July 14th is National Grand Marnier Day, a day to honor France’s first, and most exported, liqueur. Grand Marnier is a triple sec liqueur: first it is distilled, then an orange peel is added to flavor the alcohol. Cointreau was the first triple sec — invented in France in 1849, it inspired a number of imitations including Grand Marnier. Today’s celebrated liqueur was Invented in 1880 and is still manufactured by the Marnier-Lapostoll family. Sold worldwide, the liqueur is often consumed “neat” and also provides flavor for many desserts, cocktails, flambé dishes, and sauces. A selection of varieties offers buyers several price points to choose from depending on their need. North Americans are most familiar with Cordon Rouge (“Red Ribbon”) Grand Marnier, which is usually taken “neat”, but the lowest quality Cordon Jaune (“Yellow Ribbon”), which is sometimes used for mixed drinks and cooking, can be found in some international airports and European countries. The true connoisseur may seek out Cuvée du Centenaire (“Centennial Edition”), which consists of 25-year-old fine cognacs and retails at about $145 per bottle, or the “hard to find, impossible to pronounce, and prohibitively expensive” Cuvée Speciale Cent Cinquantenaire (Grand Marnier 150), which is made with 50-year-old cognacs sealed within custom glass bottles for a whopping sum of approximately $220.
Until today my only experience with Grand Marnier came in the form of tiny chocolate-covered liquers. I love liquer candy and find it particularly difficult to resist around the winter holidays. It’s a little ironic, considering my palate’s disdain for most liquor, but maybe the chocolate adds a magic touch. The Grand Marnier pieces have always been one of my favoirites, right up there with Malibu Rum sweets. Yum. I suppose it’s possible that I’ve had Grand Marnier in a cocktail at some point — it’s often used in common drinks like Cosmopolitans, Margaritas, and Sidecars. With those sweet drinks and the delicious candies in mind, I decided to stay open-minded about today’s alcohol-laden “unofficial”.