The legendary Cosmopolitan is a simple cocktail with a big history. It reached its height of popularity in the 1990s, when the HBO show “Sex and the City” was at its peak. The pink-hued, Martini-style drink was a favorite of the characters on the show. It made its debut during the second season and became a series regular after that.
For a good decade, the Cosmopolitan may have been the most popular cocktail in America, and bartenders couldn’t work a shift without making dozens of them for thirsty patrons. Naturally, its ubiquity spurred countless riffs, from the White Cosmo (St-Germain in place of Cointreau) to versions featuring gin. While the drink isn’t as popular today as it was in its heyday, the classic recipe is still very much alive.
According to bartending legend and author Gary Regan, the original Cosmopolitan was created in 1985 by Miami bartender Cheryl Cook while working at a South Beach bar called the Strand. Eager to invent a new cocktail for the Martini glass, Cook riffed on the classic Kamikaze by using a newly introduced citrus-flavored vodka, plus a splash of cranberry juice.
There’s some debate about who created the original Cosmopolitan. Many believe, like Regan, that it was first mixed by Cook. Others believe that Dale DeGroff concocted it at New York City’s Rainbow Room, or that Toby Cecchini first devised a Cosmo in 1988 during his tenure at New York’s Odeon. However, all agree that Cecchini popularized the vodka-and-cranberry ’Tini. His version of the drink called for 2 ounces of Absolut Citron vodka, an ounce of Cointreau, an ounce of Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail and an ounce of fresh lime juice, with a lemon twist.
The Cosmo was a product of its time. In the late-1980s and early-’90s, vodka was king, but flavored vodka was just finding an audience. When Absolut released its first flavored vodka, the lemony Citron, bartenders had a new toy to work with. Cecchini used it in the Cosmo alongside Ocean Spray, and the vodka-and-cranberry duo is still the preferred pair at most bars today. You, of course, can use whichever citrus-flavored vodka and cranberry juice you like. Just remember: Don’t drown your drink in cranberry. Other cocktails like the Sea Breeze call for a heavier measure of cranberry, but here the juice is meant to be only an accent, adding a touch of tartness and color.
Click Play to See This Cosmopolitan Recipe Come Together
- 1 1/2 ounces citrus vodka
- 1 ounce Cointreau
- 1/2 ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/4 ounce cranberry juice
- Garnish: lime wedge
Add the vodka, Cointreau, lime juice and cranberry juice to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lime wedge.