What is a Suitable Triple Sec Substitute?

 If you make cocktails once in a while, or you bake, I can bet you have come across triple sec as one of the ingredients. So what is triple sec?

Triple sec is an orange-flavored drink that is used to make cocktails as well as add flavor to desserts. Manufacturers make it using the peels of bitter and sweet oranges. The name triple sec refers to something that is triple distilled.

Triple sec is a transparent liqueur. For the longest time, people have used it as an ingredient in mixed drinks.


There are some triple sec brands in the market that have a golden color and others that are colorless. However, they all have the same orange flavor.

Many recipes that call for triple sec use it to add an orange flavor to the cocktails or desserts.

Compared to other orange-flavored spirits, triple sec has a milder alcohol content hence its popularity.

Where to Buy Triple Sec


You can buy triple sec at grocery stores that sell alcohol or in liquor stores. If you do not have the time to go buy it yourself, you can just buy it online from reputable vendors.

Triple sec is a very common ingredient, so won’t have any problem purchasing it. In other words, triple sec is readily available.

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Triple Sec Recipes

I mostly use triple sec in cocktails and have come up with a list of my favorite triple sec recipes. They include;

  • Blood orange margarita (contains tequila, triple sec, fresh blood orange juice, and sugar)
  • Citrus margarita
  • Pineapple coconut margarita ( contains pineapple-coconut water, triple sec and tequila)
  • Prickly pear cocktail

Why Use Substitutes?


Triple sec is used in so many cocktails and dishes as well. Therefore, you are bound to run out pretty quickly. I have been in this situation so many times that I have lost count.

You may also want to use something non-alcoholic, especially in your dessert. So what do you do when you run out and don’t have time to go out and buy more or you want to use something non-alcoholic?

Use the substitutes. There are several good substitutes for triple sec and they will give you good results as long as you use them the way you are supposed to.

Grand marnier, Curaçao, Cointreau, Grenadine, Maraschino, brandy, orange zest, orange extract, and orange oil are suitable triple sec substitutes. Let us discuss these suitable triple sec substitutes in detail.

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The Substitutes

  1. Grand marnier

Grand marnier is one of the best substitutes for triple sec. Grand marnier is a French orange liqueur. It is a smooth alternative that works perfectly in margaritas.

Grand marnier is commonly used to make the Grand mimosa that many people love. Manufacturers base it on the Cognac brandy, so you get a taste of good brandy with a hint of orange.

Grand marnier is bright orange in color and is less sweet compared to triple sec. Therefore, it is a good alternative for those who want an orange flavor without the intense sweetness that triple sec gives.

When using grand marnier as a triple sec alternative, keep it in mind that it has a darker color and may slightly alter the color of your drink.

  1. Curaçao

If you run out of triple sec and have some Curaçao in stock, you can use it as an alternative. Curaçao is another orange flavored drink, but it is not your typical orange flavored drink made from oranges.

Manufacturers make it using Laraha, a fruit that is so bitter that people consider it inedible. The fragrance from the dried peels of Laraha was discovered, and that’s when they started using the dried peels to manufacture Curaçao, the orange flavored drink that is a favorite of many.

Curaçao is commonly used to give a blue color to cocktails. However, there are other color variants like transparent and green orange. If you intend to use the blue variety, be sure you are okay with turning the color of your drink to a funky color.

You can use Curaçao in cocktails that call for triple sec. The only disadvantage is that it is more expensive compared to triple sec.

  1. Cointreau

Cointreau is another suitable substitute for triple sec. In fact, most people consider it to be a type of triple sec style orange liqueur.

So what exactly is Cointreau? It is an orange flavored drink that can be enjoyed on its own or mixed with other alcoholic drinks to achieve an orange flavor.

Cointreau is actually a French drink. Manufacturers make it using the peels of bitter and sweet oranges that are sundried to give it a unique orange flavor. The alcohol content in Cointreau is actually quite high since it is approximately 40%.

The first Cointreau bottle was sold in 1875. Since then, the French family that produced it has kept the recipe a secret. Other companies have attempted to produce replicas, but nothing compares to the French Cointreau. The flavor is amazing.

Cointreau can be used as a triple sec substitute in popular drinks including gold margaritas. I personally believe that Cointreau gives better results compared to triple sec since it is of higher quality. The only downside is that it is more expensive compared to triple sec.

  1. Grenadine

You can use Grenadine in some recipes if you run out of triple sec. Grenadine is an amazing fruity drink that I never get enough of. It is made from rich and ripe pomegranates.

Grenadine is red in color and has a very sweet flavor. A lot of people use it to color drinks and add sweetness to them.

Grenadine is actually non-alcoholic, so if you are looking for a substitute that does not contain alcohol, this will work just fine.

You can use Grenadine on fruit salads and also in Chinese cuisine. You can also mix it with lemonade to make a refreshing drink. I’ve seen a few people using grenadine in beverages like tea and also in ice cream.

  1. Maraschino

You can use Maraschino as an alternative to triple sec. Maraschino is made of cherries and was initially used as a syrup. In the bygone era, the syrup was added to classic cocktails.

You can use Maraschino in modern cocktails. It is less sweet compared to triple sec and is, therefore, a great option for those who want to add flavor to cocktails without the extra sweetness that triple sec gives.

  1. Brandy

Brandy is another suitable substitute for triple sec. You can substitute triple sec with brandy in cooking. It is a great addition to baked goods and desserts as well.

I do not recommend using brandy as triple sec substitute in cocktails in an attempt to add some sweetness and orange flavor.

Brandy is actually bitter and it will spoil the taste of your cocktail. Stick to using brandy in cooking alone.

  1. Orange zest, orange extract, and orange oil

Orange zest, orange extract, and orange oil can be used as triple sec substitutes. They are actually the go-to substitutes when you want to add a non-alcoholic dash of orange to your dish. You can also use orange marmalade or orange juice in cooking recipes that call for triple sec.

I suggest using orange extract if you are watching your calorie intake because it is a low-calorie substitute.  It is made from pure extracts of oranges dissolved in an alcohol base.

You can use orange extract can be used in cooking and also in cocktail recipes. I highly recommend using orange extract in desserts and cakes. It complements the other ingredients perfectly.

Manufacturers make orange oil from orange peels after they extract the juice from them.


Orange oil is expensive compared to the other orange products mostly because the extraction process is tedious. Orange oil can enhance the flavor of dishes that call for triple sec. You can use a small amount when baking your cakes.

Orange zest can also be used to add an orange flavor to dishes. Use it in your cakes and desserts to achieve that amazing flavor.

For every tablespoon of triple sec that a recipe requires, use 1 teaspoon of orange zest, 1 teaspoon of orange extract, or two drops of oil. Your dish will have an amazing orange flavor.

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Triple sec can easily be substituted with any of the recipes we have discussed above. Just pay attention to the details so that you do not mess up your cocktail or dish.

Use grand marnier, Curaçao, Cointreau, and Maraschino in your cocktails. Use brandy, orange zest, orange extract, and orange oil, in cooking, especially in baked goods.

Maraschino, orange extract, and grenadine can be used in both cooking and cocktails for an amazing flavor.

These substitutes will give you results that a very similar to the ones that triple sec gives you. My favorite one is Cointreau because of its rich flavor. However, if you do not have it in hand you can always use one of the other substitutes we have discussed.

Let me know how your dishes and cocktails turn out.

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