A short history of the only cocktail that mattered in the nineteen-nineties
The history of the Cosmopolitan cocktail recipe isn't clear, with at least three people claiming to have invented the drink. What is clear, however, is that this iconic 90s cocktail is making a well-deserved comeback.
1934: The first reference to the Cosmopolitan
The first reference to the Cosmopolitan as the name for a cocktail is in the 1934 book Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars, which features no less than five different recipes. The closest one to our modern-day recipe contains gin, Cointreau orange liqueur, lemon juice and raspberry syrup. No cranberries in sight, but the Cointreau ends up the version we know and love today.
1960: Cranberry Juice in Cocktails
Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice was promoting a cocktail called The Harpoon in the mid-sixties. It was heavy on the cranberry juice and advocated a squeeze of fresh lime. However, the drink was served tall over ice rather than in a stemmed martini glass. So they weren't quite there yet.
1975: Pride in the Cosmopolitan
Bartender Neal Murray was working at the Cork and Cleaver steak house in Minneapolis. He was experimenting with different versions of the popular Kamikaze by adding cranberry juice. He gave it to a guest to sample, and they exclaimed, "How cosmopolitan!" Leading the creation of the name. The Kamikaze is a vodka-based cocktail, so this is the first appearance of vodka as the base spirit. In the early 80s, Murray moved to San Francisco bar Fog City Diner. There he switched the vodka for rum and created the Barbados Cosmopolitan. The cocktail becomes a huge hit on the gay scene.
1987: The Cosmopolitan gets a New York Makeover
Patrick Mitten moves from San Fransico to New York, bringing tales of the Cosmopolitan's popularity with him. He begins to serve them to staff on the rocks in takeaway cups. One of his bartenders, Melissa Huffsmith, carries on drinking it as a staff drink after work. She later introduces Toby Cecchini to the 'pink Cosmopolitan,' after hours. Cecchini pens a cocktail recipe book released in 2003 with instructions on building a Cosmopolitan using fresh lime, cranberry juice, lemon vodka and orange liqueur. Where before the recipe called for lime cordial, Toby Cecchini says he first added the fresh lime juice to the drink to give the cloudy effect and 'impress the waitresses.' Mitten claims to have served both Madonna and Sarah Jessica Parker the Cosmo in a martini glass.
1989: The Cosmopolitan Becomes the Cocktail For Empowered Women
A theory about Cheryl Cook, also known as the Martini Queen of South Beach, is the most popular origin story of the Cosmopolitan cocktail. In the 1980s, Cook noticed how many women were ordering the classic Martini just for the sake of being seen with the elegant stiletto-stemmed glass. Wanting to put a feminine twist on the classic, she also formed a spin on the Kamikaze by adding cranberry juice instead of lime to sweeten the deal whilst also adding a dash of colour. Cook then took the name from the Cosmopolitan Magazine and showed the front cover to anyone who ordered the drink. She was the first bartender on record to base the recipe around the new Absolute Citron, lemon flavoured vodka. A staple in cocktail bars and Cosmopolitan recipes now. Both Madonna and Sex in the City's Patricia Field were Cheryl's customers.
The early 1990s: The Cosmo Goes Glam
Dale DeGroff visits San Fransisco in the early 90s and has a Cosmo at Fog City Diner and began perfecting his own version of the drink for the newly opened Rainbow Room in New York. DeGroff took an orange peel and squeezed the oils out over the top of the glass, setting the droplets on fire with a lighter. This explosion of light gave the recipe some theatre and made both DeGroff and the drink famous among bartenders and customers. It was at the Rainbow Room that Madonna was first pictured drinking the Cosmopolitan cocktail. The Associated Press image was captioned "Madonna drinking the Cosmopolitan at the world-famous Rainbow Room."
1998: The Cosmopolitan Lifestyle
The first episode of Sex and the City debuts on the American channel HBO. The cast regularly order Cosmopolitans throughout the second series, aired in 1999
You may now be longing for a sip of this ultra 90s concoction. Spoiler alert: its simple enough to shake up in your home bar but chic enough to glam up any cocktail crowd.