I hang out with the same group of guys pretty regularly. The four of us are all seasoned bartenders, with fairly busy schedules, but we find time to get together every now and then for drinks, maybe even brunch on the weekends. We have a lot in common, but we couldn’t be more different. My friend who works at the clubs is pretty promiscuous, so we call him the Samantha of the group. The gentleman among us we constantly refer to as Charlotte, and the guy with the law degree gets called Miranda. Of course, they all think of themselves as Carrie Bradshaw, but everyone knows that’s me, since I’m the writer.
But one thing we can all agree on is that the Cosmopolitan is more than just a late-90s chick drink. Because since we’re all seasoned bartenders, we know a little secret: the Cosmo is a hardcore modern classic cocktail with deep, deep roots.
Like so many bartenders these days, we learned a thing or two from The Joy of Mixology. Gary Regan’s groundbreaking book, published in 2003, took David Embury’s idea of grouping cocktails into families and streamlined it. There’s the French-Italian family, which includes the Martini and Manhattan. The Milanese family accounts for cocktails such as the Negroni and Bijou. But what really stood out to many of us was a group that Regan coined as the “International Sour” family.
Showing that the International Sour was born and raised in Europe during the time of American Prohibition, he points to numerous cocktails that began life as basic sours (spirit, citrus, sugar) that become International Sours when sweetened with liqueur in place of sugar.
The Sidecar is nothing more than a Brandy Sour with Cointreau, a French orange liqueur, in place of sugar. The Aviation uses maraschino liqueur and creme de violette in place of sugar in a Gin Sour. The family eventually grew to accommodate other cocktails, like the Margarita, and eventually, the Cosmopolitan.
The Cosmopolitan is nothing more than a Vodka Sour, with cranberry juice and a splash of lime in place of the citrus base, and then sweetened with Cointreau. And while it was created in the 1980s and popularized in the 1990s, it is, at its heart, a Prohibition-era International Sour updated with ingredients that are more popular in the modern age.
So while I may have been making up all that business about my tough bartender friends and I comparing ourselves to Sex and the City characters, I wasn’t lying when I said that we all consider those characters’ beloved Cosmo to be a bona fide modern classic cocktail.
• 1½ oz. Absolut Citron vodka
• 1 oz. cranberry juice cocktail
• ¾ oz. Cointreau
• ¼ oz. fresh lime juice
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.
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