with white cranberry juice. It’s easy to make if you can find the elusive white cranberry but the flavor is pretty much the same. The change of color is fun – a tasty and tart cocktail for the early summer evening.

Recipe

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz white cranberry juice
  • orange peel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled coupette or martini glass
  4. Garnish with peel after zesting
  5. Enjoy!

21. Pab’s Buck

Pab's Buck garnished with lime wheel and strawberry.

I usually advocate for simplicity in a cocktail but the Pab’s Buck is a delicious fruit-forward drink with a tequila base. The apple cider is a surprising ingredient but adds to the drink massively. Aromatic bitters back it up and tie it to the lime juice and triple sec, slightly diluted and bubbled up by the last touch of soda water. Cool drink.

Recipe

  • 2 oz tequila
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 3 strawberries
  • 0.75 oz simple syrup
  • 2 dashes aromatic bitters
  • dash of salt
  • barspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 3-5 oz soda water
  • Lime wedge
  1. Muddle your strawberries with the lime juice and simple syrup
  2. Add your ingredients (except the soda) into shaker with ice
  3. Shake hard until well-chilled
  4. Single-strain into a hurricane or highball glass
  5. Top with soda
  6. Garnish with lime wedge
  7. Enjoy!

22. Sangria Flora (Food & Wine Recipe)

A tall glass of Sangria Flora.

While we looked at an individual sangria made for one portion at a time, we’ll be making a large batch sangria from Food & Wine, a cooking website. This sangria uses elderflower liqueur and acidic white wine with stone fruits and a few berrie varieties. It is infused and left overnight to chill to make a bright and refreshing sangria ready to be served at your garden party.

I love white wine sangria, especially with an acidic bottle. Elderflower liqueur (St. Germain is my choice) is sweet and aromatic, the perfect pairing for acidity and fruit flavors.

Recipe (for 8 drinks)

  • 1 bottle acidic white wine (Sauv Blanc is a good choice)
  • 1.5 oz elderflower liqueur (St Germain)
  • ¼ cup triple sec
  • 6 strawberries, sliced
  • 6 raspberries, sliced
  • 2 peached, sliced
  • 1 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb of red and green grapes
  1. Combine all the ingredients together in a large pitcher or bowl
  2. Refrigerate overnight
  3. Pour over ice in a wine glass
  4. Enjoy!

23. Pink Floyd (Food & Wine Recipe)

Pink Floyd with orange peel.

The Pink Floyd is a bright cranberry, gin, and triple sec cocktail that is relatively sweet while still being stiff. The Pimm’s gives a few touches of an herbal profile and the fine sugar eliminates the need for simple syrup. This recipe is scaled for four drinks, so bust out your second shaker and learn to do the two-handed shake.

Recipe (for 4 drinks)

  • ½ cup cranberry juice
  • ½ cup triple sec
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 4 lemon peels
  • 2 tablespoons Pimm’s liqueur
  • 1 cup gin
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into 2 shakers with ice
  2. Grasping both section of the shaker with one hand, hit the shakers against each other to ensure the tops are firmly closed
  3. Shake until well-chilled, keeping the shakers close to your chest and shaking in small movements (so as to not accidentally send one flying)
  4. Double-strain into chilled coupettes
  5. Garnish with lemon twist
  6. Take pride in being able to shake 4 drinks at once
  7. Enjoy!

24. Peach Cart

A glass of Peach Cart

The Peach Cart is a brandy and peach schnapps cocktail that makes use of lemon juice and triple sec to balance out the flavors. It is like a toned-down sour of sourts and the orange bitters bring a bright, citrus oil note to the drink. Tastes fruity and sweet with a balanced profile.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz brandy
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz peach schnapps
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled coupette
  4. Enjoy!

25. Bourbon Peach Tea

Bourbon Peach Tea filled with ice with orange wedge.

This is a fun cocktail to make because the black tea syrup comes out very strongly if you make it right. There is no actual liquid tea in this drink so the syrup is super important. Bourbon provides a stiff base with a strong flavor that is balanced out by the peach schnapps and triple sec. A delicious and simple iced tea-style cocktail.

Recipe

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 0.75 black tea syrup
  • Instead of using water for your simple syrup, use a very strong infusion of black tea/earl grey and cook with the sugar
  • 0.25 oz triple sec
  • 0.5 oz peach schnapps
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • lemon wheel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Single-strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice
  4. Garnish with lemon wheel
  5. Enjoy!

