Cosmopolitan Cocktail Recipe

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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. 

Cosmopolitan cocktail on bar with lemon twist

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 in Los Angeles. I was visiting a friend there who was staying there, and she recommended it.

Closeup of Cosmopolitan cocktail with lemon twist

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 are 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. That particular cocktail was made with Absolut Citron, which enhanced the citrus flavors from the lime juice and orange liqueur. And it had fresh lime juice.

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.

Overhead view of Cosmopolitan cocktail with lemon twist

The ingredients

Let’s talk about what ingredients to use in the Cosmopolitan. For the vodka, Absolut Citron was specified originally because the drink was invented when it came out.

Some versions of this recipe call for plain vodka. And you can make it that way. But the Citron adds a lot of enjoyable citrus flavor.

The recipe originally called for Rose’s Sweetened Lime instead of fresh squeezed lime juice. Rose’s adds some sweetness, which may or may not be what you like in this drink.

More recent recipes call for fresh lime juice, which will give it a nice tart flavor. Lime juice goes wonderfully with cranberry.

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 to ease the tartness.

Cosmopolitan cocktail with lemon twist against blurry background

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. 

Also delicious is the Long Beach Iced Tea, featuring a generous amount of white liquors with cranberry juice and triple sec for flavor.

Cosmopolitan cocktail on bar with lemon twist
Yield: 1 drink

Cosmopolitan Cocktail Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Learn how to make the Cosmopolitan cocktail at home. This old classic features vodka, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and more. It’s amazingly refreshing and delicious!

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Absolut Citron
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • Lemon twist (for garnish)

Instructions

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.
  2. Pour in all the ingredients (except the lemon twist).
  3. Shake well until the shaker feels cold.
  4. Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass.
  5. Garnish with the lemon twist.
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