Much has been written about the fabled pink mix of vodka, orange-flavoured liqueur, cranberry juice and lime. So much so that it has become ubiquitous on cocktail lists from Montréal to Mumbai. Though the origins of the cosmopolitan remain nebulous, we’re far more interested in the cultural circumstances from which it emerged.
Origins in dispute
By all accounts, before it became popular around the globe and ascended to its classic cocktail status, the very first Cosmo was shook up and democratized in the US in the 1980s.
The Cosmopolitan’s history can be retraced to the Vodka gimlet, which was dreamed up before the Second World War. When Americans discovered Cointreau, an orange-flavoured liqueur—or triple sec—produced in France, they promptly poured some into their gimlets to create the Kamikaze (vodka, triple sec and a twist of lime). In the 80s, cranberry juice was added to the mix to make it more eye-catching. And so, the Cosmopolitan was born.
There have been several incarnations of the Cosmo, but the official story is that the recipe we’ve come to know and love was fashioned by New York barman Toby Cecchini in 1987 at Manhattan’s Odeon bar. Legend has it that Cecchini found inspiration in a similar cocktail of cheap vodka, lime juice and grenadine that was all the rage in gay bars across San Francisco. He revamped the mix within the parameters we’re familiar with: Vodka, lime juice, Cointreau and a splash of cranberry served in a martini glass. Same cute colour, better taste! It was an immediate success.