De Kuyper Triple Sec Liqueur: Everything You Need To Know

De Kuyper is a legendary Dutch company that has been in business for over 300 years, primarily specializing in finely distilled spirits and carefully crafted liqueurs. De Kuyper's Triple Sec is one of its base bottles, along with other bar staples such as Apricot Brandy, Amaretto, and Blue Curaçao. Essentially, triple sec is an orange liqueur mainly used as a cocktail mixer. Among the triple sec style, which falls into the larger group of orange liqueurs, there are some differences, but the liqueurs are usually made with dried orange peels that are macerated in a neutral base spirit — the spirit is typically made from sugar beet as it stays completely neutral. The base is then distilled and adjusted with sugar, alcohol, and water, resulting in an aromatic, subtly sweet, crystal-clear liqueur with a typical orange flavor and aroma (via Difford's Guide).

Triple sec is a liqueur that can range in alcohol content. As explained on Wine Enthusiast, most examples will fall somewhere between 15% to 40% ABV and the quality will generally depend on the brand. However, it should be mentioned that Difford's Guide states that higher alcohol content is usually a signal of better quality.

Triple sec is a staple at professional and homemade bars. It lends the drinks a signature zesty citrus-like note, which perfectly complements strong spirits such as tequila, gin, or vodka. Mixologists like its versatile character and subtlety, as it will usually not take over a drink but play a crucial supporting role in providing strength and complexity.

The history of De Kuyper Triple Sec dates back centuries

As De Kuyper claims, cocktails create stories, and the company's story is a truly remarkable narrative of diligence and expertise. De Kuyper was founded in 1695 as a successful barrel business. With the acquisition of the Schiedam distillery in 1752, De Kuyper ventured into the budding spirit market. The brand started with gin production and continued to expand its business, becoming one of the leading distilleries in the Netherlands. 

In 1920, De Kuyper decided to enter the liqueur market. Along with apricot and cherry brandy, De Kuyper Triple Sec was one of the first liqueurs the company released on the market. By the time it was introduced by De Kuyper, triple sec was already a familiar name in the liqueur business. It is assumed that the French created orange-flavored liqueurs in the 19th century, while Combier first used the term triple sec — the name most likely referred to the triple distillation of orange macerate. (via Bar None Drinks).

De Kuyper Triple Sec is one of the numerous varieties available today, and though the company is now one of the leading liqueur producers, the triple sec label is one of its most reliable products as it is a part of De Kuyper's essential line that includes spirits and liqueurs that make a foundation of every respectable bar (De Kuyper).

De Kuyper Triple Sec is flavored with bitter oranges

Although triple sec is a loose term, it always indicates an orange-flavored liqueur. As listed in the official nutritional info, De Kuyper Triple Sec is made by combining alcohol, water, sugar, distillate, and natural orange flavor. The distillate consists of bitter oranges and includes curacao and lemon oil, implying that the primary flavor derives from bitter oranges, along with orange and lemon oil, resulting in an aromatic liqueur with citrusy aroma and flavor.

As explained on the Drink Stack, triple sec is made with unripe oranges as the skin is then still packed with essential oils. The skins are dried and then steeped in alcohol before the macerate is distilled to make the triple sec base. The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails claims that many lower quality triple sec liqueurs will opt for a combination of flavorings and a neutral spirit rather than the traditional process of maceration and distillation, but as Difford's Guide explains, the base for De Kuyper Triple Sec is made with the oranges that are distilled at company's premises.

It is produced in the Netherlands

De Kuyper was built on family heritage. Since its early beginnings in the late 17th century, it has remained a family-operated company, making it one of the oldest family-run businesses in the Netherlands (via Flaviar). In the Schiedam distillery, where the company relocated in 1910, De Kuyper makes its distillates using only natural products brought to the Netherlands from all over the world (via Teamproducts). According to Matthijs Jansen, the master distiller, the company still makes its own flavors (via YouTube). All the cocktail liqueurs, including De Kuyper Triple Sec, are distilled at the Schiedam distillery.

In a video shared on Difford's Guide, Myriam Hendrickx, a master distiller at De Kuyper, describes how fruit aroma is conserved with distillation. She explains the production of orange distillate, saying that the oranges release aromatic oils that are then captured and preserved. Mariam poetically describes the process as if they "caught the soul of the orange."

De Kuyper works great in mixed drinks

Though it can be used in baking or sometimes even served neat, triple sec is best known as a cocktail ingredient that can be added when a recipe calls for an orange flavor liqueur (via Triple Sec). Because it has a good balance of citrusy bitterness and subtle sweetness, it gives the drinks more complexity and personality. De Kuyper recommends a margarita as the classic choice for its triple sec, describing the combo of triple sec and tequila as "iconic." Liquor Library recommends mixing it with vodka and cranberry juice to create a delicious cosmopolitan.

