The Best Orange Liqueur for Great Margaritas


Want to know the best orange liqueur for margaritas? Orange liqueur is requisite ingredient for making a tasty margarita recipe. From the classic Triple Sec, to the more luxurious Grand Marnier, we’ll help you find your favorite orange liqueur so you can make a perfect margarita each and every time.

Different bottles of orange liqueur on a table to be used for making margaritas.
Orange liqueur is an essential ingredient for making margaritas.

Why Use Orange Liqueur in a Margarita Recipe

Orange liqueur is crucial in a margarita. It brings a burst of sweetness and hit of subtle orange flavor to the mix. This citrusy liqueur complements the tangy fresh lime juice and good tequila, resulting in a perfectly balanced cocktail.

The orange liqueur helps to smooth out the tequila making a margarita totally sippable and delicious even if tequila isn’t your favorite liquor.

Orange liqueur adds depth and complexity to a margarita, taking it from ordinary to extraordinary. You can also use it in other classic cocktail recipes which means it won’t just sit around on your bar. 

Related: 3-Ingredient Margarita Recipe

There are many orange-flavored liqueurs to choose from. And the one you choose will depend on several factors.

Are you worried about the cost? Do you want something that is premium quality? Do you love the flavor of a specific brand? You can make a good margarita from any of them.

But if you want to come up with your signature margarita, you’ll need to figure out what the best orange liqueur is. 

Triple Sec is the popular liqueur for a margarita but if you are looking for alternatives to Triple Sec, read on. Grab your cocktail shaker, the perfect margarita is just a shake away. 

NOTE: We always suggest you use what you have first before buying tons of new ingredients. So we think the best orange liqueur may be the one that is currently on your home bar. 

Top Orange Liqueurs for Margaritas

No matter what orange liqueur you use, you’ll end up with a well-balanced, delicious margarita. Try to taste these on their own whenever you can to see if a specific bottle or brand jumps out at you.

While you typically don’t sip orange liqueur on its own, taking a sip let’s you see what it’s bringing to the margarita table. If margaritas are your favorite cocktail, knowing the flavor variation of orange liqueur is essential for figuring out how you like to drink and make them. 

NOTE: As we are not cocktail experts (we just LOVE a good margarita), this review is top level and not intended to share the nuances of the entire category or liquor. 

The most important thing to remember when choosing the best orange liqueur is your personal preference.

These first 3 bottles are our favorite orange liqueurs. We would consider these the best orange liqueurs based on ease of purchase, price range and the flavors they bring to the recipe. They’re the most popular and easy to find no matter where you like to buy your drink supplies.

I will note pricing under each option. All pricing is based on the 750 ml-sized bottles for comparison purposes and are from Total Wine (unless it’s not available there).

Triple Sec

A bottle of Triple Sec on a table next to a fresh orange and bowl of limes and lemons.

Triple Sec is essentially a category of orange liqueur. It’s produced by various distilleries and made from sugar can alcohol.

The neutral spirits base is combined with orange peels and sugar giving it the sweet and vibrant orange flavor.

Triple Sec is known for its affordability and versatility, making it a popular choice among cocktail lovers. It’s great for making other classic cocktails like a Cosmopolitan, Side Car or a Long Island Iced Tea.

It’s 20% – 40% alcohol so make sure to read the bottle.

There are many Triple Sec brands on the market. Often you’ll see DeKuyper or even a store-brand option at your local grocery store and it’s usually on or near the bottom shelf.

Triple Sec tends to be less expensive making it a good choice if your are making margaritas for a party. The light flavor pairs well with blanco tequila and makes a great margarita that you will always enjoy. 

Finding the best Triple Sec isn’t something I would spend a lot of time on. I have yet to come across one that is not drinkable, especially when mixed in a margarita.

A traditional margarita, made with Triple Sec and a salt rim is always going to be delicious. 

Estimated price: $8.99 – $16


Bottle of Cointreau on a table next to a bowl of citrus fruit.

Cointreau is a premium French orange liqueur produced by the Cointreau family.

This orange liqueur is made using a blend of sweet and bitter orange peels, resulting in a slightly more sophisticated and well-balanced flavor profile than Triple Sec.

Cointreau is known for its crystal-clear appearance and smooth texture, making it a go-to choice for those seeking a refined margarita experience.

Cointreau comes in a nice looking bottle that looks great on a bar cart. It’s a little bit fancier (the bottle is super pretty and the price is higher) than Triple Sec so if you feel like you want quality over quantity, this might be the orange liqueur for you.

The flavor is of sweet oranges (like candied orange peel) but gives you the perfect balance in a margarita. I feel like Cointreau has a little bit more real orange flavor than Triple Sec which is why I prefer to keep this on hand at home.

