Vodka Classics: Cosmo, History and How To

Matt Keller


In April, Phil Greene of the Museum of the American Cocktail led a seminar titled “Vodka Classics” at the Warehouse Theater in Washington, DC. Guests were treated to five different vodka cocktails prepared by the staff of The Passenger, led by co-owner Derek Brown.  Guests were served the Cook Strait Sling No. 2, the Moscow Mule, the Vesper, the Caipiroska and the Cosmopolitan.

Phil explained the origins of the Cosmopolitan saying that it was invented in the mid-1980s by bartender Cheryl Cook in South Beach, FL. Around this time, the Martini was making a comeback and many customers were ordering them, seemingly just to be seen holding the iconic martini glass. However, for many, including women, martinis were a bit too strong and powerful. So she came up with the idea to create a drink that was visually stunning and uses the martini glass. Using a new product called Absolut Citron, a splash of triple sec, a few dashes of Rose’s Lime and some cranberry juice to turn it pink, the Cosmopolitan was born. Later, Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff discovered the drink at the Fog City Diner in San Francisco. Thinking it could use some improving he created his own version at the Rainbow Room in New York.  He used Absolut Citron, Cointreau, cranberry juice and fresh lime juice, along with a flamed orange peel garnish.  The popularity of the Cosmopolitan was catapulted when Madonna was pictured sipping one at the Rainbow Room Grammy party the first year the Grammys moved from Los Angeles to New York. And of course, most Americans now know the Cosmopolitan (or the Cosmo) as a favorite drink from the HBO series “Sex and the City.”

Dale DeGroff’s Cosmopolitan:

  • 1.5 oz. Absolut Citron Vodka
  • .5 oz. Cointreau
  • .25 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1 oz. Cranberry Juice

Shake all ingredients with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.

Though the Cosmopolitan has its roots in the 1980s, DeGroff found a similar recipe by the Ocean Spray Cranberry Growers from the 1960s calling for one ounce of vodka, one ounce of cranberry and a squeeze of lime. Add triple sec or Cointreau and you have a Cosmopolitan.  Adding to the intrigue, Phil also showed a 1934 recipe for a Cosmopolitan that is somewhat similar to the modern-day drink.

As always, the Museum of the American Cocktail would like to offer thanks to the generous support of our sponsors for this event, namely:  Cointreau, Absolut Vodka, Plymouth Gin, 42 Below Vodka, St. Germain, Skyy Vodka, Barritt’s Ginger Beer, and Fee Bros. Bitters, as well as our friends at Lillet.



Matt lives in Washington, DC. When he’s not contributing to his blog District Cocktail – A Drinker’s Notes in Capitol City, his imbibing can be followed on his Twitter feed @DCcocktails.


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