In the 1990s and early 2000s, “there was a very gendered aversion to a pink ‘girly’ drink that was made popular by the women (and gay men) on Sex and the City,” says John deBary, bartender and author of the ’90s-inspired book Saved by the Bellini. “It took a while for the rather bro-ey culture of late 2000s cocktail bartending to come around on fun, froofy drinks.”
Today, there’s more than one way to Cosmo. Bartenders have taken apart the drink and leveled up each of its elements—vodka, cranberry and citrus—to build more complex renditions, offering the drink, as deBary puts it, “another layer of accessories.”
DeBary’s accessorizing of his Ultra-Cosmopolitan comes by way of housemade grenadine, which combines saffron threads, black tea, pomegranate and cranberry juice. It’s an earthier take on the sweetener that also brings richness to the template. Grenadine is a common addition to the drink: Los Angeles’ now-closed bar Honeycut created its version with malic and citric acids and orange extract, mimicking the citrusy pop of the dry Curaçao and lime juice called for in the recipe. Meanwhile, others riff on that citrus element. Julie Reiner’s Blood Orange Cosmo is a winter-ready rendition that dials back the cranberry in favor of blood orange juice.
Given how iconic the original is, it’s only logical that it would team up with another icon and get the mashup treatment. Enter the Cosmogroni, in which a splash of Aperol and the addition of bianco vermouth put an aperitivo spin on the ’90s staple, and the Cosmojito, a spritzy take made with fresh mint leaves and sparkling water.
Other modern Cosmos, meanwhile, stick to the basics. In our blind tasting of Cosmopolitans, Sarah Morrissey’s winning recipe—made with lemon vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau and lime—was described as “textbook.” Despite the proliferation of modern renditions dotting the menus of craft cocktail bars everywhere, this version is a reminder that even in its simplest form, the drink can still be a standout.