Grand Marnier is a French liqueur that Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle invented in 1880. It is a mixture of real cognac, sugar syrup, spices and dried bitter orange peels from the orange species called “Citrus Bigaradia. The blend is slowly aged in oak vats from six to eight months.
This multi-awarded liqueur is still produced by the same French family and holds the distinction of being the first liqueur exported from France and is considered the most exported product, sold in over 150 countries worldwide.
Grand Marnier comes in several varieties:
- Cordon Jaune or Yellow Ribbon/Label is considered the lowest grade of Grand Marnier but still quite rare in North America. It is mostly sold in some international airports and in Europe and mainly used for cocktails and cooking such as the French Yule Log (Bûche Nöel), Crêpes Suzette, cranberry sauce and Créme Brûlée.
- Cordon Rouge or Red Label/Ribbon is the most common and its preparation is the same as the original one. This is taken as a dinner drink, used in cooking and various mixed drinks.
- Cuvée Speciale Cent Cinquantenaire or Grand Marnier 150 Special Edition is the rarest and most expensive. It uses half a century old cognac and sealed in hand-finished and hand-painted frosted glass bottles.
- Cuvée du Centenaire or Centennial Edition was initially released in 1927. This is meant to be drunk neat. The production technique is the same as Cordon Rouge with the substitution of a quarter of a century year old Cognac. It is one of the more expensive varieties.
Rare and expensive as they are, you can still make your own homemade version of this highly-regarded liqueur with a few ingredients and some time. Here are some recipes:
- 1/3 cup of orange zest (Seville oranges will be the best for this but any type of oranges can also be used)
- ½ cup of granulated sugar
- 2 cups cognac (French brandy will also do)
- In a small bowl, combine the sugar and the orange zest until all the sugar is absorbed by the zest. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mash them together. A very clean mortar and pestle will work fine.
- Place your mashed ingredients in a sterilized jar and add the cognac.
- Stir the mixture and cap the jar tightly. Age the mix for 2 to 3 months in a cool, dark place and shake it once a month.
- Strain and filter the mixture after the initial aging. Continue filtering until all solid particles are strained.
- Stir using a wooden spoon and pour the mixture in another sterilized jar. Cap tightly and continue aging for another three months.
- 2 1/2 cups vodka
- One cup brandy
- One vanilla bean
- Four firm, medium oranges
- One cup of white granulated sugar
- ½ cup water
- Peel the oranges and ensure that no white rinds remain. Slice the oranges into strips.
- Pour the brandy and vodka into the sterilized jar. Add the vanilla bean and the orange strips.
- Place in a cool, dark area in your kitchen or pantry and leave it for three weeks.
- After three weeks, strain and filter the mixture until no solid particles remain.
- Make sugar syrup by boiling the water and granulated sugar over low heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Allow the syrup to cool before adding it to the alcohol and orange mix.
- Do a second aging for another four weeks before serving.
Straining the mixture to remove all the bits and pieces of solid ingredients takes time. As you know, alcohol evaporates so you have to be patient and careful. Use coffee filters for straining and cover the jars while you are you are doing this to prevent alcohol evaporation.