The history of the Cosmopolitan is fuzzy — with several bartenders claiming to have invented the classic, pink drink — but it's clear that NYC's The Odeon put it on the map in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The Cosmo’s popularity soared in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s after being prominently featured in “Sex & The City,” and since falling off the radar in recent years, the drink is beginning to make a comeback.
Balancing sweet and tart flavors, the Cosmopolitan is known for delivering both elegance and simplicity: Cranberry juice, high-end vodka, fresh lime, and Cointreau are all it takes to create the perfect Cosmo.
- 1 1/2 oz Vodka
- ½ oz Cranberry juice
- ¾ oz Lime juice
- ¾ oz Cointreau L'unique
- Combine all ingredients in shaker tin
- Add ice.
- Shake vigorously, until tin is frosted over.
- Strain into chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with lime twist and enjoy.
Rate This Recipe:Listen To Our Cocktail College Cosmopolitan Podcast
What’s a Cosmopolitan drink made of?
A Cosmopolitan cocktail is made from a combination of vodka, Cointreau, cranberry juice, and lime juice, shaken and poured into a cocktail glass with a lime twist for garnish.
Why is the drink called a Cosmopolitan?
As with any cocktail created prior to the internet age, there are many confounding stories surrounding the true creator of the Cosmopolitan, and it can be even harder to track down the drink’s namesake.
One popular story surrounding the Cosmopolitan’s creation comes from South Beach bartender Cheryl Cook, who claims to have created the drink in 1989 when she made a Kamikaze — a cocktail that mixes vodka, triple sec, and lime juice — and added “just enough cranberry to make it pretty in pink.” She then claimed that the drink's name came from the March 1989 issue of “Cosmopolitan Magazine,” which had a pink cover.
As for how the drink became dramatically popularized by HBO’s 2004 release of “Sex and the City,” Cook has an explanation for that as well. As stated in Cheryl Charming’s book “The Cocktail Companion,” Cook regularly served “Sex and the City” set designers Patricia Field and Rebecca Weinburg, who she assumes saw her Cosmopolitan and incorporated it into the show.
Is a Cosmopolitan a Martini?
A true vodka Martini consists of just vodka and vermouth, so while a Cosmopolitan is served up in a Martini glass, the cocktail is not a Martini.
Best Practices: Let’s Reevaluate Cosmopolitans
By the time the TV series finale of HBO’s “Sex and the City” aired in 2004, its protagonist’s favorite cocktail, the Cosmopolitan, had become a cultural touchstone. Like many pop icons, the Cosmo had just as many breathless fans as sniffing detractors.
It’s a shame, because a correctly made Cosmopolitan is crowd-pleasingly refreshing.
“All Carrie Bradshaw jokes aside, it’s hard to hate the Cosmopolitan,” reads "Cocktail Codex," the James Beard Award-winning book by the founders of Manhattan’s Death & Co cocktail bar. “The Cosmo is a Sidecar that swaps citrus vodka for the Cognac and lime juice for the lemon, with a small amount of cranberry juice added.”
We spoke to bartenders nationwide to reevaluate the cocktail the mixology movement forgot. Here are five pro tips for making quality Cosmopolitans at home.
How To Make A Cosmopolitan
Use Fresh Juice.
Squeeze fresh limes, bartenders say, and shell out for quality cranberry juice to keep your flavors balanced.
“Cranberries are an incredibly tart fruit,” David Fisher, beverage director of Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar in NYC, says. “If the cranberry juice tastes sweet there’s a good chance there is a lot of fake business going on.”
Watch the Color.
If your finished cocktail is cherry- or garnet-colored, it’s a sure sign you’ve used too much cranberry juice. “Shoot for a bubblegum color,” Dan Rook, lead bartender at Ever Bar in Los Angeles, says. “You want a nice bubblegum pink, not dark red.”
Fisher agrees. “We’ve all fallen into the trap of trying to make our Cosmopolitans bright pink. They should be a nice blush of pink — the cranberry should add to the overall drink flavor, not own it.”
Go Top Shelf.
“Use quality brand spirits,” Rook says. “Don’t be afraid to use a vodka with some actual backbone and flavor.” He suggests Chopin, Black Cow, Kalak, and St. George All Purpose vodkas. Cointreau is his preferred triple sec.
What to Avoid When Making Cosmopolitans
Keep Things Simple.
Ingredients like Rose’s lime juice, sour mix, or what "Cocktail Codex" calls “crappy cranberry cocktail” will give your drink saccharine, unnatural flavors. Rook also advises against adding any sort of sugar or sweetener to the mix.
Ditch Your Assumptions.
“Don’t call it a ‘girly’ drink,” Rook says. “The Cosmo done right is a strong, sexy, modern cocktail that appeals to all genders.”
Cosmopolitan Variations To Try:
- The Cosmo Bianco - With none of the blush hue but all of the flavor of a classic Cosmopolitan, this citrus-scented cocktail is a summer showstopper.
- The Cosmojito - The Cosmojito combines two classics, the Cosmopolitan and the Mojito, in one marvelously minty cocktail.
- The Cosmo Spritz - The Cosmo Spritz is light, bright, and perfect for hot days. Keep reading for this creative recipe that combines vodka with rosé and liqueur.
- The Coconut Cosmo - The Coconut Cosmo cocktail is a complex tropical take on the traditional Cosmopolitan.
- The Twisted Holiday Cosmo - This festive twist on the Cosmo adds citrus spice syrup to up the ante past cranberry juice and vodka.
- Rosé Port Cosmopolitan - This recipe uses Rosé port to create a decadent and refreshing riff on the classic Cosmopolitan that is delicious and easy to make.