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Lauren Platero

How to Make a Cosmopolitan: Cosmopolitan Recipe and History

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The cosmopolitan is one of the most popular cocktails for good reasons-it's a well-known favorite on National Cocktail Day. The cocktail is beautiful to look at and is a treat to the taste buds. 

Cosmopolitan cocktails are among the many drinks to know as a bartender, as they are trendy and picturesque. They also contain various types of alcohol and mixers that every bartender will have on hand.  

History Of Cosmopolitans

Many experts debate that the cosmopolitan traces back to the 1930s. However, its creation wasn’t official until 1975, when bartender Neal Murray began experimenting behind the bar. 

Murray thought it might be a tasty idea to add a splash of cranberry juice to the Kamikaze cocktail during a shift. After doing so, the first person to ever taste it said, “How cosmopolitan!” which led to the drink’s official name. 

Ever since its creation, the cosmopolitan has been a stunning and delicious bar favorite. They’re also one of the most favorable spring cocktails for their hot pink color. 

In recent years, the Cosmopolitan has become popular due to the frequent mentions in the hit TV series, Sex and the City. In fact, many tourists visiting New York City will share photos on social media of the iconic drink in the area where the show is set.

 Learning how to make a cosmopolitan is easy and is one of the drinks every bartender should know. Let’s learn how to make the classic recipe. 

Classic Cosmopolitan Recipe

You can find the cosmopolitan throughout some of the best cocktail recipe books. If you’re searching for a simple and delicious recipe for a cosmopolitan, look no further. The measurements below will deliver the perfect cocktail:

  • 1 ½ ounces citron vodka 
  • ¾ ounce Cointreau
  • ¾ ounce fresh lime juice 
  • ½ ounce cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1 lime wedge to garnish the glass. 

After you combine all four cocktail ingredients, shake vigorously in your cocktail shaker of choice. Strain the mixture into a chilled martini glass and enjoy. You might find that some recipes call for equal parts of each ingredient. Learn about: what does one part mean to make your drink correctly.

You can garnish a Cosmopolitan with a variety of different fruits. Most bar staff members opt for a lime wheel to complement the juice in the recipe, but you can also use an orange peel or lemon slice. 

Specialty drinks inspired by the traditional cosmopolitan can vary in liquor, as they might be meant to deliver unique flavors. In this case, you would measure out the same amount of each liquor replacement. Adjusting recipes with this rule will ensure that you’re making a single serving and not a cocktail less or more than what will fill your glass. 

Some types of menus will feature cosmopolitans in unique flavors. Or, a bar or restaurant will put their spin on the classic cocktail. In these cases, there may be an additional fruity liquor. There may be a different liquor in place of the triple sec in other scenarios. 

Regardless of the flavor combinations, drink specials often include some variation of the cosmopolitan. The ingredients are most likely available behind every bar, so remember that the traditional recipe is always an option. 

Check out our free and editable standardized recipe template to outline your drink recipes. Using a simple template will better organize your liquor storage cabinets, which helps you take inventory in the long run.  

Calories In A Cosmopolitan

The classic cosmopolitan recipe contains approximately 170 calories. It’s one of the few cocktails that taste delicious and won’t halt a diet too much. 

Cosmopolitans are also a fruity cocktail that is more keto-friendly, as there are only 10g of carbohydrates in each serving. 

If you want to make the cosmopolitan even healthier, you can use unsweetened cranberry juice. The elimination of sugar will be better for your health, easier on your stomach, and leave more wiggle room for your daily caloric consumption.

Vodka functions as the primary source of alcohol in a cosmopolitan. Since vodka is the best alcohol for shots for its low macronutrients and high ABV, vodka cocktails are popular in bars and restaurants. Learn how to calculate ABV before serving any kind of liquor to ensure the safety of yourself and others.  

Unfortunately, many vodka cocktails are full of sweeteners and unhealthy ingredients. Though cosmopolitans aren't exactly a diet-friendly option, they contain much healthier ingredients than others. 

The cosmopolitan drink recipe caters to a variety of dietary restrictions. Consumers who avoid gluten, dairy, and high-fat content can safely drink a cosmopolitan. Plus, the balance across all of its flavors makes it a perfect drink regardless of whether or not you’re eating food. 

What Does A Cosmopolitan Taste Like?

