This tangerine or orange liqueur recipe is a fun way to use seasonal citrus, and it’s easy to make. This is a homemade knockoff of Triple Sec, but really, you can make any kind of citrus liqueur — grapefruit, tangelo, lime — depending on what you have readily available.
While you’re mixing up liqueurs, give this homemade creme de cacao a try, too!
When it’s citrus season, we have an abundance (and then some) of tangerines and oranges at our disposal. I’ve made Tangerine-Ginger Jam. I’ve made Tangerine Syrup. Now I’m sharing a homemade tangerine/orange liqueur.
First, what exactly is a liqueur?
Don’t confuse it with liquor, often called hard liquor or spirits. Vodka, rum, and tequila all fall under the liquor category. Liqueur is first off, more difficult to spell. A liqueur is a sweetened, flavored alcoholic drink made from spirits or liquor. Liqueurs are often flavored with fruits and nuts (think amaretto). My homemade Kahlua-style coffee liqueur is made with real coffee.
These sweetened liqueurs can be sipped straight up as an after dinner drink or combined with additional ingredients to make a fancy cocktail.
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Oranges or tangerines — This recipe calls for fresh tangerines or oranges. Juice the fruit, but retain some of the peels, as you’ll use those to give the homemade liqueur a bolder citrus flavor. Don’t use the white pith, as that will impart a bitterness. Use a spoon to remove that, keeping just the colorful outer part of the fruit to make this tangerine or orange liqueur recipe. More about zesting oranges here.
Sugar — Use your favorite brand of granulated cane sugar. I prefer organic.
Vodka — Don’t worry about forking out for the good stuff here. A budget brand is just fine.
Making a homemade Triple Sec Knockoff
You might be familiar with a liqueur known as Triple Sec. This is an orange liqueur with Triple Sec being the brand name. But you, my friends, are going to make your very own right at home. For less!
Making this Triple Sec liqueur is easy, but it does require a bit of planning. In order to impart the flavor of the citrus into the liquor, you’ll combine your chosen fruit with the liquor and tuck it away in a dark place for a month or so. The flavor of tangerine or orange in this liqueur needs time to transform into a citrusy flavored drink.
You’ll need to cook the sugar in water to dissolve it, but beyond that it’s pretty much just a matter of combining the ingredients in a jar. You’ll need to strain them later, but really, it couldn’t be simpler. And homemade liqueur makes a great gift!
When the tangerine liqueur — or orange liqueur recipe — is ready, strain it to remove the skins and particles. Store it in a sealed jar in a cool, dry place.
Giving liqueur as gifts
Once made, this tangerine/orange liqueur will need at least a month tucked in an out-or-the-way place to let the flavors get happy. Planning to give this as a gift for the holidays? Make sure you allot enough time for that.
Package strained “Triple Sec” liqueur in pretty bottles and tie on a tag. You might even consider adding a recipe or two for using this homemade liqueur and a couple of nice cocktail glasses.
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Homemade Triple Sec aka Orange Liqueur
This homemade tangerine or orange liqueur is easy to make and a fun way to use seasonal citrus.
- 2 cups tangerine or orange juice, (about 15 tangerines or 10 oranges)
- 3 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 750 ml bottle of vodka
- Zest four of the tangerines into strips. [More on how to zest here.]
- Cut tangerines or oranges in half; juice.
- Divide strips of zest between five pint sized jars.
- In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water; heat until sugar is dissolved.
- Stir in juice. Simmer for five minutes and then allow to cool to room temperature.
- Pour in entire bottle of vodka, then divide liquid between the jars.
- Screw on caps, set the jars in a cool dark place, and forget about them for a month. Once your month of waiting is up, strain out the tangerine peels and you're ready to mix a drink.
Makes about 5 pints.
Don't use the white pith, as that will impart a bitterness. Use a spoon to remove that, keeping just the colorful outer part of the fruit to make this tangerine or orange liqueur recipe.
You can use any citrus juice to make this liqueur. Grapefruit, orange, tangello -- they're all fair game.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 50 Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 85Unsaturated Fat: 0gCarbohydrates: 12gSugar: 12g
Originally published in February 2012; this post has been updated.
Does it have to be exactly one month? Will it get bitter if longer? TIA
Also, how do you strain it? Cheese cloth? As there are some tiny seeds in there.
I’m getting ready to strain and test my 1st batch of Triple Sec made from our tangerine fruit! I also salted Meyer lemons, and made lemon liqueur using vodka and tequila. I’ll add some simple syrup to the lemon versions- so hopefully those will turn out well. I’ll let you know my results.
Do you have any suggestions as to possible uses for the peels after I strain them out from the liquor? I hate to waste them!
It all sounds delicious! As for the orange peels, maybe candy them? I’d say dry them for tea or use them for zest or a cleaning solution, but soaked in the liquor I’m not sure.
