How the Cosmopolitan cocktail — a true modern classic — was born

Can we please reclaim the Cosmopolitan cocktail from the Sex & The City era mess of a drink it became?

How the Cosmopolitan cocktail — a true modern classic — was born

The Cosmopolitan cocktail went viral. It was in a pre-iPhone and social media world, of course — the Internet was still something that required a computer and a painfully slow dial-up modem to access. Geocities and Altavista — remember them? But the Cosmopolitan managed to spread across the globe the old fashioned way: by word of mouth (and an appearance in a popular TV show).

There’s a few different claims to the invention of the Cosmopolitan: one has it being created in Miami’s South Beach in the 1980s by Cheryl Cook; another by a bartender in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

But the most widely accepted creation story — the one we like, anyway — is credited to New York bartender Toby Cecchini.

The story is all there in Cecchini’s book, Cosmopolitan, but the gist of it is this: in 1988 at the Odeon, in New York City, Cecchini was working the bar. One day, he hears from a waitress about a drink doing the rounds of the gay bars in San Francisco, made with cranberry juice. Cecchini grabs some of the just-released Absolut Citron to make her a drink with some Ocean Spray cranberry, some lime juice, and a little Cointreau —  hey, you’ve now got yourself the Cosmopolitan.

The drink became popular at the bar, and it spread across the city; Madonna was seen drinking them, they were featured on Sex & The City, and before you knew it you had a worldwide cocktail hit.

Of course, in the late eighties and early nineties, the drink was just approximated, and the commonly accepted recipe strayed far from Cecchini’s balanced, classically constructed original. there was no googling recipes on your mobile phone during a shift. These takes on the Cosmopolitan strayed so far, in fact, that the Cosmo you’ll still find in many bars today is one that is all cranberry, a little vodka, and a god-awful excuse for a drink.

Best to stick closely to Cecchini’s construction. It’s a simple Sour, and when made the way he prescribes, a delicious drink.

Cosmopolitan cocktail


  • 40ml Absolut Citron (or other citrus vodka)
  • 20ml Cointreau
  • 20ml lime
  • 20ml Ocean Spray cranberry


  1. Shake all ingredients hard with ice, strain into a chilled coupe.
  2. Garnish with a twist.


Recipe adapted from a recipe by Toby Cecchini, 1988.