Marisa Chafetz / Supercall

Culture
The Cosmo Is Officially Cool Again

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The ‘90s are back in fashion spreads and on the faces of the sartorially inclined via mini sunglasses, and cocktail menus aren’t lagging, with a Cosmopolitan renaissance on the rise. Considered tacky, gaudy or perhaps just a cliché order once Sex and The City wrapped, as the Cosmo enters its 40s, the pink drink traditionally served in a flouncy Martini glass is dropping its bad rap and becoming a new go-to drink for mixologists to riff off of.
 
“I think people are often embarrassed to ask for a Cosmopolitan,” says Will Elliot, beverage director at Brooklyn’s Sauvage. “But the Cosmo is a valid and very delicious drink if made correctly.” Case in point: A dinner I recently shared with a friend at Sauvage, during which my eyes glossed over the ($12) Cosmopolitan on the menu, because you can’t be a woman in your 20s or 30s or 40s in New York, out with a female friend, order a Cosmopolitan and expect anyone to take you seriously—or can you? On our server’s recommendation, we each got one. And maybe another.

As a woman who has often ordered a scotch-forward, unfortunately smoky concoction she didn’t want just to prove a point, I appreciate the effort.

Sauvage’s riff on the Cosmopolitan is slightly lighter in color (a true millennial pink), and more sophisticated and nuanced in flavor—you’re not hit with the saccharine taste one may imagine a Cosmo to have. In Elliot’s version, a cranberry cordial, developed in-house specifically for the drink, uses fresh lemon zest to add to the acidity.
 
This new version of the Cosmo aims to “make people comfortable with ordering drinks that have been severely maligned by a lot of people,” says Elliot. As a woman who has often ordered a scotch-forward, unfortunately smoky concoction she didn’t want just to prove a point, I appreciate the effort.
 
Hannah Orenstein, author of Playing with Matches and dating editor at Elite Daily, used to order Cosmos after work at Cosmo.com with her fellow interns. “I thought the drink choice was ironic because I interned at Cosmo. Even though I think they're tasty, I probably wouldn't have ordered them otherwise,” the 25-year-old New Yorker says. “They seem so basic. I know that's a dumb reason for not ordering a drink that you enjoy.”
 
Lizz Schumer, a 30-year-old cocktail and booze writer, shares a similar sentiment. Cosmos were her intro to “the wonderful world of ‘mixed drinks’” which happened to coincide with the Sex and the City years. “As a wee baby drinker, I wasn’t ready to taste my booze,” she says. Her exclusive Cosmo ordering eventually developed into Martinis, Manhattans and more complex craft cocktails, and now she’ll only order a Cosmo at a bar that makes them properly (she has yet to find a place in New York City where she wants to order one) or makes her own on her parents’ patio.  
 
A bartender at a hyper-trendy Manhattan bar told me he has yet to re-introduce the Cosmopolitan to his menu, though he will make one for the “Saturday night crowd,” he said with a grin, which I interpreted to mean bridge-and-tunnel visitors sopping up the last of the Sex and the City facade. But back in Brooklyn, Elliot says his Cosmo does very well, on some nights exceptionally well, in comparison to the other cocktails on his menu. “We allow and encourage people who already want one to have one, and people who are super beverage educated and interested in drinking a Sauvage version of a Cosmo [like it too].”

“The Cosmopolitan actually became victim of what it helped start,” Kyle Ford says.

The original version of the much maligned cocktail is shaken up by its credited inventor Toby Cecchini just a few miles from Sauvage, at The Long Island Bar in Cobble Hill, though the drink itself endures a more complicated history. Social history states that versions of the Cosmopolitan were popular in gay bars in party hubs like South Beach, San Francisco and Provincetown in the 1970s. These drinks were riffs on The Harpoon, a cranberry drink invented in 1968 to promote Ocean Spray’s juices. The exact origins of the cocktail may never be known, but the Cosmopolitan’s ties to gay bars may explain why people, especially men, may be hesitant to order the pink drink. But there is a population of men who are now embracing the cocktail, despite any perceived threat to their masculinity. Meet the Cosbros.

