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Imagen Interview with Alfred Cointreau: “The only limit when you create a cocktail is your mind”

Interview with Alfred Cointreau: “The only limit when you create a cocktail is your mind”

Coctelería Creativa

Cointreau created the category of orange liqueur (triple sec) and remains as an essential ingredient in the development of classic and modern cocktails. Alfred Cointreau is part of the 6th generation of the family. Born in 1986, since a child he was surrounded of aromas, textures, oranges of course and experiences related with this passionate world.

 

CREATE

Why did you decide to keep on in the family business?
I decided to enter the family business almost three years ago (2011). Like all of my cousins, brothers and sisters I know the brand very well because we grew up with her. I say “her” because for me Cointreau is a beautiful young lady. We grew up with this beautiful brand our whole life. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather talking about business, cocktail recipes but also cars and boats. Just like in any normal grandfather-grandson relationship! I then realized that nobody in the family wanted to work in the company after the 4th generation. For a young lady like Cointreau I thought it was a pity to leave her after 165 years. So I decided to fully live this beautiful family adventure and today I have just one regret, that I didn’t come earlier.

What does it mean for you to have a surname with such tradition?
I am very proud and honored to be part of this beautiful legacy that exists since 1849. Having my name on every Cointreau bottle produced and distributed around the world also represents a big motivation and a "positive pressure" as I feel I need to deliver and contribute to the Cointreau history as much as I can.
Even though my name is quite known, I am always very surprised with the very welcoming reactions of every bartender, journalist and sales team that I meet around the world. 

If Cointreau were a person, how would you describe it?
That is a very interesting question. I think Cointreau would be a woman, a beautiful and charismatic woman. A very elegant lady, who appreciates the finer things and loves to drink delightful Cointreau cocktail. 

Which is your favorite place to enjoy a cocktail with Cointreau?
I am lucky that my job allows me to visit the best bars in the world. Bitters and Love in Singapore, The Buddha Bar in Paris or Limantour in Mexico are a few examples. In those places I have had the chance to meet the most talented bartenders of the world who create the best Cointreau cocktails just for me. But if I have to choose one place, I think it would probably be my Grandmother’s bar in her house, which is not far from Angers, the birthplace of Cointreau. It is in this bar that I started to learn, and where my passion for beverage mixing started. It is one of the smallest rooms of the house, yet when families usually like to spend time in the living room, the Cointreau family spends time in their bar… 

Have you created a signature cocktail with your brand? Tell us about the creation process.
The last drink I created was when I came back from Chile. I wanted to create an original twist of Cointreau Fizz when I did my welcome back party with few friends. I wanted to create a good drink, original and easy to mixt. I injected 5 cl of Cointreau in Chilian chilies. I put it 40min at 40°C in the oven. During the party I just cut the tail of the chili to pour the Cointreau infused in a glass full of ice. I added the juice of half a lime and sparkling water. I garnished it with the head of the chili pepper. Easy, well balanced and original, as usual, it was an awesome party at home. 

Which are the signature cocktails with Cointreau of known bartenders that you have enjoyed the most in the last years?
The signature cocktail that I appreciate the most is the Cointreau Fizz. It is a vintage recipe, from the fifties, created by Jean Lupio, a French bartender. This recipe is very easy, 5cl of Cointreau, the juice of half a lime in a glass full of ice and you top it up with sparkling water. This classic recipe is just the beginning though, you can create any type of twist around it. Everywhere I went last year, bartenders twisted the Cointreau Fizz with local and seasonal ingredients. I tasted very good, I had creation with cucumber, basil, pepinos, etc… 

INNOVATION

We will see any surprise of the brand in 2014?
With Cointreau Fizz you will discover a lot of surprises with very nice and good signature drinks behind bars. In Duty Free sections of airports we also started to launch Cointreau Noir – a blend of 70% of Cointreau’s sweet and bitter orange peel liqueur with 30% of Cognac, exclusively from Fine Champagne with a touch of maceration of wallnuts and almonds. 

Which are the most important countries for the brand?
The most important country today for Cointreau is the birthplace of cocktails, the USA. Louis Cointreau, my great grandfather found an illegal way during the Prohibition, to distribute Cointreau throughout the United States. That’s why a lot of people started to mix Cointreau to create illegal cocktails recipes in the US. After the Prohibition Cointreau stayed in minds of the American community. Today when I meet a good American bartender, he usually tells me that he can’t work without Cointreau behind his bar. Because Cointreau is the best orange liqueur and the Original Triple-Sec. 

Are you interested in a particular country?
Each country is really nice, with a specific culture, with different ways of drinking and with different climates. I usually always find the positive things and nice people in all countries where I travel. But one of my favorite cultures is the South American one. 

