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A Brief History Of The Cosmopolitan (And How To Mix One Perfectly)

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A certain uber-chic Ms C Bradshaw made the drink famous. A popstar whose bops have made her a fan favourite is credited for bringing this drink back to the mainstream, courtesy some of her public appearances. And, if you happen to be a fan of an iconic TV show that addressed sex and city-life in the journeys of four female friends, you’re probably already well-acquainted with this cocktail – The Cosmopolitan.

With a distinctive pink colour, this sweet-and-sour cocktail has become a symbol of elegance, extravagance and allure. You may have even thought it is a modern classic. However, the Cosmo has been a cultural phenomenon that dates back to the 1930s.  Let’s delve into its history to find out why this is a universal favourite. 

How did the Cosmo come into being?

Rumour has it that even though the drink was discovered in the 1930s, its recipe finds a mention in the Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars 1930-1933. The story goes that the bartender, Neal Murray, created the Cosmo by adding cranberry juice to kamikaze. On tasting the drink, he exclaimed, “How cosmopolitan,” ‌thus officially giving it a name. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s – nearly five decades later – that the cocktail actually earned a name for itself. Somewhere along the line, the cocktail that would become the base for the modern-day Cosmopolitan was discovered. We also went through a series of evolutions before we settled for our beloved iconic cocktail. Interestingly, it was because of HBO’s Sex & The City, that the cocktail boomed in its popularity. 

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How do you make a perfect Cosmo?

The perfect Cosmopolitan recipe consists of vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and freshly squeezed lime juice that lends it a hot pink colour that makes it incredibly appealing to look at! So, if you’re planning on recreating this cocktail at home, roll up your sleeves because you’re going to have to be precise and careful or you’ll end up with something Cosmo-adjacent, and nobody wants that! 

So, you’ll need vodka, think Smirnoff Triple Distilled Vodka, triple sec – Cointreau is a mixologist-approved spirit – and cranberry juice. You will also need freshly squeezed lime juice, and a few cranberries or a lime twist for garnish. 

First, take your shaker and allow it to chill in the freezer and hang out with the frozen peas till you’re out of patience. Then, add the ice cubes into the shaker. Next, add 60 ml of vodka, 30 ml of triple sec, 30 ml of cranberry juice, and about 20 ml of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Then shake for about 20 seconds.  Strain the mixture into a martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist or a few cranberries. And there you've got a delicious Cosmo waiting for you.

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ALSO READ | 5 Twists On The Classic Cosmopolitan That Are Just As Delicious (& Easy)

Over time, the recipe has undergone many a makeover, thanks to mixologists who enthusiastically experimented with the drink. There’s the Elderflower Cosmo, which substitutes the triple sec with elderflower liqueur; the Cosmo-tini, which just means more vodka than the classic recipe prescribes;  the Cosmo Fizz, which is the addition of champagne to the original recipe for a fizzy kick. 

The Cosmo is still a crowd-pleaser across bars in New York and Los Angeles. Mixologists have substituted the classic vodka with cranberry-infused vodka to create a more complex drink. It’s a favourite in the United Kingdom where they add local brands of vodka, lending the cocktail a distinctive touch. The Cosmo is famous in Brazil too, where there’s a variation using cachaça (a spirit made from sugarcane) instead of vodka. Bartenders have incorporated passion fruit, guava juice, and other such elements that add a new dimension to the drink. In India, finding pure cranberry juice can be a challenge, compelling bartenders to settle for juices that are a mix of several berries. Often, bartenders add cardamom for additional flavour. 

All of which makes the drink truly cosmopolitan, if you ask us! Psst: The Cosmo can be very delicious, which means you need to ensure you always drink it responsibly!