Sam Horwitz's Classic Cocktail Compendium

(With photos)


  • 1½ fluid ounces of citrus vodka

    (recommended: Absolut Citron)

  • ¾ fluid ounce of Cointreau

  • ¾ fluid ounce of fresh lime juice

  • ¾ fluid ounce of cranberry juice cocktail

    (recommended: Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail)

Make sure the lime juice is well-strained. Shake all of the ingredients with ice and strain—don’t double strain—into a frozen cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The final few decades of the 20ᵗʰ century tend to be looked at as the dark ages of the cocktail. Manhattans were made with bourbon or Canadian whisky. Old fashioneds were pulpy, filled with muddled fruits. Martinis were nothing more than conical buckets of chilled vodka. Kina Lillet was reformulated into Lillet Blanc.

Out of this era¹ comes the Cosmopolitan, helped to fame by Carrie Bradshaw, a drink who’s main spirit is not just vodka (the bottled water of liquors) but flavored vodka, a seeming affront to all of the spirits that find their flavor through distillation, ageing, and blending.

However, a closer look reveals something else. The “Cosmo” is certainly a product of it’s time but it’s also very classic in it’s construction; it comes from the same family of drinks as the Sidecar and the Margarita. The blending of vodka with cranberry had been done for decades prior. While the use of flavored vodka and processed fruit juice is very late 20ᵗʰ century in choice, the overall drink has a timeless balance.

Some of the Cosmopolitan’s infamy comes from the popular culture surrounding the drink, but even that can be dismissed. Cocktails were always a symbol of urbane hedonism, even when the spirits were less one-dimensional. While an enthusiast today may toil over the exact makeup of a drink from a century ago, countless people from that era consumed said drink with little care beyond whatever immediate pleasure they received from a well-made cocktail in a social setting.

Perhaps in the coming decades, there will be amateur mixologists arguing over which citrus vodka is the most true-to-form substitute for Absolut Citron and struggling to find a sucessor to Ocean Spray’s original cranberry cocktail formulation (“they changed the recipe for the worse in 2043”, the enthusiasts will all agree). All because to these hypothetical individuals of the future, 90s Hollywood culture will be a window into a romanticized bygone era and the drinks of the time period will have to be painstakingly recreated in an attempt at capturing whatever magic they believe was present.

  1. There was a Cosmopolitan written in recipe books from 1934 which consisted of London dry gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and raspberry syrup, which may have inspired this drink.

See Also