The flavor profile of a cosmopolitan is sweet, with a touch of sourness from the lime. The two types of flavors create the perfect balance. Cosmopolitans are sweet enough to be one of several refreshing summer cocktails but aren’t rich enough to be on the dessert menu

Cosmopolitans are popular on happy hour menus, which means that they pair best with finger foods or light appetizers. Many types of chefs will recommend that you get creative with your cosmopolitan food pairs, as the drink offers such a balance of flavors. 

Foods that pair well with cosmopolitans include:

  • Smoked salmon bites 
  • Mini quiches
  • Bruschetta 
  • Crostinis 

Cosmopolitans are festive and aesthetically pleasing, which means that they’re ideal cocktails for special events. Party foods and hors d'oeuvres are perfect alongside the vibrant pink cocktail. Check out our bar event ideas and restaurant marketing ideas for your next special occasion.

A cosmopolitan is also a good option if you eat a larger meal. It’s always good to consume food with alcohol, which is essential with something as strong as a cosmopolitan. Food helps absorb alcohol faster, which is a major benefit if you want to avoid feelings of intoxication. 

Best Vodka for A Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan recipes often call for citron vodka. It’s smooth, mellow, and an excellent liquor for adding to fruity cocktails. Citron vodka also carries notes of lemon and lime, which complements the other ingredients very well. 

Vodka options can be overwhelming at times. If you’re planning on making or ordering a cosmopolitan, opt for one of the following types of vodka:

  • Absolut Citron
  • Grey Goose Le Citron 
  • Summum Citron 
  • Veil Citron Vodka

Recipes for Cosmopolitans are the rare exception when flavored vodka is necessary for a cocktail. Typically, mixologists will discourage consumers from adding additional flavors to classic recipes, as it can take away from how it’s meant to taste. However, cosmopolitans are supposed to have a potent citrusy base. 

If you want to use lemon or lime-flavored vodka, that could work fine. Remember, the Cointreau (triple sec) has an orange flavor, so you want to stick with another citrus flavor profile. Vodka is one of the many high demand products in the alcoholic beverage industry, so finding your ideal option won’t be a challenge. 

Regular vodka will work if citron vodka isn't available at a bar or liquor store. The result may differ slightly from the original recipe, but the other ingredients will mask the change. Cranberry juice and lime bursts with flavor, so a little less citrus will work fine. 

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Frequently Asked Questions About How to Make a Cosmopolitan

What Alcohol Is In a Cosmopolitan?

Cosmopolitans contain vodka and Cointreau (or another kind of triple sec). The two liquors combine to create a potent blend. However, the sweet fruit juice in the recipe counteracts the potency of such strong alcohol. 

How Do You Make a White Cosmopolitan?

If you want to make something different from the classic pink cosmopolitan, you can make a version that’s more subtle in color. To make a white cosmopolitan, combine the following ingredients:

  • 2 ounces vodka 
  • ½ ounce Cointreau 
  • 1 ounce white cranberry juice 
  • ½ ounce lime juice 
  • ½ teaspoon simple syrup 
  • 3 frozen cranberries to garnish the glass 

A white cosmopolitan may look more like a martini (see: Martini recipe) than the traditional recipe. The biggest giveaway that it’s a cosmopolitan is the cranberry garnish. 

Learn more from our complete bartender's guide book for more cocktail inspiration.

What’s the Difference Between a Cosmopolitan and a Martini?

A cosmopolitan contains vodka and triple sec for its liquor content, whereas a martini contains gin and vermouth. The closest version of the two cocktails would be a vodka martini. 

Bartenders also serve cosmopolitans and martinis in the same glassware. Despite the similarities in appearance, there are quite a few differences.

What Type of Cranberry Juice Should I Use for Cosmopolitan?

Use 100% cranberry juice for the best flavor. Avoid cranberry juice cocktails that are often sweeter and may alter the balance of the drink. It's a good idea to look into locally-made juice and sustainable options. This way you will deliver the desired taste while supporting the local community.

How Do I Properly Chill a Cosmopolitan?

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the ingredients, and shake vigorously for about 15-20 seconds. This ensures the drink is well chilled and properly diluted. The cocktail is served without ice in it. If you want it to be even cooler, place the glass in the refrigerator to cool it before serving.

What Garnish Is Typically Used for a Cosmopolitan?

A classic garnish for a Cosmopolitan is a lime twist or a lemon twist. You can also use a thin slice of lime or a few fresh cranberries for a festive touch. Experimenting with unique garnishes, especially for occasions, is always a good idea!

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