Thanks! Yes- I wasn’t sure how the liquor might affect things. I’ll experiment and let you know. I hate to throw anything away!
I have a batch going right now! Can’t wait to try it!
Yay, you’ll love it!
Why do some recipes use just the rind of the fruit and others use the whole fruit?
Is there a reason?
I honestly don’t know.
I’m assuming using just the rind allows you to extract the oils and flavors, without decreasing the ABV too much. It may also just have a stronger orange flavor coming from the rind than from the juice.
Just came on your recipe and am wondering if like making vanilla extract leaving it longer then a month to cure would give it even more flavor?
It might, try it!
If you mix this 50/50 with CranGrape juice and add ice, you have a refreshing boozy version of a grape tootsie roll lollipop, somehow.
That sounds pretty good!
Hi. My orange liquor has a harsh bitter taste. I tried adding more simple syrup and adding some cinnamon but it still is bitter. Any ideas on how to fix it?
If this batch is too bitter, try using it in cocktails to add other flavors to it and see if it’s more tolerable. I hope that helps!
This homemade Triple Sec is amazingly good. My hubby and I drink it on the rocks with a splash of seltzer water. So good!
That sounds like a delicious way to drink it, glad you enjoy the recipe! 🙂
This is fabulous. I want to make some more, to share. Is there any reason you can think of why it wouldn’t be ok to keep it in one container versus dividing it out for the month waiting period?
That should be ok if you have a container big enough and can still easily pour it. 🙂
I’m trying the recipe for Christmas gifts this year. Where did you get the glasses shown in the picture? Thanks
Glad to hear it! And honestly I’m not sure – sorry!
Enjoyed making this for Christmas gifts .
I used Blood oranges. I found it much easier to use a potato peeler on the whole oranges to get thin strips of peel with no pith, also strained the orange juice it didn’t say to in the recipe. It also doesn’t say to refrigerate it?
Love the recipe. I make Limoncello and Orangecello every year, but have never tried this one. Seeing how I always have all that juice left after making Orangecello, this will be perfect. Where did you get those lovely liquor glasses?
Can I use concentrated orange juice instead of juicing oranges?
YES. Just be sure to use 100% real juice and not an “orange drink.”
What if anything could I sub for the regular sugar in this? alternatives?
Mind you, I haven’t *tried it, but I imagine honey or rice syrup could work fine.
Hi, can I use gin instead of vodka with the tangerines?
Sure! It will taste different, but it will work.
How long does this last without going bad? Does it need to be refrigerated once it’s done brewing?
Oh, for a good long time. I’d say at least a year. And no, I don’t keep it refrigerated.
can’t wait to try this recipe..i go through store bought triple sec way too fast. i hadn’t even thought that i could make my own…and i bet this is much tastier!
We are working on our first batches of limoncello and pompelmocello from very scratch-including brewing up the alcohol which is legal here in New Zealand. When our mandarins are ripe, we’ll have a go at some triple sec too. This sounds great.
We did makes some last year out of our mandarins and it was divine. This year I’m trying it with some of the neighbor’s tangelos.
I had an abundance of oranges and tangerines. Made a double batch, it turned out great.
I also just made the simple syrup and keep it in the fridge, we love it.
Awesome! Thanks for letting me know you liked it.
That sounds like a cocktail of choice on a balmy evening.
Tangerine triple sec sounds divine. And how nice that you can just go out and pick your own fruit for it!
PS. I’ll be right over (I wish…)
Kris, this sounds good! I made pineapple vinegar using a similar method (no vodka, though 😉
It was good!
I did this recently too. I have a sour orange tree growing in the backyard of the house we just started renting. At first I was all “No scurvy for us,” thinking it was a regular orange tree. So disappointed when the fruits never got yummy! So I tried two recipes, one that called for just the peel and the other that used a whole orange and some coffee beans. Cant’ wait to try it out!
Sour oranges are great for making a marinating sauce we Cubans call ‘mojo’ (pronounced moe-hoe). You can adjust the quantities with no problems:
Cuban Mojo Sauce
3 heads garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 1/2 cups sour orange juice (In a pinch, use two parts orange to one part lemon and one part lime)
1 cup minced onion
2 teaspoons oregano
1 cup Spanish olive oil
The mojo with oil marinade is best for chicken, duck, fish, and so on. The oil prevents the meat from losing fat and moisture.
Mash garlic, salt, and peppercorns into a paste, using a mortar and pestle. Stir in sour orange juice, onion, and oregano. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or longer.
In a saucepan, heat olive oil to medium hot (approximately 220 degrees F) and remove from heat. Carefully whisk in the garlic-orange juice mixture (prepared above) until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to use.
On the mojo…it says 3 heads of garlic. Does that mean cloves or actual whole heads of garlic. Thanks!!