Alfred Cointreau grew up being close to his grandfather Pierre and grandmother Elisabeth. This gave him exposure to the famous liqueur at an early age. He helped to make the family aperitifs and learned all about the history behind the brand, as well as what was involved in the distillation process. This, inevitably, prepared him for the job that he does today, as heritage manager of Cointreau.


What is the role of a heritage manager for Cointreau? And what is your job like on a daily basis?
A heritage manager is a little bit like a brand ambassador. I am the sixth generation of the Cointreau family so I have the history of the house behind me, and I take care of that. I work with our distributors in each market and sometimes I work with bartenders too; that’s the night part of the job. When I’m in France, I’m more involved in the marketing strategy and I work with the master distiller. What is great about my day-to-day job is that I don’t have a routine. Like, the beginning of this week, I was in Shanghai for a cocktail competition, now I’m here in Singapore for a launch event, and next week I’m going to Japan…it’s really exciting. I’m not the type of person who likes to stay behind a computer in an office so I really like it.

Have you always wanted to join your family’s business? Or did you think of dabbling in other industries?
My family encourages us to go and see the universe, to make sure that if, one day, we want to join the family business – because it’s a personal choice – then we did not miss anything before this happens. So before I joined the family business, I worked in a newspaper, I worked in a grocery market, and I realised six years ago I wanted to be the next generation to take care of the brand that built my name. Also, most importantly, I wanted to have passion in my job. I saw my grandfather going to the distillery every morning with a smile, and my father too, so I wanted the same thing, the same passion in my job.

What’s the most important lesson(s) that your grandfather has taught you?
To be on time. Also to respect each person behind this iconic bottle. We have a lot of people…we have a master distiller, we have people who package the bottle…respect these guys, know these guys, and have a good relationship with them. And also with the person who uses Cointreau every day, our clients – especially the bartenders. You have to respect the recipe, respect Cointreau and everybody around the brand.


What’s the most interesting cocktail recipe you got from your grandmother and what are some of the tricks that you’ve learnt from her?
The first cocktail she taught me was margarita. But she also taught me that we don’t have just one or two cocktails that we like. For each person, for each different moment, we should have a different cocktail, depending on our mood, for different times of the day and occasion. We should have a favourite cocktail for each hour of the day. She also taught me what people want and expect in a cocktail. And important tips like always choose fresh ingredients and never manipulate ice cubes with your hands.

What are some of the most important skills required in distillation?
The most important skill is the selection of ingredients. With Cointreau, we want consistency, so that’s really a challenge for us because every year the quality of the peel changes. But that’s really the job of the master distiller.

How do you intend to elevate the Cointreau brand?
With Cointreau, we have a really strong relationship since the beginning with bartenders, in Europe and the US and other parts of the world. Part of my job is to remind them that Cointreau is the best orange liqueur. And behind every bottle, you have the story, the legacy of the family. What is a cool trick is…an anagram of Cointreau is ‘a true icon’ so Cointreau is a true icon of the bar.

What are your thoughts on the cocktail industry in Asia, especially in Singapore?
I came to Singapore three years ago; it was the beginning of the cocktail culture, and  there were just a few bars with a good selection of spirits. Three years later, I’m really impressed to see the evolution. There are a lot of really, really good bars; they have very good spirits and talented bartenders, I’m really impressed by the evolution of the Singaporean cocktail culture. In general in Asia too, like in China, the evolution is really incredible.


How do people usually react to your famous last name?
There are usually two reactions…first, when we tell someone, “Mr Cointreau is coming”, they expect some senior, old man. So when they see me they are quite surprised. Secondly, generally, when I’m in a bar by myself, I just sit at the bar and I speak to the bartender. And after I introduce myself, their whole demeanour changes.

Do you do a lot of anonymous research in bars?
Yes, it’s interesting to see how people react when they do not know why I’m there. But now it’s quite difficult because the bartender community is really small so everybody knows each other and it’s quite difficult to be a mystery.


If you were a cocktail, what would you be?
I think I would be a margarita. I have 50 recipes, for a margarita twist, inspired by the classic. So, with a margarita, you can be a different cocktail for each hour of the day. And you can be a short drink or a long drink or neat or on the rocks. It’s very versatile.