26. Lazaro

A glass of Lazaro with ice.

The Lazaro is really a Corpse Reviver No. 1 that uses red vermouth and brandy along with some tequila and triple sec. It is a fun way to explore the family of Corpse Revivers and a solid silver tequila can really shine if you use it in this cocktail.

Recipe

  • 1 oz tequila
  • 1 oz cognac
  • 0.25 oz triple sec
  • 0.5 oz red vermouth
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a mixing glass with ice
  2. Stir until well-chilled
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass
  4. Enjoy!

27. Savoy Corpse Reviver No. 2

Savoy Corpse Reviver No. 2 with orange peel.

From the iconic Savoy Hotel of London, this version of the Corpse Reviver No. 2 was standardized in the hotel bar of the one of the highest-class accommodations in the world. Much like the Rasputin we looked at earlier but with gin and an absinthe rinse, this balanced and tart Corpse Reviver will do wonders to bring you back from the dead. The absinthe in the shaker (as opposed to a rinse) is key.

Recipe

  • 0.75 oz dry gin
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz Lillet
  • 0.75 oz lemon juice
  • drop of simple syrup
  • 2 dashes of absinthe
  • lemon peel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled coupette
  4. Garnish and zest with lemon peel
  5. Enjoy!

28. Corpse Reviver No. 4

 

Corpse Reviver No. 4 with orange peel.

We’ll skip the third Corpse Reviver and move straight into number four. This drink uses reposado tequila instead of gin for a smokier and spicier agave-forward cocktail.

The rest of the ingredients stay semi-similar with the exception of what we do with the absinthe – this time we’ll do a rinse: this is really for an aromatic change without affecting the flavor too heavily. This is my favorite iteration of the Corpse Reviver family.

Recipe

  • 2 dashes absinthe
  • 1 oz reposado tequila
  • 0.75 oz Lillet
  • 0.25 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lemon juice
  • barspoon of simple syrup
  • lemon peel
  1. Rinse glass with absinthe and discard
  2. Add your liquid ingredients into a mixing glass with ice
  3. Stir until well-chilled
  4. Strain into a chilled martini glass
  5. Garnish and zest with lemon peel
  6. Enjoy!

29.

Corpse Reviver No. 4

Corpse Reviver No. 4 with lime wheel.

We’ll be playing around with the structure and colors of the Cosmo but this time will subvert the flavor with a bit of unsweetened pomegranate. The drink becomes much more tart and we’ll up the triple sec to accommodate. Some orange bitters highlight the citric notes and then we’re off to the races. A delicious riff on the Cosmopolitan.

Recipe

  • 2 oz vodka
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • Lime wheel
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Single-train into a rocks glass with a big cube
  4. Garnish with lime wheel
  5. Enjoy!

30. Dama Blanca

Dama Blanca topped with foam.

Dama Blanca is Spanish for White Lady, so you can probably see where this is going. We’ll be making another low-sweetness sour but replacing simple syrup with agave syrup. A good silver tequila is the kind you’d like in this cocktail for smoothness in your base spirit. Shake hard and enjoy.

Recipe

  • 2 oz tequila
  • 0.5 oz triple sec
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • 0.25 oz agave syrup
  • 1 egg white
  1. Add your ingredients into a shaker without ice
  2. Shake hard (dry shake) until incorporated
  3. Add ice, shake hard until well-chilled
  4. Double-strain into a chilled coupette or martini glass
  5. Enjoy!

31. Man O’ War

Man O’ War garnished with orange peel.

Named after the famous racehorse who won almost every competition he was in save one, the Man O’ War cocktail is a champion in and of itself. The bourbon seems to parallel the base of other famous derby drinks like the Mint Julep but the orange liqueur and sweet vermouth take us in a far different direction. Stiff and sweet – perfect for a digestif.

Recipe

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • 0.5 oz red vermouth
  • 0.5 oz lemon juice
  • maraschino cherry
  • lemon peel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled coupette or martini glass
  4. Garnish with cherry and zested peel
  5. Enjoy!

32. Difford’s OTR Margarita

Difford’s OTR Margarita with lime wheel.

This is a margarita recipe that features some slight modifications, especially in terms of structure as we will serve this OTR (on the rocks).

