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Cosmopolitan Cocktail Recipe

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The Cosmopolitan Cocktail, made extra-famous by HBO’s Sex and the City, has been ordered at least once by anyone who’s ever wanted to appear hip, modern, and classy (myself included). And most of us were surprised by what it actually tasted like. Well, it turns out the famed Cosmopolitan is not as easy to drink as it seems.

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cosmopolitan 1

What is a Cosmopolitan ?

A Cosmopolitan, or a Cosmo for short, is a vodka-based sipper that comes in the tiniest, daintiest little coupe but packs quite a punch. It’s a vodka sour to be exact, and its looks are absolutely deceiving.

The origin of the Cosmo is highly debatable, with big names such as Dale DeGroff, Cheryl Cook, or Toby Checchini being thrown around. Most origin stories claim it was sometime in the 80s the Cosmo came to be. In the end it seems most international people actually know it from the Sex and the City series, which showcased NYC’s nightlife where Cosmo was already popular.

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Cosmopolitan Cocktail Recipe

Ioana Ciuraru
The famed Cosmo. Looks pretty but don't underestimate it.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1


  • 1.5 oz vodka preferably citrus vodka
  • 0.75 oz orange liqueur
  • 0.5 oz cranberry juice
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • lime or orange to garnish


  • In a shaker combine ice, vodka, orange liqueur, cranberry juice, lime juice. Shake very well.
  • Strain into coupe or small Martini glass
  • Express orange peel on top before serving.
  • Garnish with lime wheel.


  • Normally you'd have to flambe the orange peel before and while expressing it, but doing it regularly will work just fine. The flame is mostly for show.

When is this drink best ?

I think the Cosmo works great as a clubbing drink, a lunch or dinner drink, and it has a nice year-round ingredient base that makes it an all-season drink (unlike Pina Coladas for example). It’s also a very pretty drink, especially when the garnish is extra nice. The best I’ve seen was in Budapest – a dried lime wheel with a rosebud on top. Whenever you’d take a sip the whiff of that rosebud gave everything a delicious note.

My thoughts on Cosmopolitan

To be honest I was one of those girls who ordered a Cosmo in my early drinking years, thinking I was going to enjoy it and and I’d look classy. Well I didn’t like it; way too sour and that was overwhelming. Then a few years later I tried making my own – still can’t say I enjoy it. My husband seemed to get along better with it, he actually enjoys sours so there’s that.

This is just me and my tastes. If you’re someone who enjoys vodka sours then you might love a Cosmopolitan. It’s sour, has the tiniest hint of sweetness, and the lime juice puts a nice spin on everything (as opposed to lemon juice). The cranberry juice really fools you into thinking this is going to be a sweet drink. The orange liqueur is a nice touch but I think the lime juice cuts through it too much; you absolutely need the orange peel to feel any orange in this.

As for the flaming orange peel garnish, I don’t have the cojones to handle setting oils on fire, so I just did mine normally without fire. Still had a detectable hint of orange, which I think was the point anyway.

cosmopolitan making

If you like Cosmopolitan, you might also like…

Sea Breeze – a longer drink but very similar to Cosmopolitan

Vodka Cranberry – like the Screwdriver, but with cranberry juice

Kamikaze – a vodka sour that’s also great as shots

Blood Orange Martini – a vodka Martini with blood orange

Raspberry Martini – a vodka Martini with cranberry and raspberry

Strawberry Martini – a vodka and cranberry Martini with strawberry

Vodka Gimlet – a gimlet with a vodka base

Pomegranate Cosmopolitan – a Cosmo with pomegranate juice instead of cranberry

Notes, substitutes, and tips

The original calls for lemon vodka, which I didn’t have. If you’re in a similar position you can steep some cut up lemons in vodka in the fridge for 3-4 days, or you can express some lemon peel alongside the orange. Or just skip the lemon entirely if you’re not a fan of flavored vodka.

The cranberry juice you use will influence the flavor and color of your Cosmo. Get one that is equal parts sour and sweet, with a good color.

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