A janitor’s advice on the Cosmopolitan

Dear Mister Janitor,

Cosmopolitan My girlfriends and I drink Cosmos, unfortunately at times they seem cliche’d, or like we are ordering and drinking something behind the times. I wish I was more adventurous, but I also like what I like.  Is there a cosmopolitan recipe out there that you prefer, and is there something that could be a stepping stone into different drinks so we aren’t always ordering the same drinks when we go out on Girls Night.  Here’s the recipe that I make at home as my old stand-by, is there anything that we could be doing differently.

  • 2 oz of Absolut Citron
  • 1 oz of Cointreau
  • 3 oz of Cranberry juice
  • 1/4 wedge of lime.




Dear Cosmo-Lover,

If you get two dorky bartenders in a room chatting about the origins of the Cosmo chances are one of them will be in the SF/South Beach camp, and the other will be in Camp Odeon.  Not to get bogged down in the details, but it was the late 70s and early 80s that we are talking about. A recipe born out of Cosmopolitan bars during that time period could have very well been equal parts numb gums and fuzzy noses for all we know.

The base formula of Strong ingredient + Souring Agent + Sweet Liquor can be traced back to the middle of the 19th century to a cocktail family called Crustas. Crusta’s begat Sidecars, which begat daisies, which would eventually morph into something that would look like a cosmopolitan. Again, all of the details are fuzzy for similar reasons mentioned above, but there are plenty of great drinks writers out there putting together family trees that put the Old Testament to shame.

By following the classic Crusta formula, we can take your Cosmopolitan recipe and polish it into a more professional Spec.

First let’s talk about ingredients, a discussion about vodka is another topic for another day, but you don’t really need to have a lemon flavored vodka in a cosmo, that’s why you’re adding an orange flavored liqueur and fresh lime juice. Cointreau is a great product, and is delicious, but it’s also horribly expensive, if you are drinking it neat after dinner, splurge on the quality, but let’s think utility when it comes to orange liqueurs, good money for value bets are going to be either Luxardo Tripulum, or Marie Brizard Triple-sec won’t break your bank. Cranberry Juice is most likely 97% apple juice or grape juice, have you ever seen someone juicing cranberries? those fuckers are hard to juice, harder than kumquats or granite stones. Cranberry “juice” is essential to make a true to form cosmopolitan, but it isn’t necessary to make a drink that’s delicious and refreshing like a quality cosmopolitan can be. (More details below)

Second, let’s talk size. The recipe you quoted is 6+ ounces of volume, this is huge, like something-that-would-make-you-giggle huge. Let’s trim it down so you’re not having to struggle through those last couple of sips, cocktails are made to go through briskly, no one wants to linger over the limped remainders of a warm cocktail. We’ll base the spec on a 1.5oz shot of Vodka, and you can scale it up from there if you’re at home, and don’t want to spend the whole evening working behind the bar.

Just looking at your recipe you have 3 ounces of 80 proof booze balanced with 3 ounces of water (cranberry “juice”), it’s probably fairly easy to drink because of it’s diluted state, and a little bit on the sweet side since there’s only the manufactured citric acid in the cranberry “juice” and the squeeze from the lime wedge in the drink.  Let’s scale all that back so you have 1.5 oz of vodka, and 0.75 oz of quality triple-sec. Let’s balance those strong components with a hit of acid (groovy) and add .75 ounces of lime juice or roughly the juice from 1/2 of a decent sized lime. At this point you have yourself a balanced drink, it won’t be pink, but it will be delicious and you won’t be drinking any Franken-juice-cocktail. In the Cosmo-History that this janitor subscribes to, the cranberry juice was added only to give the cocktail a light pink hue, you could add .25 oz of cranberry to get a pretty shade of off pink and up to a whole ounce without drastically affecting the balance of the cocktail. If scaling the cranberry back makes the drink too boozy and you are looking for more dilution, consider adding up to an ounce of cranberry. Subscribing to the intent of the originators and borrowing from some Japanese cocktail techniques you could also add a dash of pomegranate syrup, not so much that you taste it, but just enough to give the cocktail a pink glow. Finally, since you may find yourself missing that certain essence of lemon, let’s garnish with a fresh lemon twist or an orange twist to compliment the triple-sec, maybe a wedge of lime on the outside of the glass if your girlfriend likes her’s a little more tart.

Alright, try this spec on for size:

Title: Cosmopolitan (Cecchini Inspired)

Glass: Chilled Cocktail

Garnish: Lime Wedge OR Lemon Twist


  • 1.5 oz Vodka
  • 0.75 oz Triple Sec OR Cointreau
  • 0.75 oz Fresh Lime Juice
  • 0.25 oz Cranberry (Up to 1.0 oz to taste) OR 1/2 teaspoon pomegranate syrup

Method: Combine ingredients in your shaker and shake the bejeezus out of it, at least 15 seconds, you’re trying to wake up the cocktail, not put it to sleep. Strain the cocktail into your chilled glass and garnish with the lemon twist or a lime slice.

If you find yourself liking this recipe I would try branching out, trying cocktails with similar profiles but different spirits, maybe try your cosmopolitan with a lighter gin such as Hendrick’s or Plymouth, maybe a lighter rum like 10cane or Cruzan. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised how the aromatics of lively base spirits can lift a cocktail to delicious heights.  Once comfortable playing around with the base, try a well made sidecar, or a gin daisy. The classic club cocktails such as a Jack Rose, Pink Lady, and Clover Club, are delicious sours that balance their tartness with a sweeter liqueur.

[Have a drink question? Leave a comment and the Janitor will get back to you after the beep.]

About Kevin Burke

Kevin is an occasional barman and fulltime practitioner of the Janitorial Arts at Colt & Gray.

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