COINTREAU VAN HEADER

There has always been one of the distinctive square bottles of Cointreau in the drinks cabinet at home, slightly sticky around the neck, and used not only as a liqueur but in the kitchen in my mother’s delicious creations.

carre cointreau angers

In particular, the chocolate mousse she often made for Sunday lunch, intense, dark and spiked with the glorious orange tang of Cointreau, and taken from Arabella Boxer’s cult 60s book First Slice Your Cookbook.

mousse au chocolate sasha wilkins recipe

I loved it so much that I included an updated version (above) in my own cookbook, Friends, Food & Family.

IMG_20150227_110048

(Because, of course, a bottle of Cointreau always resides in the 1950s cocktail cabinet in my kitchen.)

Cocktail cabinet

My grandmother, glamorous, (that’s her, below) eccentric and marching entirely to the beat of her own drum, would always drink Cointreau with her slice of Christmas cake, and it seemed like the most sophisticated thing in the world to me as a little girl. It also smelt heavenly.

50s balldress

I always think of my grandmother when I see the beautiful Cointreau ads from the fifties.

Cointreau

So being invited to visit the Cointreau HQ and factory in Angers, in the Loire Valley a few weeks back felt like kismet. It’s about an hour or so south west  from Paris by TGV, an easy day trip, just outside the town of Angers.

carre cointreau angers

carre cointreau angers   carre cointreau angers

The first thing that hits one on the distillery floor is the warm, sweet smell of oranges hanging in the air. It’s as though one has been magically transported from the freezing winter to the South of France in July.

carre cointreau angers

carre cointreau angers

Cointreau have been on this site in Saint Barthélemy d’Anjou since 1972, and the first distillery was founded up the road in Angers in 1849 – it’s now and always has been the only production site of Cointreau in the world. (They produce over 13 million bottles a year.)

carre cointreau angers

Cointreau was the brainchild of  the two eponymous brothers, Édouard-Jean Cointreau and Adolphe Cointreau, who founded the first factory in Angers  to produce fruit-flavoured liqueurs. In 1875 Édouard-Jean’s son developed the precise balance of macerated orange peel from sweet and bitter oranges, which would become the base of the Cointreau liqueur.

It caught the public imagination almost immediately, marketed as both chic and beneficial for health. By the beginning of the 20th Century, over 800,000 bottles of Cointreau were being produced annually and distributed far beyond France.

carre cointreau angers

After exploring the distillery, with its distinctive copper stills, we went up to the gallery which houses a visual history of Cointreau, with all manner of fascinating posters and documents from the brand archives, and thence to a tasting room to hear Cointreau’s Master Distiller Bernadette Langlais talk us through its composition. She led us through a blind tasting of four orange liqueurs – we all spotted the Cointreau. It’s delicious, natural orange essence shines through against its more chemically competitors.

carre cointreau angers

We spent quite some time in the advertising gallery looking at the iconic Cointreau ads: it’s worth visiting just for this. Seen together they provide a fascinating insight into how alcohol has been marketed from the 19th century to now. With the announcement during Couture in Paris of the appointment of Laetitia Casta as the new Global Artistic Director of Cointreau, it’ll be fascinating to see what they do next.

Carré Cointreau: 2 Boulevard des Bretonnières, 49124 Saint-Barthélemy-d’Anjou, France.
www.cointreau.com

You’ll need to book ahead for guided tours of the distillery. (It’s closed on Mondays.)

Huge thanks to Cointreau for hosting me on this trip. 

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6 comments

Reply

Ohh that sounds so great!! Same in our house (in a hidden corner of Germany) – always a cointreau in the house.. later on, in France, I learned delicious recipes for Chalottes and pastries with cointreau – it makes all the difference!!

Reply

Oh I loved this post! I studied abroad in Angers in college, so I it made me a bit nostalgic. I loved touring the Cointreau factory, the history is so interesting!
Thanks for posting!

Moira

Reply

Yes, on the crust around the neck! I bought your book for my mostly non-cooking daughter for Christmas and she is happily working her way through it. Must direct her to the mousse!

Reply

Hi Sasha,

Love the post. I’ve been reading your blog for ages now but just wanted to stop by and say hi! Cointreau reminds me so much of my grandparents too, I love the shape of the bottle and starting to like the taste now too.

Lots of love, Ellie xxx

Reply

Nice post. Loved to learn about the cointreau recipes.

Marielle | High Alpine

http://myhighalpine.com

Reply

good cocktail make, very elegant, i curious with the taste

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