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Mixology Monday: Today’s Flavor is Orange, a...

Mixology Monday: Today’s Flavor is Orange, and Orange Means Cointreau—UPDATED

Mixology Monday 18
So this month we speak of Orange. The writer in me just loves the word Orange in and of itself. It is a color, it is a flavor, it is a thing. It is quite literally a Floor Wax and a Dessert Topping! Oh, and it rhymes with nothing at all. It is such an exotic word to be found on your breakfast table each morning and in the western sky most evenings.
Orange is an excellent choice for a MxMo, because it is so common an element in cocktails.

Really?!? People use orange-flavored things in cocktails?
By Jove, you are some kind of genius researcher to figure that out….

Hey, I’m waxing poetic here! Butt in on another post.

Fine, I’ll just piss off then, shall I?

You do that!
OJAnyway, this month’s theme reminds me that the first cocktail, mixed drink really, that I ever had was a Screwdriver. I’m betting it was the first for a lot of you, too. From Screwdrivers, I learned early on how well Oranges go with liquor. They are sweet and sour; that’s two elements of the classic cocktail formulation all by themselves. And something about the essence of Oranges softens the impact of spirits, even in small doses. I learned one other thing, in that long ago day. It isn’t really germane to this month’s MxMo theme, but I’ll put it here anyway: Not all Vodkas (and by extension, other spirits) are as good as others. Even the magic power of Orange juice cannot make a Screwdriver made with Popov’s taste as good as one made with Smirnoff’s.
I cannot remember the last time I actually had a Screwdriver. But I honor its memory often at Brunch-time with a tasty Mimosa. Here’s the standard recipe for the Mimosa:

Mimosa Recipe #1:
Fill one champagne flute two-thirds full of decent champagne.
Float a generous splash of fresh-squeezed Orange juice on top.

But in practice, I usually go with this one:

Mimosa Recipe #2:
Turn slightly in chair.
Ask waiter for Mimosa.

The Good StuffSo, with that diversion out of the way, let’s talk about something very important to my modern mixological mojo: Cointreau, the King of Orange Liqueurs. Why is Cointreau so important? First and foremost, Cointreau is one of the named ingredients in the most high and exalted paragon of recipes. (Cue choir. You may bow.) If you are new to this blog and my particular obsession, check the link (or the top of the page) to see to what I allude. Second, Cointreau is a featured ingredient in most of my other regular drinks, especially my Cosmo, my Kamikaze, and my new addition to the line-up, the Corpse Reviver #2. In short, if I’m out of Cointreau, I’m likely to be drinking wine!
So what is Cointreau? It is an liqueur made from Curaçao Oranges in a formulation as secret and more old than Coca-Cola’s. Anytime I see a recipe that contains the words Triple Sec or Curaçao, I automatically substitute Cointreau. Cointreau is a Triple Sec, but Triple Sec is not Cointreau. My newly acquired book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, has this to say about Cointreau:

…before Prohibition, the Cointreau bottle still read Cointreau Triple Sec. The Liqueur was not only the first triple sec, it’s how the term was coined. … The premium liqueur has long since transcended the category, but that’s how it started out… the first and best triple sec.

I can’t find the link now, and I’ve wasted a day looking, but I recently read someone’s evaluation of Cointreau as being too expensive for how much better it is than regular curaçao. But the poster still uses it because it is so much better! Let’s just leave aside the Adam Smith in me who wants to scream, If you keep buying and using it, then you have by definition decided that it is properly valued! Just because it is expensive, doesn’t mean it is too expensive. The point is that if you want to make a chair, what are you going to make it out of, Knotty Pine or Live Oak?
To me, Cointreau is the easiest no-brainer upgrade you can make to a drink’s ingredients. Save the triple sec for Long Island Iced Tea, and go buy a bottle of the good stuff. Besides, now that you have entered the Pegu Blog Vortex, you’ll need it for all the Pegus you’ll be making in the future! (You will be drinking Pegus, right?)

Hey! I thought the point of Mixology Monday is to present a new cocktail, not just ramble on about ingredients!

I thought you were going to piss off.

I did, but I’ve pissed back. Listen, ingredients are all well and good, but think you can find it in your heart to tell us something new to do with them?

Point taken.
OK, lets talk about another cocktail I make a lot, for both my mother and my wife, the Stinger. Now, I can hear a few of you scratching your heads, as the traditional Stinger formulations are nothing more than 2-4 parts brandy or Cognac to 1 part white creme de menthe–No Cointreau or related elixir to be found. That is true, but I make what I call the Ritz-Carlton Stinger. Lost in the mists of time, a bartender at the Ritz on Amelia Island taught me to build a Stinger like this:

THE RITZ CARLTON STINGER

  • 3 parts Cognac
  • 1 part White Creme de Menthe
  • 1 part Cointreau

Shake well over ice and strain into a martini glass.
Garnish with a sprig of mint.

A little sweeter than the original, but a whole lot smoother and more complex. I would still call it a Stinger, since it retains the essential character of the original. Or at least so I’m told by those for whom I mix them…. I personally can’t stand Creme de Menthe! If this variation is too sweet for you, back off the Cointreau to a half or even a splash. It will still add a little something to the character and depth of this simple but enduring cocktail. I call it the Ritz-Carlton Stinger because I learned it there, and Maggi has been served it this way, without prompting, in at least three different Ritz lobby bars. If it is a corporate thing, I’ve not been told so. Anyone know?

As an aside, if you want a nice, quiet, plush bar, with a bartender capable of talking mixology, and with the time to do so, drop in to your local Ritz-Carlton in the early evening, chances are real good you’ll find exactly what you are looking for. If you find one where they know how to make Pegu… well chances are that I’ve already stayed there!

UPDATE: Since putting this up, I’ve grown more curious about what others’ first booze drink of choice was. I appreciate it if you’d take a moment to post what yours was in the comments! (I’m guessing most will say Rum and Coke, Jack and Coke, or Screwdriver. Prove me right, or wrong!)


  1. hi doug, thanks for letting me know my trackback feature’s screwy, i’ll work on that.

    hey, you forgot to give me your zodiac sign!!!

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  2. First drink of choice: a Black Russian. I think it must have been recommended by the bartender — this was at a frat party. Black Russians remained my favored cocktail for that whole school year. I can’t remember the last time I had one though….

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  3. jason

    30 October

    First cocktail:

    If we are talking happy hour well drinks, and the bar has Mrs. T’s sour mix on hand, it is a whiskey sour, otherwise it’s a gin and tonic.

    For bars that offer more selection, an Old Fashion is nice as they are a pain to make at home. This is a drink that has a lot of variation in how it’s made though. Not sure I have ever had it made the same way twice, even when at the same bar but with different bartenders.

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  4. Doug

    31 October

    I’ve been getting into Old Fashioneds myself, though I actually prefer to make them myself at home. (Simple syrup takes it from a pain in the ass to dead simple to make)

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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