Cosmopolitan Cocktail

Cosmopolitan Cocktail

The classic Cosmopolitan is a very simple drink that undoubtedly one of the most popular cocktails of all time. "Sex and the City" made it famous when the Cosmo became the drink of choice of the show's glamorous Manhattan women. It soon became the ultimate girly drink, even if it's perfect for everyone alike.

Though it made it to the pop culture zeitgeist in the '90s, the drink was by no means new. Although its origins are disputed, it seems to have been first mixed in 1985 by Cheryl Cook in South Beach. Most bartenders know how to make this light fruit cocktail, but you can easily shake it up with a handful of ingredients.

Who Invented the Cosmopolitan?

One of the first references to the Cosmopolitan is a gin, Cointreau, lemon, and raspberry syrup mix that was published in 1934 in the “Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars 1903-1933.” It was not until the ’70s that the drink really took off and transformed into the modern vodka-cranberry cocktail. At that time, bartenders all over the U.S. were experimenting with a cranberry version of the kamikaze.

And, as is common in cocktail stories, many people made the claim to creating the Cosmo that we know today. It's very likely that a few recipes for the Cosmo originated simultaneously. Without the internet to share your latest and greatest bar creations with the world, bartenders relied on word of mouth, bartending guides and organizations, and patrons to pass on recipes.

When It Comes to the Cosmo, Quality Booze Matters

In the Cosmopolitan, details matter, so choose your alcohol wisely. Go for the top-shelf vodka and don’t use Triple Sec in lieu of Cointreau, as the latter is stronger and has a more complex flavor.

Many cocktail enthusiasts consider this a traditional Cosmopolitan as it is more in line with classic martinis. Our main recipe brings you a Cosmopolitan with that drier profile, so it’s blush pink rather than red and not overly sweet.

What’s the Difference Between Cointreau and Triple Sec?

Cointreau is a premium brand of triple sec, which is one of many types of orange liqueurs. It’s stronger, drier, and less sweet than other brands, which is why we recommend using it in this recipe.

Homemade Triple Sec

Tweak This Cosmo Recipe to Your Tastes

There are hundreds of variations on the Cosmo. Some use more or less cranberry juice, some another triple sec instead of Cointreau, and some include citrus or berry vodka. It’s all a matter of personal preference.

If your tastes run to the sweeter side, there is a variation on our Cosmo below to suit your palate. Enjoy this wonderful drink with your eyes first, take a deep sniff of the citrus peel and oils, then lastly take a sip of this fruity and enjoyable drink.

Cosmopolitan Cocktails in glasses

The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

“The subtle marriage of dry orange, lime, vodka, and cranberry juice is a joy. Some may want a sweeter cocktail, but this ratio of ingredients defines a stiff and discerning adult beverage. Great original recipe with a nod to DeGroff’s legacy recipe.” —Sean Johnson

Cosmopolitan Tester Image A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 1/2 ounce vodka, or citrus vodka

  • 1 ounce Cointreau orange liqueur

  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 1/4 ounce cranberry juice

  • Orange peel, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Cosmopolitan Cocktail ingredients

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  2. Pour vodka, Cointreau, lime juice, and cranberry juice into a cocktail shaker, then fill with ice. Shake the ingredients well.

    close up view of a cocktail shaker and a glass

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  3. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

    Cosmopolitan Cocktail in a glass, next to a cocktail shaker

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

  4. Garnish with an orange peel.

    Cosmopolitan Cocktails in glasses

    The Spruce Eats / Cara Cormack

A Sweeter Cosmo

If you prefer a sweeter cranberry flavor in your Cosmo, then this is the recipe you're looking for. It's that signature crimson cocktail that is so often served in cocktail lounges and is the version that most cosmo fans are familiar with:

  • Shake and strain 1 1/2 ounces citrus vodka, 1/2 ounce each Cointreau and lime juice, and 1 ounce of cranberry juice in a shaker filled with ice.
  • Garnish with a citrus peel and serve.

How Strong Is the Cosmopolitan?

The Cosmo can be as strong or as tame as you make it. Here is how these two cosmopolitan recipes stack up with an 80-proof vodka:

The main recipe stands at 27 percent ABV (54 proof), whereas the sweeter version has a 20 percent ABV (40 proof). You can see the significant difference between the two. To put the cosmopolitan into perspective: The average vodka martini is 28 percent ABV. The fruity Cosmo is not as innocent as she looks, and the sweeter the drink is, the easier it is to have one too many.


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