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Cointreau scion worked his way up

Alfred Cointreau had to put bags of orange peel in pot stills in the distillery when he joined the family business

Alfred Cointreau, 30, has a famous surname. It is the name of the Cointreau triple sec, the iconic bitter orange-flavoured liqueur that is a staple in most bars.

It is the chief product of a 167year-old family business based in the Loire Valley, France, and he is the sixth-generation scion.

With his shock of curly hair and colourful bow tie, he is the company's funky "heritage manager", which means he serves as brand ambassador and manages Cointreau's business development.

"Around the neck of the Cointreau bottle, it says 'aux quatre coins de monde', which means 'to the four corners of the world'," he says. "We are almost everywhere, but what I want to do is consolidate the countries in which we are present and educate people on the superiority of Cointreau, compared to other products."

Although he is one of 15 Cointreau family members, he is the only one in the family business.

I have to make sure I know everything about Cointreau, because if someone asks me, Alfred Cointreau can't say, 'I don't know.'

HERITAGE MANAGER ALFRED COINTREAU, a sixth-generation Cointreau, on starting out at the company's distillery and being rotated through operations such as the bottling and legal departments

Not surprisingly, he finds that his surname comes with certain expectations. "I have to make sure I know everything about Cointreau, because if someone asks me, Alfred Cointreau can't say, 'I don't know'," he says. He is married with a daughter.

He was in town recently for the launch of two special editions of Cointreau liqueur in Singapore.

The first is the Cointreau Noir, developed from an old recipe from 1903, in which the original Cointreau orange liqueur is blended with Remy Martin Cognac. The drink was developed by former Remy Martin cellar master Pierrette Trichet and Cointreau master distiller Bernadette Langlais.

The second is the Cointreau Blood Orange, a new expression distilling the peel of Corsican blood oranges to the sweet and bitter ones typically found in the classic Cointreau.

Family and business are deeply intertwined in the Cointreau family. When a Cointreau baby is baptised, a drop of the liqueur is added to his bottle.

However, Alfred started out not in the family business, but in the advertisement sales department of a newspaper. In 2010, he decided to return to the fold and was rotated through the company's different departments to get familiarised with the operations.

He started out at the distillery, removing bags of orange peels and putting them in pot stills for the distillation process. Later, there were stints at the bottling department and in the legal department. He eventually ended up in his current role, publicising the brand abroad and making sure it evolves with the times.

While he says the recipe and the bottle for the original Cointreau L'Unique "cannot be negotiated", he does not rule out more innovations in future. "When we have a good recipe, why not?" he says. "But we don't want to create and do something every year for the sake of it."

Instead, what he is after is quality. "We don't drink to drink anymore, we drink less so we have to drink better."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 20, 2016, with the headline 'Cointreau scion worked his way up'. Print Edition | Subscribe