Happy Hour? 12 Best Substitutes for Orange Curacao

Quick summary: Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec, Aurum, or Gran Gala could be perfect substitutes for Orange Curacao-based cocktails. But there are other more exciting liquor or non-alcohol alternatives you can use. 

Whether you’re mixing up a Mai Tai, Cosmopolitan, or making a boozy dessert, Orange Curacao’s exotic citrus flavor will bring a punch to the party. If you don’t have any of this fruit liqueur on hand, don’t cancel happy hour just yet.

We’ve lined up the 12 best Orange Curacao substitutes to ensure you don’t fall short on tropical flavor.

What Is Orange Curacao

Orange Curacao is a sweet and slightly bitter orange-flavored liqueur. It is flavored with the bitter dried peel of the laraha orange—a citrus fruit grown on Curacao Island in the Caribbean.

Curaçao is available in a few different varieties ranging between 15% to 40% ABV depending on the brand. It can be clear, have an orange tint in the case of Dry Curacao, or artificially dyed blue in the case of Blue Curacao.

With its distinct flavor, Orange Curacao can be used to flavor cocktails, desserts, and other beverages. It is also used as an ingredient in many popular cocktails, including Long Island Ice Tea, Soho Martini, and 1873 Manhattan.

The orange-based liqueur pairs very well with rum which makes sense considering they’re both reminiscent of Caribbean flavors.

Orange Curacao is not always easy to find, and when it is available it can be pretty pricey. Here are our top alternative choices when you’re in a pinch.

Best Orange Curacao Substitutes

Grand Marnier

Grand Marnier is a French sweet orange liqueur that is made from Cognac, natural orange essence, and sugar. 

It is a great Orange Curacao substitute because it has a similar rich flavor profile and sweetness, however, it is one of the most expensive orange liqueurs you’ll find.

Grand Marnier can be enjoyed neat and pairs well with rum, fresh fruits, coconut, and herbal flavors due to its richness and notes of vanilla.


Cointreau is a clear, orange-flavored liqueur made with a combination of sweet and bitter oranges. It has a slightly sweeter and stronger flavor than Orange Curacao.

Originally a French beverage, it is enjoyed as an aperitif or digestif and used in a number of cocktails. Cointreau is an ideal substitute, however, it is around 40% ABV, so the suitability might depend on what you are using it for. 

Triple Sec

Depending on the brand, Triple Sec is generally between 20% to 40% ABV. This clear, orange-flavored liqueur is made with a combination of sweet and bitter orange peel steeped in a neutral spirit derived from sugar beet.

It has a distinct orange taste and is rarely consumed neat. Instead, it is commonly used in cocktails and mixed drinks including Margaritas, Sidecars, Cosmopolitans, Long Island Iced Tea, and Mai Tais—making it a perfect substitute.

Another reason it’s a popular alternative is that it is generally easier to find in any liquor store and not quite as pricey.

Triple Sec is quite a long-lasting drink in both forms, liquor and syrup, but it’s not unspoilable as you might assume.


This delicious sweet Italian cocktail liqueur is made from aged brandy infused with macerated oranges and dried peels. The brandy-based liqueur is a good choice if you’re looking for something slightly sweeter, and highly flavorful with a pronounced citrus taste.

Aurum is 40% ABV. Besides being enjoyed as a drink with sweets it’s also sometimes paired with ice creams or used as a cake ingredient. 

Unlike Triple Sec, this alternative is not that readily available everywhere and is on the pricier side.

Gran Gala

With a pronounced citrusy flavor similar to Orange Curacao this infused Italian brandy can be used as a substitute in equal parts. Gran Gala is made with distilled brandy, orange peel oil, and sugar.

Its medium-bodied, deep flavor also features notes of stone fruit and spices which bring great complexity to cocktails and desserts.

Orange Liqueur

The above-mentioned substitutes are all very specifically produced liqueurs according to an exact method and recipe, and sometimes in a specific region only. These factors make each one unique and ensure you know exactly what you are getting in terms of quality and flavor.

Generic orange liqueur is available in a variety of brands and does not require such specific production steps. The sweet orange-flavored liqueurs can be made from a neutral alcohol/grain spirit, rum, or brandy infused or flavored with dried orange peels, orange essential oil, or artificial flavor.

