A common question we at A Bar Above see come up again and again is this: Can you substitute Grand Marnier for Cointreau? Are they interchangeable?


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The answers are yes and no. While Cointreau and Grand Marnier aren’t the same style of orange liqueur and therefore aren’t exactly interchangeable, you can still make substitutions if necessary– with some small adjustments.



We’ve talked a lot about the difference between these two orange liqueurs and triple sec in general, since it’s a somewhat confusing topic.

It basically comes down to this: Grand Marnier is made from cognac and is heavier and sweeter; Cointreau is made from a neutral spirit and is lighter and slightly less sweet. They are both orange liqueurs, however.

If you’re curious about all the differences between Grand Marnier vs Cointreau, make sure to check out our other articles about how they’re made and how each is generally used in cocktails. There’s lots of good info here if you want to get geeky with us.


1. popular cocktail of classic margarita recipe with 1 ounce orange liqueur and simple syrup and 1 ounce lime juice on a bar with cocktail shaker set

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OK, now let’s get down to the good stuff: Cocktails… Specifically Margaritas! Honestly, there aren’t a ton of mixed drinks that use only Grand Marnier instead regular triple sec. You’ve probably heard of the Cadillac Margarita, which uses both Cointreau as the mixed-in sweetener and Grand Marnier as a floating shot (and extra sweetener).

But can you make a Margarita with just Grand Marnier as the sweetener instead of using Cointreau (or generic triple sec) at all? Well, it may not be common, but we’re doing it today!

First, let’s look at a classic Margarita recipe for comparison:

  • 2 ounce Blanco Tequila (AKA silver tequila)
  • 1 ounce Cointreau triple sec
  • 1 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 Salt for Rim of Glass (Optional– Use a coarse salt like kosher salt)
  • 3-4 Additional Lime Slices for Garnish


margarita with 2 ounces silver tequila and 1 ounces fresh lime juice with dipped rim in salt

Photo courtesy of DesignPickle/stock.adobe.com



Below is our recipe for a Margarita with Grand Marnier for when that’s all you have on hand.

From our in-house bartender, Rob Harrah, this recipe changes with the addition of Grand Marnier in a couple of ways:

  • First, it brings a little more weight and ABV to the cocktail, which is why I dropped it from your traditional ¾ oz to ½ oz. I didn’t have to adjust much else because this cocktail already has a fair amount of brightness and acidity to help offset the Grand Marnier.
  • Second, the mouthfeel of this cocktail does not change much at all. You do get a nice depth of flavor from the cognac and the orange that elevates the cocktail a bit more. While it still offers a complex flavor and golden color, it’s not quite as rich as the Cadillac Margarita, though, since you don’t have both orange-flavored liqueurs.

OK, so what do you think? Let us know in the comments how you like it or how you make the perfect Margarita.

Margarita cocktail in rocks glass with cocktail shaker and alcohol jigger

Margarita Recipe with Grand Marnier

A twist on the Cadillac Margarita using only Grand Marnier-- no Cointreau!
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Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 people
Author: Chris Tunstall


  • 2 ounce Blanco Tequila
  • 1 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
  • 0.5 ounce Grand Marnier
  • 0.25 ounce Agave Nectar
  • 1 Salt for Rim of Glass (Optional-- Use a coarse salt like kosher salt)
  • 3-4 Additional Lime Slices for Garnish


  •  If you're using salt, rim classic Margarita glass or rocks glass by running a lime wedge around the edge and then dipping it in salt.
  • Fill your glass a with ice cubes and set the prepared glass aside.
  • In a cocktail shaker with ice, add tequila, triple sec, and lime juice.
  • Shake well and double-strain into the prepared cocktail glass with ice and salt rim. Garnish with lime wheel.