Furthermore, reposado tequila instead of silver will be our base. A pinch of salt and a few orange bitters later, the classic refreshing margarita has transformed into a crushable on-ice cocktail with a few spicier and saltier elements built right in. A small change to the classic but a delicious riff nonetheless.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz reposado tequila
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • barspoon agave syrup
  • small pinch of salt
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  1. Add your liquid ingredients and salt into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Single-strain into a highball glass with fresh ice
  4. Garnish with lime wedge
  5. Enjoy!

33. Mezcalero

Mezcalero with orange peel.

The Mezcalero is a unique cocktail on this list because it uses triple sec as a base instead of a spirit. In this drink, the mezcal is a secondary player, bringing smokiness and upping the ABV while the triple sec provides sweetness and the core of the cocktail. Ginger syrup is key to bringing it all together: the spicy sweetness ties the mezcal to the triple sec and everything exists in harmony. Delicious!

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz triple sec
  • 0.5 oz mezcal
  • 1/3 oz ginger syrup
  • 0.75 oz lemon juice
  • 2 dashes orange bitters
  • grapefruit twist
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice
  2. Shake until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled coupette or martini glass
  4. Garnish and zest with grapefruit twist
  5. Enjoy!

34. Sabot

A glass of Sabot with foam.

The Sabot is an egg white sour cocktail that uses gin as a base. Interestingly and differently from other drinks in this family, the Sabot uses a small amount of dry bubbly wine to top up cocktail. This has a really cool effect on the foam, which becomes more aerated and fluffy. Delicious!

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lemon juice
  • 1/3 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • 0.75-2 oz dry sparkling wine
  • lemon peel
  1. Add your liquid ingredients (except the champagne) into a shaker without ice
  2. Dry shake until fully incorporated
  3. Add ice, shake hard until well-chilled
  4. Double-strain into a chilled large coupette or wine glass
  5. Top with sparkling wine
  6. Zest with lemon peel and garnish
  7. Enjoy!

35. Mai Tai

Mai Tai garnished with lime wheel.

The Mai Tai is a classic tiki cocktail that uses white rum as a base. It’s iconic gradient look comes from the dark rum float that goes on top at the very end, complemented by a lime wheel and mint sprig. Orgeat syrup is a must in a Mai Tai and if you buy a bottle now it’ll last you forever.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz white rum
  • 0.75 oz triple sec
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz orgeat syrup
  • 0.5 oz dark rum
  • lime wheel
  • mint sprig
  1. Add your liquid ingredients into a shaker with ice, save the dark rum
  2. Shake lightly
  3. Single-strain into a hurricane glass or double rocks glass filled with ice
  4. Float the dark rum on top
  5. Garnish with lime wheel and mint
  6. Enjoy!

What is Triple Sec?

Meagher's Triple Sec liqueur with long stemmed glass on the side.

Put at its most simply, triple sec is a dry (‘sec’ in French means dry) orange liqueur. It is not a family of spirits in and of itself, nor is it a unique and specific product: it can be most easily explained as a style of orange liqueur, within which there are many. In this style within the family of orange liqueur there are variations and nuance from producer to producer, ranging from the orange infusions to the spirit used to the ABV of the final product.

We’ve looked at Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge in a previous article, a spirit that infuses orange oils into a cognac brandy to make a sweet and citric ingredient at a hefty 40% ABV.

While Grand Marnier and triple sec are similar in essence, the use of cognac and the exclusivity of the name tie Grand Marnier to a unique and specific product. In many ways, there is only one Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge. In the world of triple sec, there are many options. In this way, we can consider Grand Marnier a type of triple sec.

Within triple sec one can explore variation among producers that are significantly nuanced, able to tweak your favorite recipes with the brands you enjoy the most. Some of the brands of triple sec you might recognize are Cointreau, Combier, or Curaçao.

Many will tell you that triple sec is an inherently French product. For one, some of the most prominent producers of the liqueur emerged (and still operate) out of France, using traditional methods of infusion and distillation that harken back to the beginnings of France’s golden era of artisanal liqueur. Equally, the Dutch VOC would make an orange liqueur from citrus found in the Caribbean island of Curaçao.

Fruit liqueur – especially citrus varieties – have been popular amongst recreational and medicinal consumers for a long time. Triple sec is no different, with traceable popularity for the better part of two centuries.

Meaning ‘triple dry’, there are few explanations behind the name – none especially satisfying or validating in giving us a clear answer. The first assumption and the most commonly-held is that the triple dry name refers to the amount of times the base alcohol is usually distilled; by passing the base spirit through the still three separate times, the resulting alcohol created would be an ultra-potent and neutral eau-de-vie that could readily absorb the flavors of whatever was going to be soaking in it later. For fruit and citrus liqueurs like triple sec, this makes perfect sense.

