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The Cosmopolitan cocktail: a brief and interesting history
Cosmopolitan cocktail

An unconfirmed past

Few cocktails, dating back to the early 1930s, can boast uninterrupted popularity eighty years later, quite like The Cosmopolitan. Globally recognizable by the blush-pink look, sweet-tart formula consisting of a finely balanced blend of vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime, no one can deny that this cocktail has taken the world by storm.

Accused by many bartenders as lacking complexity, few cocktails can claim the extent and reach of the Cosmo. But when exactly was the Cosmopolitan cocktail invented? There has been a longstanding debate, yet another interesting element about this cocktail, over who created these pink delights. A study of its history and intertwined cast of characters, confirms that no one really knows for sure. This in itself renders an almost cult-like status and adds mystery to the drink…

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First mentions and early history

Considered by many to be a modern cocktail today, St. Louis’ Feast Magazine first noted the mention of a cocktail called The Cosmopolitan in 1927. In 1934 there also appeared a recipe for a Cosmopolitan Daisy (a variation potentially based on a Kamikaze or Daisy cocktail) in Pioneers of Mixing at Elite.

Another mention, or possible source, of the popular cocktail is attributed to the gay community from Provincetown in Massachusetts.

According to famous bartender Neal Murray, he created the Cosmopolitan in 1975 at the Cork & Cleaver steakhouse in Minneapolis. Murry claimed to have added a splash of cranberry juice to a Kamikaze and, when served to the first taster of the cocktail, exclaimed “How cosmopolitan”, which is how the cocktail got its name.

John Caine, owner of several popular bars in San Francisco, was credited for bringing the Cosmo west from Cleveland. Caine credited the popularity of cocktails in the 1970’s to the Cosmopolitan being served in fern bars.

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The Cosmo matures

The popularity of the Cosmo also continued throughout the eighties with many laying claims to have created the cocktail. Cheryl Cook, bartender at the famous Strand Restaurant in South Beach was credited by historian Gary Regan to have created the cocktail when, in a letter in 1985 or 1986, she told him the story.

What overwhelmed Cook was the number of people who ordered Martinis just to be seen with a Martini glass in their hand. This was where Cook got the idea to create a drink that everyone could enjoy but that was also visually stunning in a Martini glass. This is what the Cosmo was based on.

Well-known bartender, Gaz Regan, claimed that the international version of the cocktail was created by Toby Cecchini & Melissa Huffsmith-Roth in 1989 at the Odeon restaurant in Manhattan based on a poorly described version of Cheryl Cook’s creation.

According to Sally Ann Berk and Bob Sennett, The Cosmopolitan appeared in literature as early as 1993 and derived from New York City.

What will the future bring?

With more than eight decades, after first being sighted, it may very well be one of the most universally ordered mixed drinks in America. With its pink neon glow, it not only looks attractive in a glass, but also bursts with agreeable fruit flavours.

The key to its phenomenal success may also be in its name. No one feels embarrassed ordering it (compared to an earthquake, a pussy foot or a screwdriver). Classic cocktails demand new respect since our renewed interest in artisanal pursuits such as craft beers and spirits.

It’s tough not to be impressed by someone ordering a cocktail which says, “I am cosmopolitan”. It brings about respect and creates an air of sophistication which is hard to beat or to ignore. It’s hard to imagine a world without Cosmo’s and there seems to be no slow-down in the cocktail’s popularity.

Feeling like indulging your guests at your next social event? Why not try our own unique Cosmopolitan recipeand dazzle them in style!

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