De Kuyper USA provides an extensive collection of cocktails in which you can use De Kuyper Triple Sec. The list includes the legendary margarita, cosmo, hurricane, and the Long Island ice tea, but it also features some less familiar but equally delicious mixes such as bro-mosa, an interesting combination of beer, tequila, and De Kuyper Triple Sec or the spicy holly jolly punch, which would make a perfect addition to any wintertime occasion. As they confirm over at Drizly, none of the classic cocktails would be the same without the typical orange flavor provided by triple sec.

It is a reasonably priced triple sec

De Kuyper Triple Sec is one of many orange liqueurs available on the market. It is praised for its quality, often reaching five-star ratings, but affordability is also one of its strong points — as apparent from the research conducted by Liquor, where it was named the best-value option in their search for the best triple secs and orange liqueurs in 2022. At the time of this writing, Drizly sells the 24% version for $6.99 per 1L bottle, while the Whisky Shop has the 40% version for £17, which comes to approximately $20. Although higher alcohol content usually dictates a higher price, De Kuyper Triple Sec is still a reasonably priced orange-flavored liqueur.

In an interesting report by Huffington Post, De Kuyper Triple Sec was one of the orange liqueurs featured in a taste test that aimed to discover the best elements for a perfect margarita. De Kuyper Triple Sec was the cheapest orange liqueur in the test, costing $7 per bottle. It was compared with Cointreau, which was reportedly priced at $32, and Patron Citronge, which cost $20. Interestingly, the mix of De Kuyper Triple Sec and Suze tequila proved to be a highly recommended combination, despite being the cheapest option in the test. The tasters described it as balanced, while the author said it had "a different sort of zing to it."

De Kuyper Triple Sec vs Curaçao liqueur

The orange liqueur category is sometimes confusing as it includes standard triple secs such as De Kuyper Triple Sec, Cointreau, and Combier, but it also incorporates some liqueurs that slightly diverge from the classic triple sec label. One of the most common names in the mix is the Curaçao liqueur. As explained by Senior & Co, Curaçao was most likely one of the first orange liqueurs ever created, and to make it, the Dutch used the Laraha Orange from Curaçao, hence the name. As these liqueurs became more popular, most brands used different types of oranges, dropped the Curaçao name, and opted for the more generic triple sec label.

It should also be pointed out that all orange liqueurs use orange zests as the main flavor component, including the De Kuyper Triple Sec, but the differences are found in the type of oranges, the choice of base spirits, and the selection of other flavorings and botanicals that are often added to the mix. As Cocktail Society claims, there are no strict definitions regarding triple sec and Curaçao, but the latter will typically have more bitterness. While triple sec is usually clear and colorless, Curaçao will traditionally come in two versions — as an orange or blue-colored liqueur. Distiller explains that Curaçao tends to have stronger spices notes, suggesting that it might work better with aged spirits, while triple sec pairs well with unaged spirits such as vodka or gin.

Triple Sec is one of De Kuyper's essential bottles

Since its early beginnings in the 17th century, De Kuyper became one of the leading producers of high-quality cocktail liqueurs. Despite its global success, the company never settles and continues to push the boundaries with new products and acquisitions. Some of the recent purchases include Mandarine Napoléon and Rutte Distillers — a traditional distillery specializing in gin, jenever (gin's predecessor), and liqueurs (via De Kuyper). As expected, innovations and takeovers created an extensive line of products. The current De Kuyper range is vast, consisting of some traditional Dutch beverages such as the legendary Advocaat, the bartender's edition featuring top-shelf liqueurs, and the variations range that is filled with 20 flavored liqueurs.

However, the base of the De Kuyper cocktail liqueur line is the essentials brand that features 13 labels — it also includes De Kuyper Triple Sec as one of the key bottles every bar should have on hand. Apricot Brandy, Amaretto, and Crème liqueurs are also included in the category. Along with the basic De Kuyper Triple Sec bottled at 40% ABV, the essential line also lists Curaçao Triple Sec with 20% ABV. The latter has slightly different ingredients than the higher-proof version.

The flavor and the aroma are reminiscent of citrus

As De Kuyper Triple Sec is a crystal-clear and colorless liqueur, it's not easy to guess from the appearance alone that it is packed with orange flavor and aroma. The essential oils extracted from the orange zest are used as the main flavor component, and though they don't deliver the typical orange hue, they give the triple sec some dominant citrusy notes. As explained on Wine Enthusiast, triple sec can come off as artificial and display some synthetic tones, but it can also result in an excellent liqueur with a flavor and aroma reminiscent of freshly squeezed fruit.