Equally, the Cointreau brand claims the original title of triple sec with their own product, explaining the triple is a reference to the three different kinds of orange peels used in Cointreau – dry bitter, dry sweet, and fresh sweet.

The dry reference (according to Diffordsguide) comes from the lower sugar content present in their liqueur, a sign in the early days that the quality of their spirit was high (as it wasn’t masked by tons of sugar). Cointreau is the world’s most recognizable triple sec and their product – with roots in the early years of French orange liqueur production – should be noted as one of the most iconic in cocktail culture as a whole. There are many gins and spirits but only Cointreau since its creation in the mid-1800s.

How is Triple Sec Made?

Bartender making triple sec.

Triple sec is made by infusing a neutral spirit with orange flavors. This is the only real stipulation for the liqueur. In this sense, triple sec production can vary massively among producers as the potential ABV, the strength of the orange flavors, the sweetness, and more all have significant bearing on the production process.

At its base however, almost all of these involve the aforementioned infusion/distillation of a neutral spirit with orange flavors.

The drink begins with the origins of the ingredient. The timing of all of these citrus liqueurs popping up in Europe around the same time is no coincidence: with the ‘discovery’ of the Americas by European powers came the ‘discovery’ of a climate within which many different kinds of fruits and vegetables that could thrive. Oranges require a specific climate to grow well and many colder and drier parts of Europe are not well-suited to large-scale production, so the Americas were perfect for agricultural production of these commodities.

Colonial expansion would see these crops widely-planted throughout the New World, which in turn would create an opportunity for these products to be more accessible back in Europe. The result was a renaissance for alcohol producers: all of a sudden, they had a vast range of ingredients at their fingertips, fresh from the distant shores of the New World. The ready availability of such exotic (and previously unavailable) ingredients would prompt alcohol producers (and consumers) to begin working fruits like citrus into their products.

Production begins relatively simply: the oranges are peeled and the peels are dried. It is important to pick the oranges at their level of aromatic maturity, not sweetness. As such, the peels are usually green when they are cultivated for triple sec production.

This is because the fruit is not fully ripened and the citrus oils have not made their way into the fruit flesh. Instead, the citrus oils are concentrated in the skin, ready to be infused into a spirit.

Then, the base eau-de-vie is prepared. The most commonly-used is a sugar beet spirit because of its high natural sugar content (which means higher ABV) and neutral flavors when distilled. Sugar beets are harvested at the height of their sweetness and they are then turned pressed for their juices.

Sweet sugar beete juice

The sweet sugar beet juice is mixed to heated water and a yeast culture is added to create fermentation.

The active culture is a critical step of the alcohol-making process. Yeast cultures (and others used for fermentation) are central to all alcohol because they are the part of the process that converts sugar into alcohol. The bacterial culture will ‘eat’ sugar to survive (and grow), munching on all the natural sucrose and glucose present in whatever ingredient was used.

Then, the yeast metabolizes the sugars and turns them into ethanol and methanol, burping out carbon dioxide as it goes. What results is a liquid solution that is slowly increasing in alcohol as fermentation continues.

At this point, we pretty much have beet beer (or beet wine if we let it ferment further), naturally carbonated and possessing an ABV of anything from 5%-15%. Some producers will let the yeast eat all of the sugar in the mash until the culture runs out of food and dies. At this point, they will begin the distillation process.

With their beet-beer, the triple sec producers will now move on to the distillation step. This is the process of separating the alcohol from the other chemicals present in the liquid, most of which have flavors that producers are hoping to downplay or remove altogether. Distillation is a process that has existed for over 3000 years, present in early alchemical texts and central to the evolution of the modern discipline of chemistry (and medicine).

First, the fermented liquid is added to the first chamber of a still, a large (often copper) pot with at least two chambers in it, the second slightly smaller and higher up than the first, connected by a thin tube where air can travel. The first chamber of the still containing the fermented liquid is heated to just below boiling point to avoid boiling (and evaporating) the water. The goal here is to evaporate the liquid alcohol present in the fermented solution.

This process is possible because alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water, meaning that at a certain temperature you can separate the alcohol and water/other compounds from each other by turning the liquid alcohol into a gas. This is the basis of distillation.

Cocktail and mixer on a wooden tray.

