We’re finally mixing the Cosmopolitan cocktail on May 7 because it’s National Cosmopolitan Day. We also understand if this makes your eyes roll. After all, a cocktail that emerged during the Dark Ages of Drinking is sure to make our loyal readers question if we’ve lowered our standards. The fact that the Cosmopolitan cocktail became the only drink of the late 20th century to become a household name doesn’t help. Nor did becoming the drink of choice on the TV series Sex and the City. But it’s not a bad drink, it’s actually good, if made with quality ingredients. The Cosmopolitan recipe we describe is far better than what was generally served during its heyday, but that is simply because we avoid such abominations as “sour mix” and Triple Sec.
The Cosmopolitan Cocktail
Drinkers were involved so it’s no surprise there’s controversy over who invented the Cosmopolitan. Many bartenders claim it as their brainchild, but they do so without any supporting evidence.
In his book The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails, the consummate historian David Wondrich attributes the Cosmopolitan in the form worth mixing to Toby Cecchini at The Odeon in TriBeCa. It’s still on their menu today.
Cecchini was armed with Absolut Citron, which became available in 1988. He used that new ingredient to re-engineer a drink from San Francisco, also called the Cosmopolitan, that he knew of. That San Francisco version has been described as a kamikaze with cranberry juice served in a cocktail glass. But Cecchini upped the game beyond switching the vodka. He used actual lime juice instead of the sad imitation found in the Rose’s Lime Juice product. (You know we’re not fans of the day-glo hued high fructose corn syrup Rose’s as we refuse to use it in our Gimlet.) Beyond that he also used Cointreau instead of the cheapest Triple Sec available.
Word spread. A recipe appeared in print. The term “Cosmo” was used for the first time but those versions still used Rose’s Lime Juice. The improved version from The Odeon became widespread in New York by 1990. Its popularity was likely aided by Dale DeGroff, the “King of Cocktails,” when he offered it at the famed Rainbow Room.
Of course, it was the role of the Cosmo in the HBO series Sex in the City that brought fame. It’s recurrence there labeled it as a sophisticated drink. As Wondrich notes, “The Cosmo’s role in introducing a new generation of drinkers (who had grown up in a beer and wine world) to cocktails cannot be underestimated.” So there was some good to it.
How to make the best Cosmopolitan cocktail
So how do you make a good Cosmopolitan cocktail? It’s easy, just a matter of using the right ingredients, and that’s important on National Cosmopolitan Day. It means no Rose’s Lime Juice. It means banishing lousy triple sec to the Sink of Shame™.
The Cosmopolitan fits into the family of sours, meaning a spirit, citrus juice and something sweet. Here we use Absolut Citron vodka, actual rather than Rose’s Lime Juice and Cointreau as opposed to Triple Sec. So far it’s really a vodka-based Margarita, but the recipe goes on to include cranberry juice. That juice, of course, adds the famous pink color.
When it made its frequent appearances in Sex in the City the Cosmo was served in V-shaped “martini” glasses. Carry on that way if you like, but we are not generally fans of that glass as it’s prone to spillage. Our choice for a shaken drink is almost always a coupe cocktail glass, which is something you should definitely have in your bar arsenal.
- Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into pre-chilled coupe.
- Garnish with orange twist or lime wheel.
- Rinse and repeat.