Cosmopolitan

If ever a drink symbolized a specific time, it is the bright pink, citric Cosmopolitan. That time was the 1990s. It was the drink to be seen with. In New York, people drank Cosmopolitans by the trayload in the elevated Rainbow Room bar inside Rockefeller Center. One photo of Madonna enjoying a Cosmopolitan on a night out, coupled with the weekly cocktail-drinking adventures of Carrie Bradshaw and her friends in Sex and the City, was all it took to make the drink a phenomenon.

Its story begins as recently as 1968. Marketing men for the company Ocean Spray were looking for a way to bring their cranberry juice to the adult market, so on every carton they printed a recipe for a new cocktail called the Harpoon. This consisted of vodka, cranberry juice, and lime. It may have lacked finesse, but it was enough to encourage barmen to start experimenting.

Of the number of people who are credited with bringing a cranberry-flavored cocktail to a wider audience, the main player appears to be a bartender named Cheryl Cook, working in South Beach, Florida, in the late ’70s. She noticed that her customers wanted to be seen drinking something sophisticated like a martini, but that in fact it was too sour for them. So she decided to create a cocktail that would suit the Miami crowd. She used lemon-infused vodka and triple sec combined with lime for sharpness and sweetened it with just enough cranberry juice to make it pretty. She says she chose the name as a direct link to the magazine Cosmopolitan, whose style and design she was trying to reflect.

Cook’s role in the history of the Cosmopolitan is constantly disputed—some say she never even existed. One man who did exist and can be pinpointed for helping the drink’s global domination was John Caine. He came across variations while working the bars of Provincetown, Massachusetts, which in the 1970s was a popular destination among emerging gay communities. Provincetown is not far from one of the main cranberry-producing areas in America, and the Cosmopolitan had become incredibly popular as a way of using the local juice. When Caine left to start his own bar in San Francisco a few years later, he took the drink with him.

The Cosmopolitan became widely known in trendy bars in San Francisco. People hung out, drinking, smoking, and having fun. It was during this time that the drink began to creep into popular culture. The writings of Armistead Maupin described the San Francisco social scene, and soon the Cosmo had spread across the country, eventually making its way to New York and into those Sex and the City girls’ glasses.–James Winter

LC Cosmopolitan Moment Note

Name your most memorable Cosmopolitan moment. It can be your own Cosmopolitan moment or it can be a Cosmopolitan moment you experienced vicariously, whether via a dear friend, a detested coworker, or a scene with those sassy ladies from Sex and the City. Let us know in a comment below. Go.

Special Equipment: cocktail shaker

Cosmopolitan Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 5 M
  • 5 M
  • Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce citron vodka
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce cranberry juice
  • Ice cubes
  • Orange twist, for garnish

Directions

  • 1. Shake the vodka, Cointreau, lime juice, cranberry juice, and ice vigorously in a cocktail shaker.
  • 2. Strain the pale pink Cosmopolitan into a martini glass, garnish with the twist, and serve.
Thirsty for more? Sip on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Kim Venglar

May 09, 2014

This is the first time I've tasted a Cosmopolitan, and I love it. It's simple to make and very smooth going down. A nice refreshing drink that I can see myself making for guests during summer. I used regular vodka since that's what I had on hand.

Testers Choice
Jackie G.

May 09, 2014

Simple. Really good. Elegant in a martini glass. Fun. Definitely not what I usually drink, and not something that I would ever order out. However, I really enjoyed this and will be enjoying it again. Maybe this evening.

Testers Choice
Linda M.

May 09, 2014

This is the quintessential Cosmopolitan—perfectly proportioned with a nice, sweet tang. I highly recommend purchasing 100% cranberry juice to elevate the flavor of this cocktail. Chilling your martini glass is a plus, too. Cheers!

Testers Choice
Linda Pacchiano

May 09, 2014

This is my "go-to" Cosmo recipe. I always use vodka l'orange because I like the fact that it further adds to the orange, which is a great combination with the lime and cranberry. Depending on your preference, a plain or vodka citron would also be appropriate. The proportions in the recipe are perfect, although I usually add an additional splash cranberry juice. I very much prefer the orange twist as a garnish rather than a lime wedge. My only complaint is that it makes just 1 serving. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled in your cocktail shaker. All of the proportions would remain the same.

Testers Choice
Susan Burgess

May 09, 2014

I've been craving a Cosmopolitan recently, but for one reason or another each night I've decided not to have a mixed drink. Tonight I grabbed the opportunity to try this. It's now "My Perfect Ten Cosmopolitan." See, I experiment with proportions to find the right balance for me for various cocktails, and now I need look no further for a go-to Cosmo recipe. Besides having the proportions that suit my taste, this recipe makes the right amount for me. The twist of a nice, fresh, sweet orange clinched it.