Once the liquid alcohol in the fermented solution begins to evaporate, it travels up the still in gas form and into the second chamber further up. The second chamber is not heated and as the warm gas makes its way to the top of the still it cools and condenses, re-forming back into liquid and dripping into the second chamber. The first few drips contain extra chemicals (some of which are harmful to people) and must thus be discarded, but after that you’re home free and have just technically created an eau-de-vie.

This is the first distillation. Most spirits are distilled multiple times. Multiple distillation has a few effects: for one, the final liquid solution becomes increasingly alcoholic (as there is less water present as a whole). This is extremely useful for medicinal practice (if you want to make an antiseptic) but also for the purposes of infusion (like in triple sec).

Each time you distill an alcoholic solution, you further separate the alcohol from the other compounds present, which serves to purify the alcohol but also strips it of many flavors that the original ingredients possessed. In this way, spirits like whiskies, rums, and other alcohol that aims to highlight its originating ingredient tend not to distill more than twice and even then, they will blend with other distillations in order to achieve the desired flavor and strength.

For liqueurs – especially triple sec – at least two or three distillations occur to the beet solution. This is because there is 0 beet flavor desired in the liqueur: the aim is to create a very pure spirit that can readily absorb the flavors of another ingredient it is introduced to. Alcohol bonds to flavor compounds well as the ‘hydroxyl’ group of molecular compounds are polar, easily forming hydrogen bonds with other molecules and having highly water-soluble properties.

The higher in alcohol content it is, the easier it will bond. With a clean, pure ethanol from the beet spirit, we are now able to begin producing triple sec.

Now that we have an eau-de-vie from beets, we take the orange peels we had harvested earlier. Remember: these orange peels have been harvested at the point in time where they are the most aromatic as the citrus oil is concentrated in the peels, not yet diffused into the flesh. The peels, now dried, are added to the beet spirit we have just distilled.

These ingredients steep together and the alcohol begins to bond with the many chemicals in the orange that give it its iconic flavor and aroma.

This process continues for an unspecified amount of time, specific to each individual producer of triple sec. Once infused to the desired amount, the solution is distilled again, this time with a little extra water (to dilute the alcohol) and some sugar for sweetening (remember, the yeast is long gone and no extra alcohol will be metabolized after the drink is distilled and bottled.

Mixed with water and sugar and then distilled to extract the alcohol bonded with the citrus oil compounds, what results after a few repetitions of the process is nothing other than an orange liqueur.

Given that it is an infusion of something mixed with sugar and water to control the ABV, we can’t really call drinks made like this eau-de-vies/brandies/whiskys/etc. This is a production style often unique to liqueurs as a whole. With a few tweaks and nuances between producers, what you have essentially just made is a triple sec.

History of the Orange and of Triple Sec

Orange cocktail with sugar rim.

The history of triple sec begins with the orange. There are a few different kinds of oranges in the citrus family and the sweet orange is the most widely cultivated fruit tree across the world, likely originating somewhere in the region of Southern China/Northern India/Myanmar.[1] The Rutaceae family of fruits is the one in which the majority of the oranges we know and consume come from – this family contains many different varieties of the citrus, ranging from bitter and flowered to mandarin and bergamot.

Wild varieties grow around the world but the sweet orange we are most familiar with is not a wild fruit: it is a hybrid of a wild mandarin orange and another hybrid pomelo. Early mentions of the original sweet orange tree appear in 3rd century BCE Chinese agricultural texts and is the origin from which all sweet orange varieties have appeared. In triple sec, domesticated sweet orange peels are used alongside the wild bitter varieties, both ingredients that were not readily available in Europe until many years later.

In Europe, citrus fruits would first appear in the Iberian Peninsula after their introduction by the Moors. Evidence of “complex irrigation techniques specifically adapted to support orange orchards” implies the mass-scale cultivation of these fruits in Iberia from the 10th century onward.[2] Citrus would be imported into Sicily and France earlier (some sources suggest the 8th-9th centuries) but oranges likely did not become accessible until the 15th and 16th centuries after the introduction of the tree through European merchants arriving back from Asia and Africa.

Once able to be cultivated, the orange immediately became a luxury fruit – Louis XIV famously had a massive orange orchard (orangerie) at his Versailles residence. The king famously wanted to have access to the fruit throughout the cultivation year, so fruit trees were planted throughout the palace to keep up with the year-long demand. One can already begin to see the cultural influence and symbolism of the fruit, especially in France where the citrus liqueur would eventually emerge.

Orange orchard during fall.

