The Cosmopolitan

Photo courtesy of quinn.anya, some rights reserved.

The Cosmopolitan was introduced to a generation of young women as Carrie Bradshaw’s drink of choice, but before it found fame on the Upper East Side, it had its beginnings in the mid-1980s as a pretty pink (and easy-drinking) alternative to the Martini for those who wanted the glamour of drinking from a martini glass, but weren’t fans of the eponymous drink itself.  As a result, the “Cosmo” gets a lot of bad press among ‘serious’ cocktail writers who dismiss it as a cocktail for people who don’t like cocktails.

The Cosmopolitan is now usually listed as one of the ‘sours’ family of cocktails, alongside the Margarita (which replaces vodka with tequila), and the Kamikaze (which excludes the cranberry juice).  In many ways therefore, it is a useful gateway drink to a world of cocktail discovery, and it is certainly more popular in my house than a large number of ‘more serious’ drinks.

The other side to that coin is that the drink has started to become a victim of its own success.  In its celebrity champion’s own words:

Miranda: “Why did we ever stop drinking these?”

Carrie: “’Cos everyone else started.”

By the time Sex and the City had reached its peak, the Cosmopolitan was found on every basic cocktail menu around the world.  This spawned a world of below par Cosmos that suffered from the use of cheap ingredients, sour mix and an over-reliance on too much cranberry juice.

I was always taught that a Cosmopolitan should be mostly vodka, with considerably less triple sec and cranberry juice, and consequently follow a 2:1:1 ratio.  If you’re looking for something a little easier on the palate, don’t move further than a 1:1:1.5 ratio:

  1. Pour a large measure of vodka, a measure of cranberry juice and a measure of triple sec into a shaker of ice.
  2. Add the juice of half a lime and a dash or two of orange bitters.
  3. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.
  4. Garnish with a flamed twist of orange.
Citrus vodka works best if you have it, and a wedge of lime perched on the edge of the glass is also acceptable in place of the twist of orange but not nearly as much fun.

If you’re looking for a more grown up version of the Cosmpolitan, you could do worse than mix yourself a Xanadu Fancy – a drink that I discovered on the menu of the much lamented Raconteur Bar in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge neighbourhood:

  1. Add a large measure of vodka, a measure of aperol, orgeat, fresh lime juice and cranberry juice to a shaker.
  2. Fill the shaker 2/3 full of ice and shake hard for twenty seconds.
  3. Strain into a chilled martini glass
  4. Garnish with a flamed twist of orange.
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Leap Year

Photo by MetaGrrrl, some rights reserved

As today is 29 February, it seems fitting to include a wee potion that has been credited with (blamed for?) more proposals than any other, the Leap Year.

This sweet Martini alternative was born at the Savoy in 1928 and therefore celebrates its 84th (or 21st) birthday today.  Harry Craddock, the barman created the drink for the Leap Year celebrations, and it seems fitting to raise one tonight, in honour of those poor leaplings (but only those over the age of err four and a half?)

The mixture of aromatic sweetness born of the Grand Marnier and vermouth clashes somewhat with the botanical bitterness of the gin and produces an interesting combination on the tongue.  Despite this, there is a pleasing bittersweet hint to the drink, and it is well worth savouring once every four years.

You make the Leap Year classic as follows:

  1. Add a large measure of gin (Plymouth rather than London), half a measure of sweet vermouth, half a measure of Grand Marnier and the juice of half a lemon to a shaker of ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a martini glass.
  3. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

Pass one to your man, take a deep gulp of your own, and get down on one knee…