As with many cocktails, the origins of the cosmopolitan recipe are the subject of much dispute. Some spirits historians and armchair aficionados claim the drink originated in a beachside Florida bar. Others credit Dale DeGroff, the original chief bartender at New York City’s legendary Rainbow Room. But by and large, most industry pros acknowledge Toby Cecchini as the inventor of the drink as we know it today.
As his inspiration, Cecchini cites a pink vodka-based drink with triple sec and grenadine that was popular in San Francisco gay bars in the 1980s. While working as a bartender at Manhattan’s Odeon in 1988, the New York bartender reimagined the Californian recipe with premium citrus flavored vodka, Cointreau, and a splash of cranberry. Not long after, there was no question that the Cosmo had become the "It Girl" Drink of the 1990s. The distinction was further cemented by its prominent role in the nightlife escapades of the original Sex and the City cast, who carried the pink drink squarely into the decade’s cultural zeitgeist. And while the cosmopolitan experienced a slight dip in cachet when the retro, bitters-and-whiskey-driven cocktail movement exploded in the aughts, a glimmer of cosmo nostalgia seems to have emerged. Deb Perelman likes them, and Ina Garten does, too.
In fact, the cosmo takes its cue from the similarly sweet-tart sidecar, while using dive bar staples—vodka and cranberry—in place of the fancier Cognac, making for a more accessible and quaffable serve. This latter characteristic is part of the drink’s appeal as well as its primary danger: it’s far too easy to knock back two or even three of them if you are not paying attention. But I argue that the original recipe is no less worthy of a place in the craft cocktail canon. Cecchini’s original decision to use Cointreau—a premium French orange liqueur—over well triple sec elevates the recipe, placing it firmly in the craft cocktail realm while still welcoming the everyday drinker to the party.
- 1½ oz. citrus-flavored vodka (such as Absolut Citron)
- ¾ oz. Cointreau
- ¾ oz. cranberry juice cocktail
- ¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
- Lemon twist, for garnish