Estimated price: $34

Grand Marnier

Bottle of Grand Marnier on a table next to a bowl of citrus and an orange.

Grand Marnier is a luxurious orange liqueur created by the Marnier-Lapostolle family. But it can’t truly be an apples to apples comparison because it also has a little bit of cognac.

This orange liqueur combines cognac with bitter orange essence and sugar, resulting in a rich and velvety orange flavor. It’s more complex (think caramel like notes) and also has a little bit of a different mouth feel (thicker and velvety).

Grand Marnier is aged in oak casks, which adds even more interest to its taste. It is often considered a premium upgrade to traditional margaritas.

Grand Marnier is what you reach for when making a Cadillac margarita. Because of the cognac, the flavor is richer, still sweet, but really adds an extra layer of flavor to a margarita. You can use it in place of Triple Sec in the recipe or serve as a float on top of the drink. 

The cognac base pairs nicely with reposado tequila, which is also aged in barrels.

Grand Marnier is a little more showy and feels more sophisticated. It can be a little more expensive than the other options. I wouldn’t use Grand Marnier in all of my margaritas based on price and flavor. But you might. 

I save the Cadillac Margaritas for special occasions at restaurants. They end up with a little bit more alcohol in them thanks to the float of orange liqueur goodness on top.

Estimated price: $29 (This one is usually a little bit more expensive than Cointreau so I’m not sure if this price is a fluke or if I should run and buy some).

Lesser-Known Orange Liqueurs for Margaritas

A bottle of Bauchant orange liqueur for margaritas.

While Triple Sec, Cointreau, and Grand Marnier are the most popular choices, there are other lesser-known orange liqueurs that can add unique flavors to your margaritas.

We did a taste test with Bauchant. Bauchant is another orange liqueur that also has cognac and this one also has a touch of honey. It was sweet and citrusy and complex like Grand Marnier. Suzy liked the flavor on its own which tracks because she typically likes sweeter things. Estimated price: $28

Some options include Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, Combier Liqueur d’Orange, and Mandarine Napoléon.

And if you browse the Total Wine site you will see even more options!


If you find yourself without orange liqueur, you can still make a damn tasty margarita. Essentially you want to find something that brings that slightly bitter, citrusy goodness to your margarita.

Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao is something else you could use in place of orange liqueur. Curacao isn’t technically an orange liqueur (it’s sweeter) but can be used. Same with Blue Curacao. Look for a “dry” version which will be closer to Triple Sec.

Try using fresh orange juice, orange zest or peel, or even a splash of orange bitters to achieve a similar flavor profile. You may need to add some simple syrup or agave syrup if you use one of these substitutions.

A few drops of orange extract would really amp up the flavor. Make sure to dilute it with water and use a little bit, adding more as needed. You will also likely need to add in some simple syrup to balance things.

Make an orange simple syrup. This would give you concentrated flavor and sweetness without any alcohol.

You can use an orange-flavored drink syrup. Amoretti, Torani and Monin all make a variety of orange flavored syrups that would add orange flavor and sweetness to a margarita. It wouldn’t make it quite as boozy as the traditional recipe, and would likely make your drink sweeter but would work in a pinch.

You can use orange flavored vodka. And I’ve also seen orange flavored tequila that might give you the citrus flavor you need.

Try using other types of liqueur. You may lose the orange flavor but you can add other flavors. Limoncello (lemon), St. Germain (elderflower), Chambord (black raspberry) will all add sweetness plus other fruity notes.

You can also just leave it out. Leaving out the orange liqueur makes your margarita “skinnier” as it reduces the amount of sugar in the drink. Here’s our skinny margarita recipe without orange liqueur.

Our Picks

  • SUZY prefers Grand Marnier
  • SHARON enjoys Cointreau

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use orange liqueur in non-alcoholic margarita recipes?

Orange liqueur is typically 30% – 40% alcohol so you wouldn’t want to use it in a non-alcoholic drink. Lyre’s makes a non-alcoholic orange liqueur that you can use.

Is orange liqueur high in sugar?

Yes, orange liqueur is very high in sugar.

Are there any low-sugar orange liqueur options available?

I coudn’t find low-sugar orange liquere but did find a sugar free syrup made to taste like Triple Sec that might work for you. Be sure to check labels to make sure it aligns with your dietary preferences.

Can I make my own orange liqueur at home?

Certainly! Making your own orange liqueur is a fun DIY project. There are numerous recipes available online to guide you through the process. You can make a basic triple sec or a Grand Marnier! My hair stylist raves about a homemade Grand Marnier a friend of her family makes each year. It’s would be great for gift giving!

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