By the time the TV series finale of HBO’s “Sex and the City” aired in 2004, its protagonist’s favorite cocktail, the Cosmopolitan, had become a cultural touchstone. Like many pop icons, the Cosmo had just as many breathless fans as sniffing detractors.
It’s a shame, because a correctly made Cosmopolitan is crowd-pleasingly refreshing.
“All Carrie Bradshaw jokes aside, it’s hard to hate the Cosmopolitan,” reads “Cocktail Codex,” the James Beard Award-winning book by the founders of Manhattan’s Death & Co cocktail bar. “The Cosmo is a Sidecar that swaps citrus vodka for the Cognac and lime juice for the lemon, with a small amount of cranberry juice added.”
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We spoke to bartenders nationwide to reevaluate the cocktail the mixology movement forgot. Here are five pro tips for making quality Cosmopolitans at home.
What to Do When Making Cosmopolitans
Use Fresh Juice.
Squeeze fresh limes, bartenders say, and shell out for quality cranberry juice to keep your flavors balanced.
“Cranberries are an incredibly tart fruit,” David Fisher, beverage director of Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar in NYC, says. “If the cranberry juice tastes sweet there’s a good chance there is a lot of fake business going on.”
Watch the Color.
If your finished cocktail is cherry- or garnet-colored, it’s a sure sign you’ve used too much cranberry juice. “Shoot for a bubblegum color,” Dan Rook, lead bartender at Ever Bar in Los Angeles, says. “You want a nice bubblegum pink, not dark red.”
Fisher agrees. “We’ve all fallen into the trap of trying to make our Cosmopolitans bright pink. They should be a nice blush of pink — the cranberry should add to the overall drink flavor, not own it.”
Go Top Shelf.
“Use quality brand spirits,” Rook says. “Don’t be afraid to use a vodka with some actual backbone and flavor.” He suggests Chopin, Black Cow, Kalak, and St. George All Purpose vodkas. Cointreau is his preferred triple sec.
What to Avoid When Making Cosmopolitans
Keep Things Simple.
Ingredients like Rose’s lime juice, sour mix, or what “Cocktail Codex” calls “crappy cranberry cocktail” will give your drink saccharine, unnatural flavors. Rook also advises against adding any sort of sugar or sweetener to the mix.
Ditch Your Assumptions.
“Don’t call it a ‘girly’ drink,” Rook says. “The Cosmo done right is a strong, sexy, modern cocktail that appeals to all genders.”