Testers Choice
Victoria Filippi

May 09, 2014

It's always nice to have a cocktail recipe that works. I've enjoyed many Cosmopolitans in restaurants and bars, and this one is right up there. I think it's the perfect blend of ingredients to warrant a really well-balanced Cosmopolitan. I enjoyed it using Ketel One Citron and garnished it with an orange slice and a lime slice. For something a little different, I think this would be quite delicious using pomegranate vodka and POM juice.

Testers Choice
Marilee Johnson

May 09, 2014

I think this has the right amount of all ingredients. It was refreshing, sweet, and just a little tart all at the same time. I've had as good—and much worse—at restaurants before. But for a make-at-home version, this is a good go-to recipe.

Comments
Comments
  1. Lisa Keys says:

    my favorite drink of all time but with ketel one or grey goose vodka

  2. Aida says:

    That looks sooooooo yummy!!! Thank you for sharing with us David. I also want to wish your special women in your life a very Happy Mother’s Day.

  3. Sally T. says:

    The best drink ever, and my favorite. :-)

  4. Erin says:

    I still love a well made Cosmo when I go out for drinks with my girlfriends – we all do, even some of our husbands like them! A delicious drink isn’t something that should lose favor simply because it’s iconic to a particular era.

    This recipe is perfect, but it’s also great with the cranberry replaced by pomegranate or tart cherry juice—which means it’s a health food! So drink up!

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      Erin, agreed. I’m happily secure enough in my masculinity that I have no hesitation asking for one! And I do thing a good drink should never go out of fashion just because it’s no longer trendy.

  5. Cleo says:

    I still really love these drinks, just the right amount of sweet and tart to vodka, it has to be very, very cold. My best memory is one of my besties and I in Las Vegas after a spa day at Canyon Ranch in the Venetian. We had some wonderful fresh sushi and then after a few Cosmos we giggled and danced the night away.

  6. Ruthie Houghton says:

    Just a quick note: Before the Harpoon there was the Scarlett O’Hara. Southern Comfort, cranberry juice, and lime. The mixture was shaken in a cocktail shaker with ice, then set to mingle flavors for a bit. I remember my parents enjoying them with some of my mother’s relatives in 1947. How I would beg for a sip! A delicious drink! Thanks for the delightful memories!

  7. Evangeline says:

    Improbably, I can only remember having this once. But it was memorable. I was visiting friends who I’d first met here in Kathmandu, Nepal, but who had moved to Goa, India, where the husband was a Food and Beverage Manager in a large, elegant hotel. They’d invited me to dinner, and when I arrived, the wife had been held up, so her husband and I sat in the bar of the hotel, waiting for her. I was pretty overwhelmed by the amazing atmosphere and also pretty clueless when he asked me what I wanted to drink. This was some years ago, and while I’d have an answer now, I didn’t then, so he ordered two Cosmopolitans. They were served in larger, slightly round glasses, and were amazing. The perfect prelude to one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      Wow, Evangeline! So elegant. I’ve only had them at NYC bars with women who desperately wanted to be one of the fearless foursome in “Sex and the City.”

  8. Jeff says:

    Some years ago a friend introduced me to a drink he like which was just a custom order of vodka with a splash of cranberry juice. One night I ordered it at a restaurant and the waiter said “so you want a cosmopolitan?” Who knew – I led a sheltered life. But I started drinking and completely and thoroughly enjoying them. Couldn’t order them around the kids – they would crawl under the table. Keg beer to them was the order of the day. Now I see this recipe. Got an dinner party coming up in a few weeks. Guess what I’ll be serving? Thanks David for the reminder!

  9. M. Libretti says:

    This is still my favorite cocktail, thanks for posting it.

  10. Jan DeLaVega says:

    Cosmo Moment: My Mother -in-Law was a chronic insomniac. We Cosmo drinking cocktail hour denizens decided we would give her a Cosmo every evening to see if it would help. She drank it down much too fast (being a Methodist Tea totaler and having no notion of how to drink) and proclaimed she felt very relaxed but WOOZY with her voice going up several alarming octaves on the last syllable of the word. Thus was born a Cosmo tradition of never having one again without proclaiming our WOOZY-ness.

  11. Jan DeLaVega says:

    Yes !! She slept like a big WOOZY Baby. The drink was strong enough to drowned out the insomnia AND Methodist guilt for drinking it.

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