Extreme Make Over! Part 1: The Cosmo

This is the first part in an ongoing series of uninspiring cocktails that have fallen into obscurity and/or have gained a reputation for boring, outdated, unrefined, relics, passe, amateurish, and whatever else you can describe them as.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  Can anyone say “Appletini”?  When is the last time you had a Harvey Wallbanger?  That bottle of Galliano has enough dust on it you’d think it was a rare original bottle that was found in a hidden cellar of some country side English estate.  Better yet, how about the queen of passe, the one cocktail that is still ordered around the world yet is just as mediocre and unexciting as a game of Curling?  I speak of none other than the iconic relic of the 80’s and 90’s, the Cosmopolitan.

This is a prime example of a cocktail that most craft bars would never consider craft, and some modern speakeasies have even gone on to post at their doors that anyone whom orders it will be asked to leave….Maybe a bit too harsh, as even though this is by far nothing spectacular, it is one of the most influential and famous cocktails and arguably was patient zero for starting the flavored vodka explosion.  This makes the Cosmopolitan worthy of re-examination and updating to modern standards.
Like most cocktails, the Cosmopolitan, aka “Cosmo”, has it’s own controversy over who and where its true roots lie.  Some say it was Cheryl Cook whom invented it in the late 80’s in South Beach, Florida, using Absolut Citron since it was a relatively newcomer to the flavored vodka world.  However, some say this is debatable as Citron didn’t hit the market until a couple years after she claims inventing it.  Other reports put it as early as the late 70’s, and even master mixologist Dale DeGroff has been publicly cited as the father of the Cosmo.  Though, DeGroff has gone on to say he didn’t invent, perhaps it was merely popularized by famous patrons at the Rainbow Room.  Lore aside, whomever may be the progenitor of this world famous libation, one thing is for sure it is in serious need of modern upgrades.

I’m not hating on it one bit, but like many famous and classic cocktails, modern tastes evolve and invoke us to reexamine them and breathe new life into what was once grand.  Sex in the City may have made thirty something singles bring some life back into it, but nothing changed about its core ingredients.  Cheap flavored vodka, basic triple sec replacing the original Cointreau, and bad sour mixers simply make it taste either too citric or sometimes far too sweet.  The original recipe is as follows:

The Cosmopolitan
1-1/2 oz Absolut Citron Vodka
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Cranberry Juice
Lime Wedge as Garnish or a Flamed Orange Peel

Combine with ice, shake and strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish.  Enjoy somewhat….

I think we can all see the real problem here.  This recipe calls for a stunningly tart drink, and as I have pointed out before, most of the ingredients have been swapped out for bottled lime juice and cheap alternatives.  When made using this recipe with the proper ingredients it is a drinkable cocktail, but a bit tart for my preference.  Looking at the components, we can see that there is hope in this fallen formula.  We just need to “deconstruct” it at its basic level and balance out the flavors with some updated flare.

Deconstructed “Cosmo”
1-3/4 oz Gin (Meyer Lemon & Herb Infused)
1/2 oz Clear Creek Cranberry Liqueur
1/2 oz Cocchi Americano
2 tsp Fresh Lime Juice
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6
Lemon Twist for Garnish

Combine with ice, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish and enjoy.

Color:  Deep, reddish/pink
Flavor:  Citrus with notes of lavender, thyme, cranberry, orange and a hint of quinine

Texture:  Light and easy

To infuse the gin, take 1 bottle quality dry English gin, and pour into a 1 liter container with a lid.  Add the peels of three Meyer lemons, and 1-1/2 teaspoons of dried Herbs de Provence.  Cover and set in a cool dark place for about 3 days.  Fine strain, bottle and refrigerate until use.

OK, obviously this isn’t a “Cosmo” per say, but it shouldn’t be.  Whenever I think about reinterpreting a classic, I try to pay homage to its core but that doesn’t mean making the same drink.  I opted for a citrus and herb infused gin here instead of vodka to add more flavor and depth and the Cocchi adds a touch of sweetness and hint of bitterness.   The cranberry liquor is a great balance of tart and subtle sugar that works well with minimal citrus juice, therefore creating a more balanced cocktail that isn’t too tart or sweet.  I hope I’ve inspired you to find some once great or famous cocktails and help bring them back from the depths of cocktail purgatory and breathe new life into them.  Cheers!

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