Few iconic cocktails predated the contemporary cocktail revival, but the Cosmopolitan was one of them.
Created in 1988, the “Cosmo,” as it is commonly referred to, didn’t come into vogue until the early-to-mid 1990s. The mastermind behind this classic? A veteran bartender by the name of Toby Cecchini—now owner of The Long Island Bar in Brooklyn.
At the time of the Cosmo’s genesis, Cecchini was cutting his teeth as a mid-twenties bartender in the industry at the iconic Tribeca restaurant: the Odeon. In 1988, a time when the Martini reigned supreme, Cecchini caught wind of a drink called the Cosmopolitan that was taking the gay bars of San Francisco by storm, which was made of vodka, Rose’s lime juice, and Rose’s grenadine. As any creative bartender would, he decided to take some of the flavors of this popular tipple and elevate it with some balance in flavors and ratios.
His first grab was Absolut Citron—vodka with notes of citrus that was just released and launched a flavored-vodka craze. Then he took the cocktail in the direction of a Margarita with the addition of fresh lime juice and Cointreau. Ultimately he substituted the cranberry cocktail juice for the grenadine and garnished with a fresh lemon peel. The result was a light-pink hued cocktail in a pretty coupe that, some years later, the ladies of HBO’s Sex and the City took a liking to and became their drink of choice, catapulting the drink into the mainstream and making it one of the most popular cocktails of all-time.
While it started as a staff favorite, Cecchini could no longer control the allure of his bright, balanced vodka sour that spread like wildfire across the New York City bar scene.
Still, this cocktail is often the bane of the modern bartender’s existence—along with the dry vodka Martini—it is a classic that is often botched but can be a beautifully balanced cocktail when executed correctly. Ensuring that a citron vodka is used as the base is vital for high notes of citrus that brightens the cocktail through the essence of the citrus, as opposed to the juice. Your choice of cranberry cocktail juice is also essential—keep it simple with Ocean Spray, or some other bright, red, fruity cranberry juice to make sure you’re ending up with a pretty pink and not a mucky off-red hue is also key. (Organic cranberry juices are often a more natural color—this, unfortunately, doesn’t work here.) Add those two ingredients with fresh lime juice, and Cointreau (or an 80-proof triple sec), then make sure you’re giving a proper shake—typically 12 seconds for shaken cocktails that are served up—and you’re on your way to a Cecchini-level Cosmopolitan. However, you’ll have to visit him at The Long Island Bar for a truly proper one.
- 1 1/2 oz. citron vodka
- 3/4 oz. lime juice
- 3/4 oz. Cointreau
- 3/4 oz. cranberry cocktail juice (like Ocean Spray)
Preparation: Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker; add ice; shake, then strain into coupe glass. Garnish with an expressed lemon peel, and serve.