De Kuyper Triple Sec certainly falls in the latter category, as evident from the description on Difford's Guide that describes the aroma and flavor as "clean" and "zesty." The author also mentions some cardamom notes, both in flavor and aroma. On Berevita, De Kuyper Triple Sec is described as "fruity" and "juicy," while Drinks&Co mentions sweet orange aroma and citrus-like flavor. Tasters at Master of Malt say it is subtly sweet with orange as its primary flavor. Based on these reviews, cocktail fans can rest easy knowing that De Kuyper Triple Sec will surely provide a distinctive citrus element to any drink.

It is one of the best-rated triple sec liqueurs on the market

De Kuyper has long been a prominent name in the drinks business, and though some of its success can be attributed to its long history, availability, and reasonable prices, the brand wouldn't have survived for more than 300 years without the superior quality of its products. As seen on Difford's Guide, the company makes its distillates with fresh ingredients and pays much attention to the quality of the final spirit. The attentive approach also applies to De Kuyper Triple Sec, which is probably why many believe it is one of the best triple secs on the market.

Liquor named De Kuyper Triple Sec as the best value option in the extensive triple sec test, claiming that it is not too sweet, delivering the perfect amount of citrusy notes. On the Influenster platform, the consumers leave rave reviews it and continually award it with 5-star ratings, mostly praising its role as a mixer in some classic cocktails. The same goes for Total Wine, where De Kuyper Triple Sec has an overall rating of 4.6, based on 118 total reviews.

De Kuyper Triple Sec can be enjoyed neat

Triple sec is primarily connected to mixology, and is mostly described as a mixer or a cocktail ingredient, but the truth is that triple sec could also work well on its own. However, there are some restrictions when it comes to serving and enjoying a glass of triple sec. As there are many low-quality and sugary sweet triple secs, this orange-flavored liqueur has undeservedly earned an image of a low-quality liqueur that will rarely be enjoyed neat.

Vine Pair explains that triple sec is used as a generic name for orange-style liqueurs, which can also include some poorly made versions, but argues that excellent triple sec liqueurs can be served neat. Fine Dining Lovers agree, claiming that it can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks. The full-proof De Kuyper Triple Sec with 40% ABV is one of the top-shelf versions that can be served neat. As confirmed on Amazon, this high-quality triple sec would work great on its own, preferably served on the rocks.

The bottle was redesigned in 2018

De Kuyper has long been recognized for its unique design that featured a dominant black label with the company's logo. In 2018, the company decided to go with a new, refreshed design for Essentials and Variations, as De Kuyper's two leading liqueur collections. The Variations brand now includes colorful labels depicting the main flavorings, such as cherries on the Cherry Liqueur or styled rhubarb for the Sour Rhubarb Liqueur. The Essential brand line, which includes the 20% and 40% ABV versions of De Kuyper Triple Sec, now has a slick and elegant design with toned-down colors. The bottles no longer include the overpowering black line on the main label. As reported on Spirits Business, the new design should allow the customers to recognize the collection based on the front label.

De Kuyper already changed the two classic lines once before. In a Facebook post from 2013, they shared the new bottle design. At the time, both essentials and variations lines featured the black De Kuyper logo and had an identical design.

A FoodBev reports, the new 2018 design was not yet introduced to the U.S. market, and as it can be seen, the U.S. version of De Kuyper Triple Sec differentiates from the international version.

De Kuyper Triple Sec can be replaced with similar liqueurs

The most common issue when recreating cocktail recipes is the availability of ingredients. Educated Barfly states in the video on orange liqueurs that spirits can vary depending on the region, so many alcoholic drinks may be a standard in some parts of the world but not so familiar (or completely unavailable) in others. If you can't get your hands on one of De Kuyper's bottles of triple sec, there are some replacements you can opt for. As De Kuyper is a classic triple sec, several similar labels can be used instead.

Some of the best substitutes naturally include other types of orange liqueurs. At A Couple Cooks, they argue that Cointreau is the best triple sec replacement though it is slightly more subtle than standard triple sec. Jordan Hughes shared with Wine Enthusiast that Cointreau is considered the highest quality triple sec, though the brand avoids the term triple sec as it tends to be associated with lower quality. Combier, advertised as "the world's first triple sec," is another excellent replacement. If none of these is available, Grand Marnier can also be suitable, but as it is based on Cognac and tends to be less sweet, you should be careful when using it as a cocktail ingredient (via Triple Sec).