When it comes to drinking a Cosmopolitan, it’s best to dispense with the notion that you’re indulging in a guilty pleasure. You have nothing to feel guilty about—it’s a good cocktail! When done right, the tart-sweet combo with its gloriously rosy hue is an easy-to-love libation. Yes, for the foreseeable future, it will be inextricably linked to that late ’90s-to-early-aughts gal-pal palooza “Sex and the City” (and hey, that’s nothing to be embarrassed about either), but the Cosmopolitan is truly as elegant as its name implies. And while the show may have been fictional, the reality is it was invented in New York City. These are six things you should know about the Cosmo.
1. Toby Cecchini Is the Cosmo’s Poppa
While there were likely some potential precursor versions of the drink, it’s Toby Cecchini who in the fall of 1988 unequivocally created the cocktail canon standard as we know it—Absolut Citron vodka, Cointreau, fresh lime juice, Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail and lemon twist. “I was working at The Odeon with this woman who had some friends in from San Francisco, and they showed her this drink that was kind of making the rounds in bars in San Francisco: vodka and Rose’s lime and Rose’s grenadine, shaken up and put in a martini glass with a twist of lemon,” he says. “And I was like, Oh, well, that’s very pretty, but it’s dreadful!”
2. It’s Blueprint Is the Sour
At its core, the Cosmo is truly a simple lip-smacking sour—kind of like the Margarita, which was part of Cecchini’s retooling inspiration. “I basically did the same thing we were doing with a Margarita; it was a really short leap,” he says. “The Cosmo’s a very simple sour. That’s the way we were making Margaritas at the time, so I made it with fresh lime juice and Cointreau,” and he swapped out the tequila for Absolut Citron.
3. Flavored Vodka Was the Final Lynchpin
In the late ’80s, Absolut had just released its first flavored vodka, the lemon-flavored Citron. Cecchini had been playing around with it behind the bar at The Odeon, and it seemed like a good fix for the Cosmo, along with a few other fresher tweaks.
4. The Cranberry Panic of the ’60s Is Why It’s Your ’80s Ingredient
In November 1959, cranberries in the Pacific Northwest were discovered to contain traces of an herbicide used to kill bog weeds that also caused cancer in lab rats. The U.S. Secretary of Health put Americans on high alert regarding the tart fruit, causing the cranberry industry to suffer gravely. To recover, a collective of growers known as Ocean Spray started publishing recipe booklets to encourage the use of cranberries in all of its solid and liquid forms once again, thus bringing cranberry juice cocktail back into popularity (this may have done the same for the Sea Breeze).
5. Ocean Spray Is Easy, but You Can Riff
Cecchini always keeps Ocean Spray on hand at his venerable Long Island Bar in Brooklyn, but it’s possible to try your hand at a house-made version if you want to give it a go. In a medium pot, cover 12 ounces of fresh cranberries with water, simmer until the skins burst, and strain and press the solids into a bowl. Return the juice to the pot, stir in a cup of white sugar (or to taste), and heat until the sugar dissolves.
6. Carrie Didn’t Sip One Until Season 2
While it may seem as though the drink was the fifth friend on “Sex and the City,” the Cosmo didn’t actually make an appearance on the show until the second episode of the second season—more than a decade after the drink’s invention.