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A Modern Classic Deserves Your Attention: The Cosmopolitan.

A Modern Classic Deserves Your Attention: The Cosmopolitan.
JK Grence

Ring the bell, it's time for Last Call, where JK Grence, bartender at Shady's, serves up booze advice and recipes. Got a burning question for your bartender? Leave it in the comments and it might be answered in a future column.

I pity the poor Cosmopolitan. At the turn of the 21st century, it became one of the most popular drinks in the world, sparked by its prominence on HBO's Sex and the City. Its rise to prominence was meteoric, seemingly going from nowhere to everywhere overnight. And, in similar meteoric fashion, it went from standard bearer to banished in about the same amount of time.

What the hell happened? When it's made right, the Cosmopolitan is fantastic. I think I just answered my own question. It's that whole "when it's made right" business. As the Cosmopolitan's popularity spiraled out of control, bartenders everywhere found themselves ill-equipped to make a good one, so they did the best they could with what they had, and turned out neon-red liquid candy that had no resemblance to the real drink. The Cosmopolitan deserves a much better fate than this. Let's resurrect this amazing drink, and this time give it the respect it deserves.

 

While the histories of many drinks are shrouded in obscurity, the Cosmopolitan has a distinct lineage. It all started in the mid-1980s in the South Beach area of Miami. Bartender Cheryl Cook noticed people ordered martinis because they liked the sophistication of the glass, but didn't necessarily like the drink. So, she set out to create a drink that people would like, and would be especially eye-catching. She started out with a basic Kamikaze: vodka, a little triple sec, and Rose's Lime. She changed the vodka to Absolut Citron, which was test-marketing in Miami at the time. Then, to make it pretty in pink, a splash of cranberry juice went in. She gave it to a friend to try, and she loved it. Within 45 minutes, everyone in the bar had one. A classic was born.

While the Cook version is decent, two New York bartending legends saw fit to make the drink even better. Toby Cecchini and Dale DeGroff separately made improvements to the cocktail. Both used fresh-squeezed lime juice, and altered the proportions of the drink, each to suit their style. They both also used Cointreau in place of standard triple sec, and both used a flamed strip of orange zest to garnish the drink (more about how to do that following the recipe). Both versions are a little different; DeGroff's version is dry and crisp, while Cecchini's is a little more tangy. As for which one you'll like more... Why not make both and find out?

Cosmopolitan (à la Dale DeGroff) ¼ oz fresh-squeezed lime juice 1 oz cranberry juice ½ oz Cointreau 1½ oz citron vodka

Cosmopolitan (à la Toby Cecchini) ½ oz lime juice 1 oz cranberry juice 1 oz Cointreau 2 oz citron vodka

Preparation Either Way: Shake vigorously with ice cubes. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed strip of orange zest.

Flamed Orange (or lemon) Zest: Cut a strip of zest about ½ inch wide and 1½ to 2 inches long, leaving just a little bit of pith. Light a match. Gently hold the zest by the long sides. Hold the match a few inches above the drink, and the zest close to (but not touching!) the flame. Squeeze the zest toward the drink, igniting the citrus oils. Rub the zest around the rim of the drink, and drop it in the drink to garnish.

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