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What Is Grand Marnier?

What Is Grand Marnier?

Grand Marnier is a brand of strong alcoholic beverage, a highly sweetened orange-flavored liqueur that originated in France in 1847 and continues to be shipped worldwide today.

The brand’s most famous product is the original Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge.

Tipplers love the Grand Marnier (pronounced Gran Mahn-yay; anecdotally “GrandMa” by bartenders) because of its punchy flavors and high-proof alcohol content, which is at about 40% ABV.

While liquor experts report a palate, nose, and finish of many flavor profiles in Grand Marnier, such as vanilla and basil, the drink itself only contains sugar, water, neutral distillate, peels of unripe Citrus Bigaradia, and Cognac—with no further herbs, spices or flavorings in the recipe at all. (Difford’s Guide)

The Grand Marnier liqueur, which is popular as a drink enjoyed neat, straight up, in cordials, or in cocktails, can also be used in recipes for desserts, hot drinks, and sauces.

But people still ask: what is Grand Marnier?

It is a brand (label) that begins its process with an eau-de-vie de Cognac, a blend of meticulously created Cognac brandy:

Only spirits made from grapes harvested and fermented within the Cognac delimited area, listed below, can legally lay claim to the registered designations of origin “Cognac”, “Eau-de-vie de Cognac”, or “Eau-de-vie des Charentes”:

  • almost all of the Charente-Maritime department;
  • a large part of the Charente department;
  • a few villages in the Dordogne and Deux-Sèvres departments.

Then Grand Marnier’s triple sec, made with specifically bitter orange peels from the unripe orange species Citrus Bigaradia, is distilled in copper for 10 days, then combined with Cognac and aged in oak casks (barrels) for one to six months.

To be precise, this brand offers a variety of liqueurs in its line of products, but the original cognac and bitter orange Cordon Rouge recipe took 10 years to perfect over a century ago.

Grand Marnier is a brand of Cognac-based orange-flavored liqueur, a sweet alcoholic beverage of the curaçao family, which means it’s been distilled with bitter orange peels.

Grand Marnier, though a brand with different flavor profiles, has a color that ranges from  deep, golden amber to translucent topaz.

The smell is deeply caramel, with all the high-profile flavors of orange and sugar, plus the pungent, acrid smell redolent of all alcoholic beverages.

However, Grand Marnier has been around for over 140 years and has been a staple export to the United States. 

An interesting fact about the Grand Marnier is how the liqueur’s name was coined. 

The owner of the famous hotelier Ritz Cesar Ritz and a close friend of the founder of Louis-Alexander Marnier was the one who helped rename Grand Marnier from Curacao de Marnier.

He also came up with the idea to mimic the copper pot stills’ shape, where the liquor’s base spirit Cognac is distilled.

How do you use Grand Marnier?

The Grand Marnier can be used in several ways: neat, in cordials, as aperitifs or digestifs, and while cooking sauces or baked goods.

  • Taken straight up or neat in large snifter glasses
  • Mixed into cordials, which are creamy, fruity or herby concoctions, enjoyed in small amounts
  • In cocktails or mixed drinks
  • And in foods, such as sauces, mousses, soufflé, crepes, and other baked goods

Grand Marnier liqueur can be enjoyed as a digestif, which means an alcoholic beverage served after a meal.

Its counterpart is called aperitif, which is an alcoholic beverage served before meals. 

Tips for using Grand Marnier:

  • Substitute Grand Marnier for triple sec or Cointreau in cocktails.
  • Grand Marnier can be mixed into punches and pitchers of Sangria, Margaritas, and Cosmopolitans. 
  • You can use the liquor in pastries like Bûche de Noël, a French Christmas dessert, or other similar pastries like liqueur cream buns, or in chocolate truffles with liquid or gel centers.
  • Moreover, flambé dishes like the crêpes Suzette, crème brûlée, or soufflé also have a use for Grand Marnier.
  • You may also mix it to make the sauce of a roasted duck dish called Canard à l’orange.

What to mix with Grand Marnier

There are many ways you can enjoy Grand Marnier. 

Aside from the other types of liquor, you can mix with it mentioned above, you can also drink it straight. 

Due to its rich flavor, it’s perfect for drinking straight in a snifter like you might with a brandy or Cognac.

Also, you may drink Grand Marnier neat, which means no ice and no mixers. It is not a mild beverage, however; it contains both strong bitter orange flavor and lots of sugar.

