From visiting orange groves in Ghana to calculating the weight of the stills at the distillery, testing new peel varieties in the laboratory to demonstrating the organoleptic qualities of the liqueur to mixologists and distributors around the world... The responsibilities of Cointreau’s Master Distiller are multiple.
As Cointreau’s “nose,” Carole Quinton is the guardian of the brand’s age-old expertise, gustatory memory, and eternal signature. Like a temple keeper, she safeguards the original characteristics introduced by Édouard Cointreau.
As Master Distiller, Carole Quinton is the sixth generation to vouch for Cointreau’s inimitable flavor and unique savoir-faire. A feat of balance, authenticity, and aromatic richness, the recipe has been both preserved and reinvented since its creation.
“My main goal is to perpetuate the original flavor of Cointreau liqueur, the one created by Édouard Cointreau.” Carole Quinton, Master Distiller
Cointreau know how
It all starts at the source. Sweet and bitter oranges peels are the quintessence of Cointreau, and the Master Distiller’s first mission is to select orange peels based on their aromatic qualities
But like every crop, quality varies from year to year and place to place, and the subtleties are important. To ensure we use only the best, each new lot and producer is carefully audited and tested every year.
Orange trees are also sensitive to their terroir. Carole Quinton builds close relationships with growers and oversees the implementation of extremely rigorous standards. Planting, flowering, pruning, treating, watering, picking, peeling, drying... Orange grove management and harvesting is second nature to her. Carole then carries out an unforgiving selection, keeping only the finest peels.
Peeling & Drying
The peeling and drying process is an exercise in meticulous manual labor.
Each orange is peeled by hand using traditional techniques to achieve a precise shape and thickness. Bitter oranges are pared into single ribbons while sweet oranges are sliced into four-quarter segments. The peels are then sun dried for three to five days, depending on the crop and the climate, until they reach a moisture content of 11%.
Quality orange peels and essences are key, but it’s the artful way in which they’re mixed that makes them truly exceptional.
The primary concern for Édouard Cointreau, his descendants, and all Master Distillers since has been maintaining the same final quality of the liqueur, the perfect balance between the taste of sweet and bitter oranges essences. Today, their proportions are meticulously adjusted according to variations in each lot to achieve this precise balance.
The distillation ritual begins at sundown in the alembics hall.
This is a delicate process that has evolved over time, while still remaining true to its creator’s original intentions. Column copper stills are filled with a precise quantity of sweet and bitter orange peels, alcohol, sugar, and water. The dry sweet and bitter orange peels are rehydrated in the stills to release their essences. By morning, the process is completed and distillation can begin. This is an important and technical part of the process in which a distillate is extracted, keeping only the “heart,” or the strongest aromatic notes.
Under the Master Distiller’s supervision, Cointreau operators “drive” these special alembics: They precisely set the speed of distillation, temperature, reflux, distillate rate, and more. Once again, the human touch is a key element in the process, with all senses coming into play: touch to assess the heat of the boiler, hearing and sight to stay alert to the steam buildup in the tank and pressure inside the column, and smell to monitor the olfactory evolution of the distillation. Finally, there is the all-important sense of taste, to check the quality of the liqueur.
The excellence of Cointreau lies not only in the rigorous production process, but also in the creativity of the original recipe.
First, there is the complexity and richness of the aromas. Édouard Cointreau had the ingenious idea to utilize the orange in all its forms. His blend of fresh and dried , bitter and sweet created an unprecedented and distinctive aromatic balance.
Then, there is the alcohol. To accomplish his goal, Édouard selected a neutral, transparent, and pure alcohol for distillation in order to capture the peels’ essences without distorting, concealing, or masking their scents. And it was an absolute success: He was able to create a crystalline liqueur three times more concentrated in flavor than other orange liqueurs made at the time.
Lastly, his recipe was revolutionary for its low sugar content, an ingredient that was often added to cover up bitterness and flaws in distillation.
Following on from Édouard, Carole Quinton now ensures that the inimitable flavor of Cointreau’s liqueur is maintained.
When it comes to quality, no corner is cut.
The dedicated Cointreau Quality Control Team oversees every step of the process, from ingredient reception to the final product. Once the liquid is created, a professional team of 70 trained judges from the Cointreau distillery checks daily productions and give their stamp of approval to those that are faithful, in every way, to Édouard’s original recipe, a tradition perpetuated since his time. Then and only then can the liqueur be poured into its signature square bottle.
Édouard Cointreau felt that a good product was nothing without a strong visual identity. His stroke of genius was to present his crystalline liqueur in a distinctive square amber bottle, an inspiration drawn from the world of women’s perfume and a revolutionary aesthetic for his era.
The Cointreau bottle was strategically designed to be easily identifiable, but it wasn’t just a question of branding. Each part of the bottle carries meaning, too. The four sides symbolize the four ingredients of the liqueur—orange essences, water, alcohol, sugar—as well as the four corners of the world, reflecting the brand’s global sourcing and international expansion goals. The copper cap is a nod to the historic alembics found in the Cointreau distillery, the red ribbon and seal a guarantee of quality, the label an evolving display of awards won, and the handwritten signature of Édouard’ Cointreau blown into the glass an homage to its creator.
Today, every batch of Cointreau meets its bottle in Angers, the brand’s only distillery in the world.
THE ART OF DISTILLATION
THE ART OF MIXOLOGY
It’s official: Mixology has become an art form and the world can’t get enough. Whether enjoyed at sleek Scandinavian counters, in a comfy living room in Buenos Aires, in buzzing nightclubs in Shanghai, or at a restored Chicago speakeasy—savoring a cocktail is an experience.
And Cointreau has proven itself the perfect cocktail complement. From the Sidecar to the Cosmopolitan, the liqueur has been featured in over 500 recipes since its creation, and counting.