Depending on the variety, it has a 30% to 40% ABV, is generally easy to find, and is very affordable. If you’re mixing up cocktails or baking and the highest quality imported liqueur is not a priority, go for any orange liqueur in-store that fits your budget for a similar citrusy delight.

Blue Curaçao

Although the main difference between Orange Curaçao and Blue Curaçao is the distinct blue color, there is a small difference in taste too.

The blue variety is also a sweet liqueur flavored with bitter orange peels. However, it has a slight tartness and additional bitterness. Regardless, it still makes the ideal substitute in cocktails and adds a little colorful pizzazz too.

You won’t find many people sipping the blue drink straight, mainly due to the color. However, it can be enjoyed straight and has a lower ABV of 20 to 25%.

Angostura Bitters

Orange bitters are popular to use in a range of mixed drinks and cocktails. As the name suggests, the concentrated alcohol is infused with orange peel and notes of cardamom, caraway seed, anise, and burnt sugar.

With an ABV of 45%, bitters is not classified as a liqueur. You only use a few drops of the concentrated syrup or liquid to flavor drinks and therefore require much less when using it as a substitute.


Picon is a caramel-colored, orange bitter. Although it is traditionally enjoyed as an apéritif, it is now also a popular addition to beer or wine.

The drink is made from fresh oranges which are dried and mixed with alcohol which is then distilled. Before adding Picon as a substitute in mixed drinks, make sure you give it a taste as it does have a light bitterness.

Non Alcoholic Orange Curacao Substitute

Orange Juice

Looking for a fresh orange infusion in your mocktails? Substitute orange juice in equal quantities.

Although you will get an orange undertone, you might not get the same complexity or sweetness. You can, however, always make up for that with other ingredients in your drink such as ginger ale, apple cider vinegar, simple syrup, or lemon juice.

Orange juice can spoil easily if not under good conditions. If you’re using it solely for cocktails, consider freezing it to prolong the juice’s shelf life

Orange Simple Syrup

An orange-flavored simple syrup can be a great substitute for Orange Curacao. To make orange simple syrup, combine equal parts water, sugar, and freshly squeezed orange juice in a saucepan. For a more intense orange flavor, also add the orange peels or orange zest.

Simmer until it becomes a smooth syrupy consistency. Use less of the syrup as a replacement since it is very sweet and will have a strong orange flavor. The quantity you use will also depend on the other ingredients in your drink.


Falernum is another type of sweet syrup made from lime juice, almond extract, ginger, and spices. It comes in a syrup liqueur (11% ABV) or non-alcoholic variety.

It has a slightly tart flavor and a light amber color. Since it is popularly used in tropical drinks it makes a great substitute as it pairs with similar flavor profiles. Note that although it offers fantastic flavor, it won’t give you the same orange flavor notes.


Is Curaçao syrup alcoholic or non-alcoholic?

Yes, the Curaçao syrup is non-alcoholic. It features a similar orange scent and orange flavor to the liqueur, but is highly versatile to add to lemonades, sodas, mocktails, cocktails, and desserts.

Which is sweeter—Orange Curacao liqueur or Triple Sec?

Orange Curacao is sweeter than Triple Sec. Curaçao is generally pot-distilled with sugar cane alcohol, brandy, or cognac and has a sweet flavor. Triple sec is generally column-distilled with neutral grain spirit. It has a drier quality and is rarely drunk neat but rather mixed as an ingredient in other drinks.

What is the best way to drink Curaçao?

The best way to drink Curaçao will depend on if you want a stronger or more refreshing drink. For stronger drinks pair it with rum, vodka, gin, or tequila. For something light and refreshing, mix it with pineapple, orange, or cranberry juice.


If your recipe calls for Orange Curaçao and it’s not something you generally keep around, there are a great deal of other orange liqueurs you can use to get that same boozy orange punch. Each brand has its own unique orange flavor, some a little bitter, some a little sweeter, and others with a spice complexity.

General orange liqueur and Triple Sec are much easier to find and friendlier on the wallet. If you’re making a big batch of party punch, these might be a better option so you can savor your high-end Italian and French liqueur selectively.

Whichever substitute you use, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic, give it a taste before adding it to your drink. This way you can balance out the sweetness or bitterness accordingly. Happy bar-tending!

*image by mproduction/depositphotos

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