Discover what substitutes you can use for triple sec in your favorite cocktail and drink recipes.
Note: I am a Drizly affiliate and am happy to recommend their service and products to you. Please know that as an affiliate, I may receive a small commission on the products you purchase after clicking through my links. For more info, please see my disclosure policy.
Are you about to mix up a cocktail and just read through your recipe only to find you’re out of triple sec?
If so, you’re probably on a hunt for triple sec substitutes for your mixed drink recipe. Find out what other liqueurs and non-alcoholic ingredients can be used in place of triple sec in your favorite margaritas, sidecars, and cosmopolitan cocktails.
In this post, we’ll go over what triple sec is, what it’s used for, and what the alcohol content is in this orange liqueur.
What is triple sec?
Triple sec is a sweet, clear orange flavored liqueur. It’s used in many popular drinks, like margaritas, cosmopolitans, and kamikaze cocktails.
Triple sec is made by infusing alcohol, generally made from beet sugar, with the peels from bitter not-quite-ripened orange peels during the maceration process.
The orange flavor in triple sec comes from essential oils in the orange peels that infuse with the alcohol. This liqueur is then distilled, and may be completed there or more beet sugar, water, or alcohol may be added.
Triple sec is a generic name that we use for most orange liqueurs, but it can range in price and quality. For example, you can find a bottle of DeKuyper triple sec for under $10 and a bottle of Cointreau for around $25 to $30. The quality of the alcohol as well as the detail in the manufacturing process are what make the difference between a $10 bottle and $30 bottle of triple sec.
Read on: What is triple sec?
What is triple sec used for?
Triple sec is most commonly used in mixed drinks and cocktails that call for an orange-flavored liqueur.
Triple sec can also be used in other recipes, like in baked goods and cakes.
What is the alcohol content in triple sec?
Depending on the brand you choose from the liquor store or grocery store, the alcohol content will vary. You can find some triple secs at the store that have 15% alcohol by volume and others that go all the way up to 40%.
Some popular triple sec brands, like Cointreau and Grand Marnier have 40% ABV. With such a range of alcohol, you can get a completely different mixed drink depending on what you choose to replace triple sec with in your recipes.
Top triple sec substitutes
Since triple sec is most commonly used in alcoholic beverages, like mixed drinks and cocktails, we’ll start with the substitutes that contain alcohol.
These are some of the best options when it comes to replacing the orange flavor and the alcohol in your drinks.
Cointreau is a specific brand of triple sec that is made in France, and has a unique blend of sweet and bitter orange peels that are native to the terroir where they are grown.
Because Cointreau is unique to the way they make it and ingredients that are used based on the terroir of the oranges in their recipe, it is more expensive than other triple secs you can find on the market.
Cointreau tastes both bitter and sweet with a clean finish. This brand of orange liqueur has about 40% ABV, or alcohol by volume.
Read on: What is Cointreau?
Grand Marnier is a great substitute for triple sec, because it is orange flavored and has a similar alcohol content. This liqueur is made in France, so not too far from where Cointreau is produced.
This liquor is a blend of cognac brandy, bitter orange essence, and sugar. Some folks prefer Grand Marnier to triple sec in their cocktails, so keep an open mind if you try this substitute out!
Read on: What is Grand Marnier?
Curaçao comes in a variety of flavors, but the orange one is a good substitute for Cointreau, because it is made using bitter orange peels just like Cointreau is.
While curaçaos and triple secs are different, orange curacao will substitute nicely in many cocktail recipes because of its flavor and consistency.
Try this option if you’re looking for a lower alcohol content in your drinks.
A generic orange liqueur of any type will work as a substitute for triple sec in many cocktail recipes or baking recipes. You can find orange liqueurs at a variety of price points.
Note that the flavor will vary in its sweetness and complexity, but will still provide an orange flavor to the drinks or recipes you’re making.
Non-alcoholic triple sec substitutes
For baking recipes or turning a cocktail into a mocktail, try one of these non-alcoholic substitutes for triple sec in your recipes.
Orange extract is a non-alcoholic substitute for Cointreau that you might decide to use if you’re only looking to substitute the flavor of Cointreau in a recipe as opposed to the flavor and alcohol.
Use a high quality orange extract if you have one or are shopping for one, as you’ll get what you pay for.
This swap is especially useful for baking, but can also be applied to cocktails as well.
Orange juice or orange juice concentrate
Orange juice is a bit of a stretch when it comes to replacing Cointreau, but it can be done. Depending on what you’re making that calls for Cointreau, substituting orange juice can be just as effective in your recipe.
In cocktails, using orange juice or orange juice concentrate will work if you’re trying to mimic the orange flavor, but the consistency and look of the drink won’t come out as the recipe is intended.
If you are looking for a good substitute for triple sec in your drinks and other recipes, I hope this post has helped you get some ideas as to how you can make your recipe work without this ingredient on hand.