Bottle #69: Marie Brizard Triple Sec

Jun 20, 2024

When I sat down to do my research on Bottle #69: Marie Brizard Triple Sec, I figured it would be straightforward, and possibly a little boring. When a company is still around, they often do a lot of the work of telling their own story. But in this case, they didn’t tell ALL the story, which I discovered when I looked a little deeper. And that story wasn’t at all boring!

Read the rest of the story

One of the tricks I’ve discovered for looking a little deeper, especially for brands from non-English speaking countries, is to read the foreign language Wikipedia page. They are not just translated English pages. In many cases they are completely different entries. That proved to be the case for Marie Brizard. The English language page is just three paragraphs long, whereas the French one is four pages.

The basic story is the same. The company was founded by Marie Brizard and her nephew in 1755. Their initial product was an anisette liqueur, which became quite popular and won favor with King Louis XV’s court. From there, the company expanded to make and distribute a variety of liqueurs and other products. The family owned the company until 1998. In 2006 they were acquired by the Belvedere spirits group, which eventually changed the name of the combined company to Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits in 2016.

But brands are more than the facts. Most successful brands, like successful superheroes, have some sort of mythology and origin story. But, just like superheroes get rebooted regularly, brands also change their myths to reflect their goals and the world around them. And in the case of Marie Brizard, it’s a really interesting look at culture and society.

On one side, you have Marie Brizard the trail-breaking, entrepreneurial woman, who started her own business in 1755, recruiting her nephew to overcome limitations caused by sexism. She was talented with flavors and invented the whole style of anisette liqueur in France. She had business savvy, so smartly got her liqueur into the hands of someone who could present it to the King, and fame and riches followed.

Now, in reality, anisette was already being made in the region, and Marie Brizard took over a distillery owned by her father. But the company’s anisette was particularly highly regarded, sales did boom, and she does seem to have been a successful businesswoman. This is the kind of story that resonates a lot with us today, and we can write off the variations as just minor embellishments.

But for much of the company’s history, they told a very different story. Beginning in the 1950s, Marie Brizard was painted in an entirely different light. This version of Marie Brizard was a charitable woman who devoted her time to caring for the sick. She was gifted the recipe for a secret elixir from an ill man she had nursed back to health. Depending on the story, the man was either a slave named Thomas or a planter from the West Indies. A 1955 brochure went so far as to say that she had “no vocation for commerce,” but was eventually convinced to start selling her elixir – now imbued with magical healthful properties – for the benefit of others.

There are kernels of reality in this story too. The herbs and spices and sugar that Marie Brizard used to craft her liqueur were being imported into Bordeaux as part of the transatlantic slave trade and colonization of the West Indies. And in fact, her anisette was traded for enslaved people along the coast of Africa. But her characterization as a charitable mouse of a woman feels like a pretty dramatic re-write of history, although one that the company clearly thought would suit their purposes better in the mid-twentieth century.

Today we’re back to the first Marie Brizard, the dynamic business woman, although the company is still claiming that she was the one to invent anisette in general. They also claim that they created the first orange liqueur in France in 1766, and that seems like it might be slightly more reliable. And in any case, it brings us back to this tiny bottle of triple sec.

As I talked about in Bottle #50 – Cointreau – Triple Sec is one of the words that has become a generic for orange liqueur. Before that, it was Curacao. Up until the 1960s, Marie Brizard did what a lot of producers did and called their orange liqueur a Curacao Triple Sec to cover all the bases. My bottle comes from the 1970s, when they started selling two separate orange liqueurs: my triple sec, with its clear color like Cointreau, and one called curacao with a brandy base and a correspondingly brown-ish orange color. Mini bottles like mine were sold in sampler sets that included a variety of different liqueur flavors, so I won’t be too surprised if there are other 1970s bottles from Marie Brizard in the collection.

My bottle is glass, with a nice high fill level and no discoloring to indicate oxidation. It’s also 39% alcohol, so I’m cautiously optimistic that it will still be tasty!

Want even more My Tiny Bottles? Patreon supporters get access to bonus content, behind the scenes information, monthly cocktail recipes and more. Become a free member or paid supporter here!