Back in 2014, Kyle Ford, who was serving as a brand ambassador for Cointreau at the time, took a group of all male bartenders out to lunch in San Antonio and ordered a Cosmopolitan, “to be funny,” he shared via email. “This was humorous not only because it is a pink drink and wrongly stigmatized as cocktail reserved only for the fairer sex, but because the Cosmopolitan at that time had become verboten amongst the craft cocktail community.” He speculates that anything colorful and fruity ending in “-tini” was not en vogue as craft cocktail culture peaked: “The Cosmopolitan actually became victim of what it helped start,” he says, alluding to the fact that the Cosmo helped inspire bartenders to use fresh fruit juices, thereby kickstarting the cocktail revolution. Still, Ford deduced that, when made properly and with premium and fresh ingredients, the Cosmopolitan can be a quality drink. In the end, the entire lunch table ordered a round of the blushing drinks and pledged to try more in their own respective hometowns. A Facebook group, the Intergalactic Federation of Cosbronauts, became an industry resource to discuss legitimate Cosmopolitans and “Cosbros,” which appeared on menus at hotspots like New York’s Booker and Dax, which used milk-washed vodka, hibiscus, oleo saccharum, Cointreau, lime and Angostura Bitters in its Cosbro.

“The Cosmopolitan is still battling a public perception and a lot of people almost wonder if it’s a trick that we’re playing on them when they see it on the menu—should I or shouldn’t I order it?”

Another highly gendered food and beverage institution, the steakhouse, is another place one may expect to find Cosmos, but at least one meat-centric business is giving its Cosmopolitan a millennial touch. Butcher & Banker, in Manhattan, recently debuted its Cosmopolis, a hybrid of the Cosmo and the Negroni that unites the acidity and sweetness of a Cosmo with the heaviness and mouthfeel of a Negroni. It probably shouldn't work, but it does. George Krypeyan, beverage director at Butcher & Banker, says its one of the most popular drinks on the menu.
 
And while the collapsing of traditional gender stigmas and binaries may contribute to the rise in the Cosmo, a new interest in healthy-ish drinking is also helping to reinvent the cocktail. Staci Brinkman, founder of Austin-based tea startup Sips by, stopped drinking Cosmos to remove sugar-based calories from her diet—until she tasted hibiscus tea, which was a tart yet sweet natural flavor similar to cranberry juice that didn’t need any additional sweetener.  “I wanted to try it with vodka,” Brinkman says of the origins of her tea-based Cosmopolitan, which can be made by batch. Served on the rocks, it still offers that subtle pucker-quality and deep pink hue that characterizes Cosmopolitans.
 
“The Cosmopolitan is still battling a public perception and a lot of people almost wonder if it’s a trick that we’re playing on them when they see it on the menu—should I or shouldn’t I order it?” Elliot says. In the Cosmopolitan’s prime resurgence, you definitely should.

Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
Sauvage’s riff on the Cosmopolitan is slightly lighter in color (a true millennial pink), and more sophisticated and nuanced in flavor—you’re not hit with the saccharine taste one may imagine a Cosmo to have.

The Essentials

Cranberry Cordial
Giffard Triple Sec
Luksusowa vodka
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
If you’re interested in healthy-ish drinking but don’t want to give up your beloved Cosmo, this cocktail from Manny Hinojosa, head mixologist for Tequila Cazadores, is for you. Hibiscus tea has a tart yet sweet natural flavor that is similar to cranberry juice and requires no additional sweetener. It takes the place of the sugary juice in this take on the cocktail, which, thanks to the hibiscus, still has the Cosmo’s signature pink hue.

The Essentials

Blanco tequila
Patrón Citrónge Orange
Hibiscus Flower Tea
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
Served on the rocks, this sweet-tart, patio-friendly cocktail is the Cosmopolitan's cooler, younger sibling. Created by the folks at Bua, a no-frills but friendly cocktail bar on New York’s quirky St. Mark’s Place, it gets its name from a signature Irish drink called red lemonade, essentially a red-hued lemon soda. While the original red lemonade gets its color from artificial additives, this upgraded version is colored by pomegranate juice and spiked with either vodka or gin.

The Essentials

vodka or gin
Pomegranate Juice
lemon juice
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
Butcher & Banker's Cosmopolis is a hybrid of the Cosmo and the Negroni that unites the acidity and sweetness of a Cosmo with the heaviness and mouthfeel of a Negroni. It probably shouldn't work, but it does. 

The Essentials

lemon vodka (like Absolut Citron)
Cocchi Americano
Aperol

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