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The History of The Cosmopolitan Cocktail - From 1934 to Today!


Three versions of the Cosmopolitan cocktail side by side, while one is being garnished with a flamed orange peel

Hello, Friends of Cocktails! Today we’re taking a look at the long, murky and fabulous history of the Cosmopolitan cocktail. We’ll find out what it was like originally, how it evolved, what made it so popular, and I'll also name drop a lot of people that are - or claim to be - responsible for this drink. We’ll also look at three recipes that you should know when talking about the Cosmo, and if you make it to the Bottom of The Glass, I’ll give you some interesting information about cranberries!


Let’s start all the way back in the 1930’s, although the story of the 1934 Cosmopolitan actually starts in 2006 with none other than Joerg Meyer, a friend of the channel and the creator of the Gin Basil Smash. Back then he was browsing a blog by a well-known couple in the spirits world, Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown. With a bit of digging he found a copy of a 1934 gin cocktail book published by the American Travelling Mixologists, showing the Cosmo as a gin daisy cocktail.


This is much different from the then popular vodka, triple sec, lime and cranberry cosmo, but it was additionally sweetened with raspberry syrup, so the pink color was already a part of the original Cosmo. I’ll be using Raspberry Gum Syrup from our friends Liber&Co, which they’re calling the purest raspberry syrup on the market! Seems like a bold statement, but it also has a bold, sweet-tart flavor that will help us make a wonderful version of the Cosmopolitan. It’s Cocktail Time!


Dale DeGroff's version of the Cosmopolitan being served into a chilled glass

1934 Cosmopolitan

● 60mL · 2oz Beefeater Gin

● 1 barspoon Cointreau

● 1 teaspoon Raspberry Syrup

● Juice of 1 lemon


So add the ingredients into your shaker, fill with ice, shake well to chill and dilute, and strain. As a fun fact, daisies were more often made with grenadine syrup, but variations with raspberry syrup can be found as early as the 1908 Gin Daisy recipe from “Jack’s Manual”. Now, the recipe called for it to be served in a “Glass No. 4”, but I couldn’t find what that was so, I’m just using an old coupe glass. No garnish mentioned so let’s give it a taste, cheers!


Based on the ingredients I honestly expected a more unbalanced drink. There’s plenty of lemon, but gin adds a nice bitterness, enhancing the other flavors. You’ll also get a subtle floral note, but not a long aftertaste. Now it’s time to get into what the world knows as the Cosmo, which is claimed to have been created by many bartender’s from Cheryl Cook, Patrick Mitten, Toby Cecchini & Melissa Huffsmith, and the King Cocktail, Dale DeGroff.

 

Several of them also claim Madonna was spotted drinking one at their bar in New York, which made it popular around town, but we all know it reached worldwide fame when 4 friends made it a staple on the hit TV series Sex and the City. The Cosmopolitan became so popular it now even has its own international day, May 7th, but I doubt you’ll see it written on many calendars. Now let’s backtrack a bit to the late 80s, when Toby Cecchini came across a drink popular in San Francisco. 


The drink was made with cheap vodka, Rose's Lime juice and Rose's Grenadine. Toby called it “a ghastly drink” so he reconstructed it. It was 1988 and Absolut just came out with their new citrus flavored vodka. He also used sweetened cranberry juice and borrowed fresh lime juice and Cointreau from their well-known fresh Margaritas. It turned out he wasn’t the only one in New York fixing a bad cocktail from San Francisco, but let’s first make Toby’s Cosmopolitan.



Ceccini Cosmopolitan

● 45mL · 1.5oz Citron Vodka

● 22.5mL · 0.75oz Cointreau

● 22.5mL · 0.75oz Lime Juice

● 22.5mL · 0.75oz Sweetened Cranberry Juice

● Lemon Zest


Same as for the last one, add the ingredients to your shaker, add plenty of ice and shake. Then strain into a chilled Martini glass, which may seem like an odd choice at first, but the Cosmopolitan was often found on Martini lists during the 90s. And while it's of course not a Martini cocktail, it simply has to be served in a Martini glass - that’s what you picture when you think of anyone back then drinking it. Add a lemon zest twist and that’s it, cheers!


This version of the Cosmo is described by its inventor as, and I quote, "kind of a brutal sour, it's very very tart”. With all the citrusy and tart components I think that’s a fair assessment. The citrus-flavored vodka certainly makes a mark on this cocktail, but I still think it would be a bit better with some more sweetness, which is something Dale DeGroff, author of The Craft of the Cocktail, did with his own Cosmopolitan recipe.

 

Another thing he famously did, is actually pictured on the cover of that influential cocktail book - he flamed an orange peel over the top of his Cosmo. Dale said he came across the Cosmopolitan at San Francisco and started perfecting his own recipe at his Rainbow Room in Manhattan. It was there that a photo of Madonna with a Cosmo was taken during a Grammy party, making the cocktail and Dale DeGroff a household name. 


He never claimed to have invented the Cosmopolitan, but his recipe, with less lime and more cranberry juice, quickly became accepted as the standard, but I’ll take the liberty to tweak that just a little bit.  



DeGroff Cosmopolitan

● 45mL · 1.5oz Citron Vodka

● 22.5mL · 0.75oz Cointreau

● 22.5mL · 0.75oz Pure Cranberry Juice

● 7.5mL · 0.25oz Lime Super Juice

● 7.5mL · 0.25oz Simple Syrup

● 2 drops 20% Saline Solution

● Orange Zest


You know the drill, same as with the other two, add ice, shake hard, and double strain. As a tip, anytime you’re using  cranberry juice look for the highest amount of cranberries in the juice, but it will probably be sweetened to balance the extreme tartness of red cranberries. This time I’m using a chilled nick&nora glass, just because I like it more than a Martini glass - it’s also easier to drink from it without spilling. As for the garnish, we follow Dale with his now signature flamed orange zest twist garnish.


Burn the peel against the flame slightly, then express the essential oils through the flame and over the cocktail. That will give the cocktail a nice, lightly smoked orange aroma, which you’ll get before the first sip. Our garnish actually enhances the orange liqueur notes, giving it more complexity than it being just a lemon-cranberry cocktail. After that, a richer cranberry tartness comes to the front. In short, it’s tart, sweet, sour, citrusy, and bright - it’s a Cosmo!


With that we’ve made it to the Bottom of The Glass. As promised, today we’ll talk about cranberries, whichso originate from North America, with Native Americans first recognizing their medicinal properties. They’re packed with antioxidants, vitamin C, fiber, and various other nutrients, so in comparison to other alternatives, I don’t mind having a shot of cranberry juice! There’s also white cranberry juice, made with natural white cranberries which are harvested before they fully develop.


This makes white cranberries milder in flavor and less tart, but maybe that’s why the White Cosmo didn’t catch on like the White Negroni riff. For more Old vs New episodes check out this playlist, including the history of the Negroni, and I’ll see you next time, Friends of Cocktails.




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