The Spanish, who had received sweet oranges from the Moors, took them to the Americas upon the discovery of the New World – itself a world with many new unknown fruits to the Europeans, including new varieties of wild, bitter orange. This becomes especially relevant in the context of triple sec, where the already-luxurious sweet orange could be used in conjunction with the new, exotic products from the colonies.

It is also said that during the Age of Discovery, early long-range seafaring European powers like the Dutch and Portuguese would plant citrus plants along their trade routes to re-up on the fruits, themselves indispensable in the context of preventing scurvy during the long voyages across the Atlantic.

The French and Spanish would introduce sweet oranges into places like Louisiana and (later) California, even going as far as Hawaii to plant the sweet orange tree. The rest is history: sweet edible oranges were suddenly becoming more available everywhere in the world. In the context of triple sec, this meant that distillers would have access to more varieties of the extremely oil-heavy fruit, possessing more variety and nuance in the products they hoped to make.

Le Favori triple sec orange fruit liqueurs

The first official triple sec (as in, possessing the name and the qualities of a modern triple sec) emerged in France with the Combier distillery in Saumur. This likely happened as early as 1834 according to Diffordsguide, with Jean-Baptiste Combier leading the charge of the sweet orange liqueur.

Cointreau would come next in 1875, when Edward Cointreau inherited his father and uncle’s distillery in Angers. Edward wanted to make something new in the world of French liqueur and he looked to oranges for his ingredient of inspiration.

However, Diffordsguide reminds us, the first orange liqueurs from peels are not from France but from the Dutch. It is important to note that the Dutch were relatively ahead of the curve of other European powers in terms of their early adoption of mercantilist economic policies and global trade.

They were among the first to really take to the seas and try and trade globally with everyone, often regardless of religion or culture. They’d make it as far as Japan! They would also be the first European power to take the exotic oranges of the New World and make liqueur from them in their traditional style. Why the Dutch?

To put a very complicated politico-historical issue way too simply, the Dutch had been early adopters of Protestantism – their political and religious reformation against Catholic culture would manifest in many forms, among those being the institution of a certain tolerance to other religions and cultures (this was not extended to Catholics, who were persecuted en-masse in Dutch regions and forced to convert to Calvinism throughout the Reformation period).

The 16th century would involve intense conflict between Catholic Spanish powers hoping to regain religious and political control over the region, fought on all fronts by Dutch Protestants. For dissenters against Catholics, the Dutch borders were open – tolerance to those with a common enemy.

This form of tolerance was not just politically and religiously important to those of the region: it was also good for business abroad. Protestantism tends to individualize religion a little bit, stripping away a lot of the institutional gravitas of Christian doctrine. The need to convert people (in the way that Catholic missionaries tried to do) wasn’t as important to Protestants.

In their religion, not everyone goes to heaven – some people are chosen. Being successful in your business endeavours and making money? Usually a good sign you were chosen, as opposed to Christianity that stressed a detachment from material goods.

To Protestants, it was best to let other people do their own thing and deal with getting into heaven themselves – their lifestyle was their own business and their spiritual salvation was their own responsibility.

See, if a guy shows up to trade with you but he’s also trying to tell you that the whole way you see the world and afterlife is totally wrong and he’s right, it can tend to impede productive business conversations. Instead, the Dutch would focus on trading and making money as part of their spiritual vocation – coin was the common denominator among people.

Short Protestantism and mercantilism crash course aside, we now see how the Dutch would have come into contact with a lot of the goods that became popular in Europe centuries later. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) would be established in 1602 and the West India Company shortly after, quickly becoming the world’s largest trading organizations (the world’s first corporations actually!).

Distillation in the Dutch lowlands was already commonplace and by the time oranges and dried peels started getting shipped back from the New World, the Dutch were ready to turn it into booze.

Most famously the Dutch would set themselves up on the Island of Curaçao, founding a capital (Willemstad) and cultivating a huge amount of the Laraha oranges on the island. The original Dutch orange liqueur – called Orange Curaçao – was being consumed in Europe centuries before Combier and Cointreau.

This liqueur was spicy and botanical however, which is the first real differentiator from what we now consider triple sec. Curaçao is thus a bit of a specific kind of style in orange liqueurs as it can model the profile of a triple sec but also fall into the category of Dutch herbal liqueurs.

I hope this crash course on triple sec and its history has been an interesting and exciting complement to the easy-to-assemble cocktails I’ve listed above. Remember to imbibe responsibly and thanks for reading.

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