Distilled in copper pots then aged in oak casks, Grand Marnier recipe is built upon their own blend of Cognac, which is a wine blend that is distinctly created in the town of Cognac, France. 

This layered flavor mixes well with a few liquors to create cordials and cocktails.

Here are some ideas of what to mix with this alcoholic beverage.


Try amping up your margarita and turning it into a Cadillac margarita instead!

Mix the usual tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau on your glass, then put the Grand Marnier on top of your traditional margarita. 

It’s a perfect way to create a nuanced flavor by spicing up a classic margarita cocktail.


Want to create some bubbles with your Grand Marnier?

Try Prosecco and lemon juice!

You may also use any champagne you like and mix it with the Grand Marnier, creating a sweet, deeply citrus tipple.

Aged rum

Nothing beats a classic-aged rum with your Grand Marnier. 

The El Presidente cocktail is based on a Cuban rum with vermouth blanc and grenadine.

The taste is slightly bitter, sweet, and citrusy.

Red wine

Who says you can’t have your favorite red with the Grand Marnier?

Sangria is also another famous cocktail that can be combined with this alcohol. 

Instead of using the standard Cointreau, use the Grand Marnier instead to create a bolder flavor.

White rum

White rum is also another popular choice to mix with Grand Marnier. 

It lets you put a spin on the traditional Sidecar with Cognac and white rum. 

Then swap out the classic Cointreau for Grand Marnier, and you have a smooth sour cocktail on the palate.

Do you drink Grand Marnier straight?

Yes, you can drink Grand Marnier straight, which means no other ingredient, ice or water is mixed with it.

One type is considered a Grand Marnier digestif, which is enjoyed in small amounts at room temperature after a meal, in a 1.5-oz to 2.0-oz (45-ml) snifter or a cordial glass. 

You can drink Grand Marnier mixed with another sweet alcohol, like amaretto or a cream liqueur. 

This is considered a Grand Marnier cordial, which, like a digestif, is enjoyed in small amounts, neat, meaning it’s not over ice or diluted with a nonalcoholic mixer. 

Glasses in the 1.5-oz to 2.0-oz (45-ml) glasses are created to be used just for this experience: cordial glasses. 

Grand Marnier vs Triple Sec

Triple sec is the broad term for a triple distilled alcoholic product that has been produced with orange essential oils. 

You can buy a bottle of a product called “triple sec” made from beet sugar, but it also has variants. 

One of those variants is Grand Marnier, which uses cognac brandy as the base for the orange flavor.

Think of triple sec as the “blank slate” of orange-flavored liqueurs, and many brands (labels) use triple sec in their recipe

Grand Marnier has a complex flavor with its own type of triple sec in its recipe that includes Cognac, a very controlled grape product created in Cognac, France. 

Grand Marnier and Triple Sec are considered popular orange-flavored alcoholic liquors (more appropriately, liqueurs because they are created to be strong and sweet) in cocktails like margaritas, sangrias, and other tropical drinks.

What is the difference between Grand Marnier and Triple Sec?

Triple Sec: Triple Sec is the name for the original orange-flavored alcoholic distilled spirit, not just a brand name—there are many different brands, types, and styles of triple sec. Also a very sweet, orange-flavored liqueur. Originated in France.

  • Tends to be less sweet, dry, and clear with a neutral grain spirit base.
  • 20-40% alcohol content. 
  • Distilled with different kinds of oranges.
  • Most popular as a drink mixer, not usually drunk straight. $

Grand Marnier: Tends to be very sweet and amber-colored. Grand Marnier is in the family of curaçao, which is a triple sec distilled with cognac brandy as a base with 40% ABV. Originated in France.

  • Tends to be very sweet and amber-colored.
  • Offered neat, mixed into cocktails, and used frequently in sauces and baked goods. 
  • Distilled with one kind of orange.
  • Aged one to six months.
  • Grand Marnier is medium brown in color, also called golden-amber. $$$

Curaçao is more frequently pot-distilled with brandy, cognac, or sugar cane spirit and has a sweeter quality and a darker coloring. Triple sec is more frequently column-distilled with neutral grain spirit and has a drier quality and a clear

What is the difference between Grand Marnier and Cointreau?

