From WINE SEARCHER June 9, 2014 | Interview by Don Kavanagh
A descendant of founder Edouard Cointreau, we meet the young ambassador for the family’s famous liqueur.
27-year-old Alfred Cointreau leaning on a 1959 Panhard Dyna delivery fourgonnette’s door, is the perfect ambassador for the family’s famous liqueur © Cointreau
As a member of the famous Cointreau family of Angers, is it your destiny to end up running the company?
Perhaps I will one day. I am still young, only 27, and I only became involved in the company three years ago, so I think I have still a lot to learn before I think about taking over.
People talk about your age a lot, does that bother you?
No, not really. I suppose I am lucky. I am part of a family who make a wonderful product and have been doing so for many years. But it is interesting seeing people’s reactions when I turn up to a tasting; they are expecting some old guy with white hair. The company has always been quite young, though; in the first generation, Edouard was a young man when he started. Having said that, my grandfather never switched on a computer in his life, so it is up to us in the younger generation to build an online presence for Cointreau.
What would you be doing if you didn’t work for Cointreau?
I don’t know. Before I started at the company, working in Angers, I was working in the advertising department of a newspaper in Paris, so maybe I would still be there. But I need to have a passion to pull me out of bed in the morning, so maybe I wouldn’t be there.
Does Cointreau’s future depend on a thriving cocktail scene?
Cointreau’s past is in cocktails as well as its future. At first, in 1875, in France it was used as a digestif but when it was exported it began to be used in cocktails. For example, in Germany at the end of the 19th Century, we have records of five cocktails made using Cointreau. The big boom came in the U.S., though, and almost since the beginning of the cocktail age, Cointreau has been used. There are 350 cocktail recipes that use Cointreau, including the Cosmopolitan, the Sidecar, the original Margarita… the list goes on.
How do you make it more appealing to young people?
Through cocktails and through meeting people. Our brand has always been about people meeting with people, but it is a brand with history, and that can have its problems. What was good for your grandparents is also good for you and we have to get that message across. Meeting people and showing them what they can do with Cointreau is the best way to show them that history does not have to mean old fashioned.
« It’s tough to say what my favorite cocktail is… But if there was one drink I would take on my death bed it would be the Sidecar* » © Cointreau
Rappers have had quite an impact on some brands of Champagne and Cognac, have you any thoughts on that? MIA cites Cointreau in his song YALA, for example…
I wasn’t aware anyone was rapping about us. It’s not something we focus on; we tend to focus on our female market — something we have done since the beginning — and I don’t know how some rap fits in with that philosophy. It is in the DNA of Cointreau to be different and that is what we do. We work with [burlesque queen] Dita Von Teese, because that is more suitable to our company’s philosophy. It’s all about being Cointreau-versial.
Do you like rap music? If not, what music do you listen to?
I like some rap, of course. I like Eminem, but I also like rock bands like Muse, I really like Daft Punk, and electronic dance music like the Chemical Brothers.
With an old and established product, where do you see growth coming from in the future?
Our traditional markets are doing well. The U.S. is a big, big market for us and the cocktail scene there is very strong. Europe is growing for us, too. The cocktail culture is starting all over again there; it is like La Belle Époque has been reborn. Newer markets like Asia are not huge for us, but they are growing year by year. With Cointreau, people know it already, so that is our advantage.
Does having one main product make it harder or easier to operate?
We do have another variant now, called Cointreau Noir. It has been on sale in the U.S. for a year now and we have also released it in some other markets. It is the result of 10 years of research and experimentation by our master distiller, Bernadette Langlais. It is based on a drink Cointreau did many years ago in 1902 called the Majestique, which was a blend of Cointreau and Cognac. She changed the recipe to 70 percent Cointreau and 30 percent Cognac, with walnuts and almonds in the blend as well. It is a very feminine drink, but it doesn’t lose the DNA of Cointreau.
You talk a lot about the DNA of Cointreau; what is the essence of Cointreau for you?
It is the best triple sec in the world, the greatest orange liqueur. It is about quality and excellence and using the finest ingredients to make a product everyone knows is the best. People want to use it because they want the best. We are also about being different. We want people to drink less but drink better, to drink differently; even our bottle is different — it is square and solid. But what I mean about Cointreau’s DNA is there in the name — if you take the letters in the word Cointreau, what do they spell? A true icon.