How do you see the Spanish and Latin American markets about Cointreau?
With Spain we have a very good relation and we have worked together almost since the beginning of Cointreau.  With South America it is a younger market for Cointreau. But it is one of the emerging regions that represent a priority for the brand. We work with an excellent local distributor who knows the culture perfectly well, the wine and spirits world and with a good bar culture. 

What was your impression about the mixology issue in Latin America? At what level do you see them? Can you tell a big difference between the major cocktail capitals as London or New York?
The cocktail culture is young in Latin America but it’s already present. In the beginning, this region had an excellent know how regarding tequila, mescal, rum, pisco… But they weren’t cocktail drinkers, they preferred to drink these products separately. In the 21st century, information goes faster and it’s easier for people to travel more. The cocktail culture follows that and spreads out more and more, and eventually to Latin America. What is interesting though, is that the bartenders aren’t simply copying American or English cocktails recipes. They are working with local and exotic ingredients and twisting the recipes, inventing their own codes. I visited a couple of very nice bars and met good bartenders. I think that in 3 to 5 years, countries like Mexico, Argentina or Chile for example will have a huge place in cocktails communities. 

What do you think those markets need (continuing about Latin America) to be at the same level as cities with such mixology tradition?
They need more knowledge and to know about products like Cointreau for instance. I think it is the role of well-known brands like us to help young bartenders’ communities. But I think this region already has everything, maybe more than other countries because they have a native creativity combined with an exotic climate with very nice ingredients. 

How do you see the mixology scene in Spain?
The mixology in Spain is very well advanced. With English influence especially, different regions in Spain have their own cocktail approach. I think today the Spanish cocktail culture is better than the French cocktail culture.                                                                

Is there or have you ever thought in an extension line with Cointreau? For example, a drier Cointreau or a Bergamot, Yuzu, etc. Cointreau?
Cointreau is the best orange liqueur. It was perfected after a trip all around the world and 10 years of research. During those 10 years Edouard Cointreau, my great, great Grandfather worked to find the good proportions of sweet and bitter orange peels and the right way to distill them. The recipe has never changed since, it is always the same delicate flavors and well balance aromas. I think Edouard perfected something unique, something perfect with Cointreau and is difficult to do better and a pity to change it. We work on old fruit liqueur recipes or more on innovation with our master distiller. But the Cointreau recipe is the same and I personally will make sure that it doesn’t change. 

SHARE

What is your favorite cocktail with Cointreau?
That is a difficult question. I think that it depends on what time of the day it is, on my mood, of the context, etc…For example before lunch, a White Lady with Cointreau and Gin to open the appetite is good. After lunch, I like having Cointreau on ice. For a romantic dinner, a Cointreaupolitan. At a party with friends, a Margarita with Cointreau and tequila… Each context has an appropriate drink. I think the better way to ask this question is: if you die tomorrow, what would be your last drink? 

Which recommendation would you give to our community about how to enjoy Cointreau?
Associate Cointreau with local and seasonal fruits! It is very important to work with the richness of your countries. Do not import too much fresh fruits because in the end we will find the same type of drinks, with the same flavors all around the world!
Never put too much ingredients, 3 or 4 is good – Cointreau, fresh lime, sparkling water with passion fruit for example is enough.
Lastly, be creative as Edouard Cointreau was creative when he perfected the Cointreau recipe. The only limit when you create a cocktail is your mind… 

We know you've worked behind a bar. How was the experience?
This experience was really good. I understood a lot behind the bar but also on the other side of the bar. Today it is not my first objective in my job to be a bartender. But when I have the occasion to jump behind the bar, I always love it. 

Any upcoming projects you want to share?
Cointreau Fizz is one of our main project today and for the next years. It is really exciting because we are at the beginning and a lot of interesting things still have to be done. Recipes development, digital activations, parties with bartenders, journalists or consumers… There are a lot of new challenges for Cointreau and I love that. 

What is your favorite classic cocktail?
When you have the chance to work for a brand that bears your name, it is something unique. But also a lot of people think I drink just Cointreau or cocktails with a Cointreau base and that is it. Of course not. I love old fashioned style cocktails that aren’t necessarily sweet, with a brown spirit base, bitter flavors, very heavy, and with a beautiful finish. 

If you have to choose a cocktail without Cointreau, which one would it be and why?
It depends on where I am and what time it is. Every moment of the day has an appropriate cocktail. You have 1440 minutes in 24 hours that means you have 1440 different ways to drink. With Cointreau you have more than 350 classical recipes that could help you.

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