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Indulge in Citrus Season with this Homemade Liqueur

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!

Homemade Triple Sec ORANGE LIQUEUR in a shot glass

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.

sliced tangerines with juice

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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.

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.

ingredients for tangerine homemade Triple Sec liqueur from above - sliced oranges, vodka, sugar

You only need four ingredients to make this orange liqueur. 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.

ingredients for homemade tangerine Triple Sec from above - sliced oranges

 ★ Did you make this recipe? Don’t forget to give it a star rating below! ★

ORANGE LIQUEUR in a shot glass

Homemade Triple Sec aka Orange Liqueur

Yield: 50
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Infusing time: 30 days
Total Time: 30 days 55 minutes

This homemade tangerine or orange liqueur is easy to make and a fun way to use seasonal citrus.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups tangerine or orange juice, (about 15 tangerines or 10 oranges)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 750 ml bottle of vodka

Instructions

  1. Zest four of the tangerines into strips. [More on how to zest here.]
  2. Cut tangerines or oranges in half; juice.
  3. Divide strips of zest between five pint sized jars. slices of orange skin
  4. In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water; heat until sugar is dissolved. 
  5. Stir in juice. Simmer for five minutes and then allow to cool to room temperature. 
  6. Pour in entire bottle of vodka, then divide liquid between the jars. pouring juice into a glass jar
  7. 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.

Notes

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

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Inspired by this recipe for homemade triple sec made from Cara Cara oranges.

Originally published in February 2012; this post has been updated.

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22 comments… add one
  • Gretchen Wallace Sep 17, 2021 @ 7:50

    I’m trying the recipe for Christmas gifts this year. Where did you get the glasses shown in the picture? Thanks

    • Kris Bordessa Sep 18, 2021 @ 7:47

      Glad to hear it! And honestly I’m not sure – sorry!

  • C marty Dec 1, 2020 @ 14:38

    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?

  • Brenda Jul 30, 2020 @ 5:00

    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?

    • Cassandra Dmytryshyn Oct 26, 2020 @ 16:58

      Can I use concentrated orange juice instead of juicing oranges?

      • Kris Bordessa Oct 26, 2020 @ 17:01

        YES. Just be sure to use 100% real juice and not an “orange drink.”

  • Mary Jean Jan 13, 2019 @ 8:22

    What if anything could I sub for the regular sugar in this? alternatives?

    • Kris Bordessa Jan 13, 2019 @ 8:24

      Mind you, I haven’t *tried it, but I imagine honey or rice syrup could work fine.

  • Rose Sep 29, 2018 @ 9:29

    Hi, can I use gin instead of vodka with the tangerines?

    • Kris Bordessa Oct 17, 2018 @ 9:38

      Sure! It will taste different, but it will work.

  • Amanda Apr 4, 2018 @ 18:00

    How long does this last without going bad? Does it need to be refrigerated once it’s done brewing?

    • Kris Bordessa Apr 9, 2018 @ 17:20

      Oh, for a good long time. I’d say at least a year. And no, I don’t keep it refrigerated.

  • christy Feb 16, 2014 @ 20:27

    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!

  • FrugalKiwi Mar 11, 2012 @ 16:35

    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.

    • Melanie Sep 24, 2014 @ 7:43

      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.

    • Mikey E. Jan 31, 2020 @ 11:38

      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.

      • Kris Bordessa Feb 6, 2020 @ 7:25

        Awesome! Thanks for letting me know you liked it.

  • sarah henry Feb 26, 2012 @ 21:13

    That sounds like a cocktail of choice on a balmy evening.

  • Sheryl Feb 26, 2012 @ 8:36

    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…) 

  • SoniaR Feb 26, 2012 @ 8:26

    Kris, this sounds good!  I made pineapple vinegar using a similar method (no vodka, though 😉
    It was good!

  • Heather Feb 26, 2012 @ 3:07

    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!

    • SoniaR Feb 26, 2012 @ 8:26

      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.
       

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