Agent Orange: Panos Sarantopoulos

09 January, 2015

Sarantopoulos said at the time: “With the support of talented teams and our group’s agile distribution network, we will inject fresh energy into the division’s houses, brands and activities so that they continue to gather the worldwide recognition they deserve.”

But here in Angers, Sarantopoulos has his Cointreau hat firmly on.

“Cointreau is a historic, traditional liquid. It is rooted in craftsmanship. It is the heart of a cocktail and should be behind every bar. It is in all the classics – a fantastic place to be. One constant is Cointreau,” he opines.

And he is correct. Alfred Cointreau, sixth generation and last remaining family member in the business, is the classic liqueur’s global ambassador.

He is tasked with showing visitors around and indoctrinating them in the history and authenticity of the original triple sec orange liqueur. Guests are shown venerable old cocktail recipe books for the likes of the Sidecar, Margarita, White Lady and Cosmopolitan, which specifically state Cointreau in the recipe, while the London dry gin or other base spirit can be any brand.

In the impressive Cointreau book that one is given, there is a quote from Charles Baker from his 1946 book The Gentleman’s Companion: “One cannot do without Cointreau.” Point made.

Sarantopoulos rams home the point and reveals some of his strategy behind promoting the brand: “People have it at the heart of a cocktail. We want to have Cointreau centre stage and make it the hero.” There’s that word again.

Talking about the bartending fraternity, for whom Cointreau is a must-stock item, he states: “Cointreau is on the lips of our friends. We have close ties with bartenders. We organise invitation-only visits to Angers and have bar professionals from key cities such as New York, San Francisco, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney and Hong Kong.”

Returning to the man, Sarantopoulos has been indoctrinated in the essentially French concept of a house as opposed to a brand within a company’s portfolio. It is obviously something he feels strongly about. He sees Metaxa, the LVMH champagne marques he worked with and, of course, Cointreau as far more than just brands.

“A house is about the people. It is where the owner lives. With a house, you get up and go to bed with that house. You have a dedicated team, back office and front of house. It is like a family, there is the lineage and the DNA is there. You are connecting to the roots,” he explains.

“With a brand you have the tools of the trade such as marketing and advertising. With a house, you have to go further back, to the craftsmanship. A proper team to bring forward the soul of the house. Metaxa has survived for 125 years. There must be something there. It is not just smart marketing. It’s the liquid, what is in the glass, connecting with the roots. There is a world of difference between a brand and a house,” he surmises.

So Cointreau fulfils all of Sarantopoulos’s criteria for his immaculate conception of a house, rather than just a brand.

As he says: “We want to have Cointreau centre stage and make it the hero.”

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