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Classic Cosmopolitan Cocktail Recipe and Variations

Karen Frazier
Two cosmopolitan cocktails garnished with orange peel

The cosmopolitan cocktail is the ultimate drink for girls' night out, both due to its pink color and its sweet-tart flavor profile. The show Sex and the City popularized the cosmopolitan martini, informally referred to as a cosmo. It's easy to make and an easy-to-order and satisfying popular pink bar drink.

How to Make a Classic Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan cocktails consist of citrus-flavored vodka (such as Absolut citron), cranberry juice, orange liqueur (such as Cointreau, triple sec, curaçao, or Grand Marnier), and fresh lime juice. The cosmo is shaken in a cocktail shaker and served straight up in a martini glass. It is typically garnished with an orange peel.


  • ¼ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 ounce cranberry juice
  • ¾ ounce orange-flavored liqueur
  • 1½ ounces citrus-flavored vodka
  • Ice
  • Orange peel for garnish


  1. Chill a martini glass.
  2. In a cocktail shaker, combine the lime juice, cranberry juice, orange liqueur, and citrus vodka.
  3. Add the ice and shake.
  4. Strain into the chilled glass.
  5. Garnish with the orange peel.


While this is the classic recipe for the cocktail, you can vary it in many ways.

  • Replace the orange liqueur with an equal amount of raspberry liqueur, such as Chambord.
  • Replace the orange liqueur with an equal amount fruit-flavored schnapps, such as peach or blackberry.
  • Replace the orange liqueur with an equal amount of cherry-flavored liqueur, such as Luxardo cherry liqueur.
  • Replace the lime juice with an equal amount of freshly squeezed orange juice or grapefruit juice.
  • Use a different fun garnish, such as a sugared rim or a maraschino cherry.
  • Create a blue cosmopolitan by using white cranberry juice and blue curacao instead of orange liqueur.
  • Replace the vodka with rum for a tropical version called the Barbados cosmopolitan.

Tips for Making a Great Cosmo

The best cosmos use the highest quality ingredients and require care in making them.

  • Always start with a chilled martini glass. You can chill the glass as you prepare the drink by filling it with a scoop of ice and a splash of water. Dump the ice water just before you strain the drink into the glass.
  • Keep your vodka chilled.
  • Choose the best vodka you can afford. You can use a plain vodka, but citrus vodka adds an interesting kick to the drink.
  • Use freshly squeezed lime juice, which imparts a fresher flavor than pre-made lime juices.
  • Experiment with which orange liqueur you like best. The different types of orange liqueur change the character of the cocktail.
  • Use unsweetened, 100% cranberry juice.
  • Before you garnish with the orange peel, squeeze it over the glass with the skin side down to release the oils into the cocktail. Then, drop it into the cocktail.
  • Make sure you only get the orange part of the peel garnish; the white part, or pith, imparts bitter flavors. To get the peel, draw a vegetable peeler lightly over the surface of a washed, unpeeled orange.

History of the Cosmopolitan Cocktail

The cosmo was likely created in the 1970s. One variation originates from Provincetown, Massachusetts. Other variations have been attributed to:

  • Neal Murray of the Cork & Cleaver Steakhouse in Minneapolis
  • John Caine, who owned several bars in San Francisco
  • Cherly Cook, a Florida bartender
  • Toby Cecchini, a bartender at The Odeon in Manhattan.

The drink rose to popularity in the 1990s thanks to HBO's series Sex and the City. The cosmo was main character Carrie Bradshaw's drink of choice. Not surprisingly, its pink hue has made it very popular with women.

Create Your Own Cosmopolitan Cocktail

When ordering a cosmo at a bar, don't be afraid to specify which type of vodka and orange liqueur you prefer, just as you would for a regular vodka martini. While it may be pink, this is a cocktail to be taken seriously.

Classic Cosmopolitan Cocktail Recipe and Variations