The Cosmopolitan: Once the "It" Cocktail
Maybe it’s the appealing pink color, the pleasing tart flavor or the swanky glassware. Perhaps it was the four liberated and stylish ladies of New York who adored them. But for one reason or another. the Cosmopolitan -- or Cosmo, for short -- was the “It” cocktail of the late 1990s and first half of the 2000s.
This tipple hit its zenith of fame when it became the favorite drink of Carrie Bradshaw on HBO’s “Sex and the City.” But believe or not, the Cosmo pre-dates the prime time television show by years. It was also another trend-setting celebrity that lent her hand at influencing this drink ‘s destiny before Sarah Jessica Parker started to imbibe on this vodka, cranberry and citrus concoction.
The Museum of the American Cocktail recently hosted a seminar on popular vodka drinks, which included the history behind the Cosmopolitan. Phil Greene, founding member of the museum and author of “To Have and Have Another : A Hemingway Cocktail Companion,” hosted the event, which was held at the Warehouse theater inside the Passenger bar.
Several recipes for cocktails similar to Cosmopolitan have been uncovered. One recipe for a drink named “Cosmopolitan” that Greene dug up dates back to 1934, from the book “Pioneers of Mixing Gin at Elite Bar 1903-1933.” While this early recipe uses gin instead of vodka, its remaining ingredients are comparable to today’s version. Using gin in a cocktail during that time was commonplace. Vodka did not start to get a stronghold in the American drink scene until the 1950s. Another similar recipe from the Ocean Spray Cranberry Growers from the 1960s, was unearthed by Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff which calls for one ounce of vodka, one ounce of cranberry and a squeeze of lime.
The invention of the modern-day Cosmo is generally credited to bartender Cheryl Cook in Miami’s South Beach. According to Greene, “In the mid-1980s the martini was making a comeback, and many customers were ordering them, seemingly just to be seen holding the iconic martini glass. However, for many, including women, martinis were a bit too strong and powerful. So she came up with the idea to create a drink that was visually stunning and uses the martini glass. Using a new product called Absolut Citron, a splash of triple sec, a few dashes of Rose’s Lime and some cranberry juice to turn it pink, the Cosmopolitan was born.”
The Cosmo further evolved when cocktail heavyweight DeGroff sampled it at the Fog City Diner in San Francisco. DeGroff decided he could improve upon this formula and created his own version for the Rainbow Room in New York. According to Greene, he used Absolut Citron, Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime juice, along with a flamed orange peel garnish.
It was at the Rainbow Room where the Cosmo’s superstardom began. Its prominence skyrocketed when Madonna was pictured sipping one at the Rainbow Room Grammy party, when the award show was held next-door at Radio City Music Hall. Next came “Sex and the City,” which cemented the Cosmopolitan’s place in drink history.
Soon, Cosmos were on cocktail menus across the nation along with various drinks with names ending in “ini” and served in the cone-shape big martini glasses. While the Cosmo’s place in the sun has faded somewhat, it has earned a spot on the list of classic cocktails. Even our favorite New York girl seems to have cooled on her Cosmopolitan. In the film version of Sex and City, Miranda asks why the girls stopped drinking Cosmos. Carrie replies, "Because everyone else started."
Dale DeGroff’s Cosmopolitan: 1.5 oz. Absolut Citron Vodka .5 oz. Cointreau .25 oz. Fresh Lime Juice 1 oz. Cranberry Juice
Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.
The Museum of the American Cocktail will be sponsoring evening of stories, cocktails and songs led by Dale DeGroff on Thursday, April 12. For more information, visit www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org