Recently we were fortunate enough to meet Alfred Cointreau, great grandson of Edouard Cointreau – sixth generation of the Cointreau family, born in Angers. Alfred still lives in the birthplace of Cointreau – which is only a few short kilometres from the Distillery. Alfred Cointreau, Brand Heritage Manager, travels the world to meet with mixologists, telling his story, that of his ancestors, and above of all, the story of Cointreau which is quite incredible. A prolific creator, Alfred Cointreau enjoys concocting both simple and complex cocktails, always with the idea that each signature must be elegant, knowing that the first sip of a cocktail is taken with the eyes.
When did you discover you had a passion for Cointreau?
Since the beginning, my siblings and I lived this brand. We used to go to our grand-parents’ house regularly and my grandmother taught us how to welcome our friends, our guests. It’s quite natural to be passionate about the brand when you grow up with it and when it is part of your name and heritage. “I was hooked after I made my first Margarita with my grandfather” Alfred recalls. My grandmother was the teacher, she taught us about the appropriate glass to use, drinks to serve to guests. My grandfather was the storyteller, he told us stories about his grandfather, the creator of Cointreau.
What does carrying the Cointreau name mean to you?
We were educated that our name is known all around the world and that we should be very humble and take care of our name. I am very proud to have this name, and it is quite unique working and travelling for a brand that is not just a family business but one that bears your name.
What does a Heritage Manager do at Cointreau?
Alfred started 7 years ago – sharing the history of Cointreau and the stories of Cointreau to people who drink Cointreau, who make cocktails with Cointreau and those who distribute and work on the brand all around the world. “It’s an important role because you are intrinsically connected to the brand and its heritage. When I am not travelling around in the market, I work at the Distillery. I am working on a new project to grow the Cointreau Academy further, especially working on how we can enhance Cointreau experience – to live it, to feel it.” he says. The best way to do that is to visit the distillery of course, to see how it is made, speak with the Master Distiller, Carole Quinton, and really get a feeling of what this unique product is all about.
What are the most innovative ways you have seen Cointreau being drunk?
Today’s bartenders around the world are all very creative. I have seen many passionate bartenders from around the world. In France a few years ago, we created the Cointreau Caviar – small bubbles of Cointreau with a piece of gold inside – it was very creative and beautiful. We gave 1000 of these to bartenders all around the world. The beauty of Cointreau is that even after 150 years, people continue to be inspired to create wonderful drinks with this unique spirit.
What is the most delicious Cointreau cocktail you have ever tried and where was that?
As you can imagine Alfred has tried many cocktails all around the world, but he fondly remembers one specifically at his favourite bar in Mexico where he ordered a Mai Tai. “My 2 friends got their drinks but mine did not arrive. I waited and waited. Ten minutes later my Mai Tai cocktail arrived but this one was very good. A few months later I met the same bartender and he explained he ran to the kitchen to make homemade Orgeat syrup. So that’s why it took so long but this bartender took the time to do it right and that’s why it tasted so extraordinary.” he recalls.
Cointreau is unique, it is made with just 4 ingredients, water, sugar, bitter and sweet orange peels and clear pure alcohol. The colour of Cointreau is crystal clear and to have a clear spirit was unique at the time. Back when Cointreau was created, oranges were considered exotic and rare fruit in Europe, so it was considered a ‘golden fruit’ and therefore often given as a great Christmas gift. “My great-grandfather travelled around the world and found the bitter oranges and the sweet ones. After 10 years of research he perfected the recipe, which had the perfect balance between bitter and sweet orange peels and the recipe has remained unchanged for 150 years,” explains Alfred.
Triple means 3 times more concentrated in orange essence with a selection of the best bitter and sweet orange peels with a special distillation process through column pot stills. Sec means less sugar.
Tell us the one thing about Cointreau that most people don’t know?
The name of Cointreau itself is an anagram of “a true icon”. Everybody knows the brand but not many people know that about Cointreau! Why is it a true icon, it’s an iconic recipe and it’s poured from an iconic bottle. The bottle has 4 sides and can balance perfectly on any of its sides. The bottle represents the 4 ingredients of Cointreau – Water, Bitter & Sweet Orange Peels, Sugar and 40% pure alcohol. Another fact that should not remain unknown… For more than a century, Cointreau liqueur has been recommended by the most renowned cocktail books for its exceptional sensory characteristics. Indeed, over 350 Cointreau-based creations have been documented to date.
What is the one thing you would like Australian Bartenders to know or remember about Cointreau?
Cointreau is still unique, and the superiority of its sensory profile is based on two simple yet complex elements: first, the quality and optimal concentration of orange peel essences. Then, a balance of flavours that fully exalt the aromas. These exceptional qualities established the Cointreau liqueur as a key cocktail ingredient. It can enliven and balance the composition of a cocktail and clearly appear like a must to have.
Who do you think will be drinking Cointreau in 50 years?
The same type of people who drank it 50 years ago and 50 years earlier again. It is for people who want the best. It is a drink that you keep throughout your life.
How would you best describe Cointreau?
Cocktails. French. Pleasure.