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Bottle #69: Marie Brizard Triple Sec

Jun 20, 2024 |

When I sat down to do my research on Bottle #69: Marie Brizard Triple Sec, I figured it would be straightforward, and possibly a little boring. When a company is still around, they often do a lot of the work of telling their own story. But in this case, they didn’t tell ALL the story, which I discovered when I looked a little deeper. And that story wasn’t at all boring!

One of the tricks I’ve discovered for looking a little deeper, especially for brands from non-English speaking countries, is to read the foreign language Wikipedia page. They are not just translated English pages. In many cases they are completely different entries. That proved to be the case for Marie Brizard. The English language page is just three paragraphs long, whereas the French one is four pages.

The basic story is the same. The company was founded by Marie Brizard and her nephew in 1755. Their initial product was an anisette liqueur, which became quite popular and won favor with King Louis XV’s court. From there, the company expanded to make and distribute a variety of liqueurs and other products. The family owned the company until 1998. In 2006 they were acquired by the Belvedere spirits group, which eventually changed the name of the combined company to Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits in 2016.

But brands are more than the facts. Most successful brands, like successful superheroes, have some sort of mythology and origin story. But, just like superheroes get rebooted regularly, brands also change their myths to reflect their goals and the world around them. And in the case of Marie Brizard, it’s a really interesting look at culture and society.

On one side, you have Marie Brizard the trail-breaking, entrepreneurial woman, who started her own business in 1755, recruiting her nephew to overcome limitations caused by sexism. She was talented with flavors and invented the whole style of anisette liqueur in France. She had business savvy, so smartly got her liqueur into the hands of someone who could present it to the King, and fame and riches followed.

Now, in reality, anisette was already being made in the region, and Marie Brizard took over a distillery owned by her father. But the company’s anisette was particularly highly regarded, sales did boom, and she does seem to have been a successful businesswoman. This is the kind of story that resonates a lot with us today, and we can write off the variations as just minor embellishments.

But for much of the company’s history, they told a very different story. Beginning in the 1950s, Marie Brizard was painted in an entirely different light. This version of Marie Brizard was a charitable woman who devoted her time to caring for the sick. She was gifted the recipe for a secret elixir from an ill man she had nursed back to health. Depending on the story, the man was either a slave named Thomas or a planter from the West Indies. A 1955 brochure went so far as to say that she had “no vocation for commerce,” but was eventually convinced to start selling her elixir – now imbued with magical healthful properties – for the benefit of others.

There are kernels of reality in this story too. The herbs and spices and sugar that Marie Brizard used to craft her liqueur were being imported into Bordeaux as part of the transatlantic slave trade and colonization of the West Indies. And in fact, her anisette was traded for enslaved people along the coast of Africa. But her characterization as a charitable mouse of a woman feels like a pretty dramatic re-write of history, although one that the company clearly thought would suit their purposes better in the mid-twentieth century.

Today we’re back to the first Marie Brizard, the dynamic business woman, although the company is still claiming that she was the one to invent anisette in general. They also claim that they created the first orange liqueur in France in 1766, and that seems like it might be slightly more reliable. And in any case, it brings us back to this tiny bottle of triple sec.

As I talked about in Bottle #50 – Cointreau – Triple Sec is one of the words that has become a generic for orange liqueur. Before that, it was Curacao. Up until the 1960s, Marie Brizard did what a lot of producers did and called their orange liqueur a Curacao Triple Sec to cover all the bases. My bottle comes from the 1970s, when they started selling two separate orange liqueurs: my triple sec, with its clear color like Cointreau, and one called curacao with a brandy base and a correspondingly brown-ish orange color. Mini bottles like mine were sold in sampler sets that included a variety of different liqueur flavors, so I won’t be too surprised if there are other 1970s bottles from Marie Brizard in the collection.

My bottle is glass, with a nice high fill level and no discoloring to indicate oxidation. It’s also 39% alcohol, so I’m cautiously optimistic that it will still be tasty!

Want even more My Tiny Bottles? Patreon supporters get access to bonus content, behind the scenes information, monthly cocktail recipes and more. Become a free member or paid supporter here!

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