The Cosmopolitan cocktail is a beautiful reddish-pink gem of a drink. It features citron vodka with fruit juice and Cointreau and lime.
The origin story
The origins of the Cosmopolitan or uncertain. It’s credited to several different bartenders in the 70s and 80s, with the most common origin story being that it was created by a Florida bartender in the mid-80s.
But in recent years, someone has unearthed a recipe from 1934 from a book called Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars. It’s called the Cosmopolitan Daisy and it sounds a lot like our Cosmopolitan, only with gin and raspberry syrup instead of vodka and cranberry juice.
The exact version of the recipe included here could be from any of the sources who have claimed credit over the years. We’ll also mention some possible variations.
One thing we can say for sure: the version of this drink with citron vodka can’t be older than 1988 because that’s when Absolut first started producing Citron. And that is now considered the official version.
The taste of a Cosmopolitan
The first time I had a Cosmopolitan cocktail was at a famous hotel bar in Los Angeles. I was visiting a friend there who was staying there, and she recommended it.
That hotel made an incredible Cosmopolitan. Possibly the best I’ve ever tasted, or maybe it was just a case of the first time with any new thing being so memorable. Whatever the case, my first thought on tasting it was “fresh.”
That was literally the word that came to mind. And my next thought was “pink lemonade” because it reminded me of the first time I tasted that when I was a kid. There’re different recipes for pink lemonade, but we always had was a combination of cranberry juice and lemon juice.
The Cosmopolitan has that combination of sharp and sweet – berry and citrus. But the citrus was the strongest note. I suspect that particular cocktail was made with Absolut Citron, which enhanced the citrus flavors from the grapefruit juice, lime and orange liqueur. I’d also guess it had fresh lime instead of the sweeter Rose’s Lime.
Some bars make this drink more sweet, and it’s all a matter of personal preference. If you prefer them on the dry side, you definitely want to use Citron and fresh lime, and fresh grapefruit juice if it’s available.
Speaking of fresh-squeezed fruit juices, let’s talk about what ingredients to use in the Cosmopolitan. For the vodka, you don’t need to go high end, since the fruit juice is going to dominate the flavor, but it should be drinkable. Absolut – Citron or otherwise – will work nicely.
If you can get grapefruits and fresh squeeze them, it will give you a more dry flavor than bottled grapefruit juice, which usually has added sugar. It also has a sharper, fresher flavor, which really makes the drink stand out.
Of course, if you don’t like your drinks too dry, then bottled grapefruit juice might be the better choice for you. And if you can’t do fresh squeezed, but you prefer a dry flavor, look for bottled white grapefruit juice.
However, the lime juice is a case of fresh not always being best. Fresh lime is extremely tart and will add no real sweetness to the drink. The official recipe calls for Rose’s Sweetened Lime instead, specifically because the drink needs a little sweetness. Still, some people prefer it with fresh lime, so feel free to experiment.
The orange liqueur is Cointreau, officially, but other versions call for triple sec. It’s also good with Patron Citronge.
For the cranberry juice, you just want a standard bottle of grocery store cranberry juice, which is actually a blend of cranberry with some sweeter fruit juices. Fresh or pure cranberry juice would be too tart for most cocktails.
This is a great drink for just about any occasion. It’s great for a night out or a night in. It’s also great to enjoy on a warm day by the pool.
If you love this drink, you should also check out the Sea Breeze, which blends vodka with cranberry and grapefruit juice. The Lemon Drop Martini is another classic featuring vodka with orange liqueur, lemon juice and sugar.
You might also want to try the Singapore Sling, a gorgeous drink with gin, cherry brandy, pineapple juice, Cointreau, Benedictine and more.
And then there’s the Smooth Pink Lemonade, with its down home appeal coming from vodka, cranberry juice, sweet and sour and 7-up.
- Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Pour in all the ingredients (except the lemon twist).
- Shake well until the shaker feels cold.
- Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass.
- Garnish with the lemon twist.