Cointreau: Is a brand name of a kind of triple sec; and is also an orange flavored liqueur with 40% ABV. Cointreau is created from sugar beet alcohol and several kinds of oranges. Originated in Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou, France. Created and named after Adolphe Cointreau in 1849, a candymaker. Cointreau is shipped in an orange bottle but the beverage itself is clear. $$

  • Uses sweet and bitter orange 
  • Pronounced KWAN-tro
  • Is not aged
  • See a large variety of recipes here.

Grand Marnier: Tends to be very sweet and amber-colored. Grand Marnier is in the family of curaçao, which is aged with Cognac brandy as a base, with 40% alcohol. Originated in France.

  • Tends to be very sweet and amber-colored.
  • Offered neat, mixed into cocktails, and used frequently in sauces and baked goods. 
  • Distilled with one kind of orange.
  • Aged one to six months.
  • Grand Marnier is medium brown in color, also called golden-amber. $$$

Grand Marnier flavor

Grand Marnier’s flavor can vary because the brand has five types, but the overall taste is similar.

Since it’s a fairly strong alcoholic drink, the acrid, pungent flavor and aroma of alcohol is present. 

Yet Grand Marnier has a deep layered flavor of Cognac and bitter orange with notes of oak and vanilla, enveloped in a sweet delivery. 

You also taste a spiced finish with hints of aged oak.

How long does Grand Marnier last?

Due to its high alcohol content, storing it will last for years or months, depending if it’s opened or sealed.

If you’re storing a sealed Grand Marnier, expect it to last several years if stored in a cool, dark place. 

However, once you’ve opened the Grand Marnier, make sure you’ve kept it near-continuously chilled, then consume it within nine months.

Does Grand Marnier get better flavor with age?

Unfortunately, no. Grand Marnier is laden with sugar, making this alcoholic beverage likely to spoil faster. 

The most sugar there is in an alcohol-based drink, the faster it will expire once opened. 

Unlike wine, the Grand Marnier doesn’t get better with age. 

It has aged prior to being bottled, and the flavor remains consistent from bottle to bottle.

There will not be any improvement to taste with time sitting on the shelf.

In fact, it’s usually undrinkable after one year once you open it. 

For best taste, if the bottle has been recapped and kept in a chilled, dark, dry atmosphere, drink an opened bottle of Grand Marnier within nine months to one year.

How to store Grand Marnier

To store an unopened bottle of Grand Marnier:

If you’ve just bought a bottle of Grand Marnier, look for a dark cupboard or cabinet in a cool area. 

Make sure to keep it away from heat and bright light.

Some alcohol connoisseurs suggest storing the Grand Marnier bottle on its side since it’s sealed with a cork and made from grapes. 

To store an OPENED bottle of Grand Marnier:

BonAppetit suggests that wine-based products (Cognac is a wine blend, which serves as Grand Marnier’s foundation) should be kept refrigerated for best taste that lasts the longest.

“To know whether something has gone bad, be sure to taste a sip when you first open the bottle. It should be bright and complex. As it oxidizes, it will be flat and dull, and when it’s really bad, it could smell like a wet dog. This rule applies to any wine-based product.” — Meaghan Montagano, beverage manager at NYC’s Nat’s on Bank (Bon Appetit)

Tools needed:

  • Grand Marnier

Instructions for properly storing opened Grand Marnier:

  1. Store your Grand Marnier in a refrigerator or wine cooler.
  2. Use the drink within one year.
  3. Don’t leave the bottle out to come to room temperature.

Where is Grand Marnier from?

Grand Marnier originates in France and is made by Louis-Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, who founded the company in 1927. 

He developed Grand Marnier by learning how to distill this drink from his father, who was a wine and spirit merchant.

The bottom line

Now that we’ve finally explored the differences between two of its famous counterparts and the details of Grand Marnier’s ingredients and flavor, we hope you can make the most out of your Grand Marnier-based drinks and recipes!

How To Store Opened Grand Marnier

How To Store Opened Grand Marnier

For best taste and long-lasting aroma, keep opened bottles of any flavor of Grand Marnier around 55F, in a refrigerator or in a wine cooler.


  • Grand Marnier, capped tightly
  • Refrigerator or wine cooler


  1. Cork or cap the bottle tightly.
  2. Stand the bottle upright in the refrigerator or cooler.
  3. Use a wine chiller or wine sleeve to help maintain the cold while the bottle is out for pours.
  4. Avoid keeping the bottle out at room temperature for more than five minutes at a time. Remove from the refrigerator just long enough for pours then return to chill.

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