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What is a Cosmopolitan?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2016
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A cosmopolitan or cosmo is a cocktail that many account to bartender Cheryl Cook of South Beach, Florida. She states she invented the drink around 1985. The actual inventor of the drink is a matter of contention, with some others claiming the drink was invented earlier. For instance Neal Murray, a bartender in Minneapolis is also credited with the drink’s invention in 1975. What is clear is that the original drink as invented by Cook, is not how the cosmopolitan is most often made in present day. Toby Checchini, a bartender at The Odeon in Manhattan, developed an alternate version, working off Cook’s version, in 1987, which is the most popular recipe today.

While Cook’s version of the drink was a combination of lemon vodka, triple sec, Rose’s Lime®, and cranberry juice, Checchini changed the recipe to the following:

    Two and two thirds part Vodka, preferably Absolut Citron®
    One part Cointreau — an upgraded, though more expensive version of triple sec
    One Part Lime Juice
    Two parts Cranberry Juice
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The cosmopolitan is shaken over ice and served in a martini glass, usually garnished with a slice of lemon. Many favor its rosy color and combination of tangy juice and lemony vodka. It’s also important to note that the drink has its antecedents in other cocktails like the sea breeze, a combination of cranberry juice, vodka and sometimes grapefruit juice, which dates in invention to the 1920s. The principle difference is the lemon as opposed to grapefruit citrus notes, and the fact that the sea breeze is typically served in a tumbler on the rocks instead of being strained and served straight up.

Regardless of who actually first invented the cosmopolitan, when the drink first became popular as made by Cook, it was soon in high demand in cities across the country — particularly on both coasts. It was used to particular effect in the popular HBO series Sex and the City as a favored drink of main character Carrie Bradshaw, and also because its name evoked the cosmopolitan life of Carrie and her friends. The series popularized the drink even more, and it’s often considered a “girlfriend” drink, when young women party at bars together.

No cocktail can exist without being updated or having alternate versions. Several new “takes” on the cosmopolitan exist. These include the blue cosmo, which uses white cranberry juice and blue curacao. The cosmocello adds to the citrus flavor of the drink by replacing limejuice with the Italian lemon liqueur, limoncello.

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