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The Cosmopolitan cocktail is easier to make than you think! This vibrant pink drink is perfect for any occasion, starring vodka, cranberry and orange liqueur.

Cosmopolitan cocktail

It’s got a brilliant pink color and tangy, refreshing flavor: it’s the Cosmo! Or a Cosmopolitan cocktail, to be exact. This great cocktail is ready to spice up your next gathering, be it a dinner party or drinks on the patio with friends. It was at its height in the 1990’s (hello, Sex and the City) and sometimes makes purists roll their eyes. But as certified mixologists with over 300 cocktail recipes in our library, we think the Cosmo is a legit sour cocktail that’s worth drinking, pairing zingy cranberry and lime with vodka and orange liqueur.

What’s in a Cosmopolitan cocktail?

A Cosmopolitan Cocktail is a classic alcoholic drink made with cranberry juice and vodka with a distinctive pink color. The history of the Cosmo is disputed: some claim it was invented in the 1930’s, others in the 1970’s. A recipe called the “Cosmopolitan Daisy” was published in a bar book in 1934 that is similar to the Cosmo, using gin and raspberry syrup instead of vodka and cranberry, so the basic formula stems back to the 1930’s.

What’s in a Cosmo? The classic version of this cocktail uses Citron vodka, cranberry juice (usually sweetened), Cointreau, and lime juice. However, we like using standard vodka since it’s typically what we have on hand.

Cosmopolitan Cocktail

Why to make our Cosmopolitan cocktail recipe

As cocktail experts and certified mixologists, we have a long list of cocktail recipes where we break down each method so you don’t have to be the expert! We’ve got all the classic cocktails, from gin fizz to whiskey sour to French 75 to Moscow mule. Why make our modern spin on the Cosmopolitan cocktail:

  • It’s easy! We’ve paired it down to the essentials. Instead of having to buy a whole new type of vodka, you can use standard vodka instead.
  • It’s not too sweet, and you can customize the sugar level! Versions you’ll order at a bar can be incredibly sweet. This recipe is perfectly sweet tart, and you can customize it to taste.
  • It’s bright! This version uses unsweetened cranberry juice, which makes a heightened color compared to other Cosmos. It looks even better!
Cosmopolitan cocktail

Do you have to use citron vodka in a Cosmo?

A Cosmopolitan cocktail purist would say that a “real” Cosmo uses citron vodka, a lemon-flavored vodka that brings a nice citrus zing. However, for our recipe we wanted to use ingredients everyone would have in their pantry. You can use either standard vodka or Citron vodka here. Citron vodka also stars in a classic Lemon Drop Martini, another great place to use it!

A Cosmo with unsweetened cranberry juice

Traditional versions of a Cosmopolitan cocktail use sweetened cranberry juice. But for our version, we used 100% cranberry juice (unsweetened). There are lots of variations of cranberry juice on the shelf, and many of them have added sugar. Bottles labeled cranberry juice cocktail have added sugars or high-fructose corn syrup for extra sweetness. Here’s why we like to use unsweetened cranberry juice in cocktail recipes:

  • It has less sugar, and you can customize the sweetness. Use 100% juice and you can customize the sweetness of the drink by adding simple syrup (or maple syrup, which adds a gentler sweetness).
  • The color is brighter. The color of this Cosmo is electric pink because 100% juice has a deeper color.
Cosmopolitan cocktail

Sweeten to taste

The sugar level in a Cosmopolitan cocktail usually comes from using sweetened cranberry juice. But we like our drinks on the tart side without a lot of added sugars. The 100% cranberry juice makes a crisp and tart Cosmo drink. We’ve specified to add 1 teaspoon of simple syrup, but if you’d like, you can make it more tart or a little more sweet.

Cranberry cocktail recipe

More cranberry juice cocktails

Want to use up that leftover cranberry juice? There are lots of great cranberry cocktail recipes to make with it! Here are a few ideas:

  • The Madras features vodka, cranberry and orange juice for tart and tangy drink. It’s very similar to the Cosmo!
  • A Vodka Cranberry is one of the easiest cocktails there is: vodka and cranberry juice on the rocks with a spritz of lime.
  • Swap out vodka for bubbles to make a Cranberry Champagne Cocktail, a killer festive cocktail! Or try the Cranberry Mimosa for brunch.
  • A Rum & Cranberry uses rum, Cointreau and lime juice for a sweet tart, balanced drink.
  • Try a Sea Breeze or Bay Breeze, classic refreshing cocktails fit for sipping al fresco, at happy hour or as a brunch drink. The Sea Breeze features grapefruit juice and Bay Breeze uses the tropical flavor of pineapple.

When to serve a Cosmopolitan cocktail

This Cosmopolitan cocktail is fun and celebratory. It’s great as a:

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Cosmopolitan Cocktail

Cosmopolitan Cocktail


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x

Description

The Cosmopolitan cocktail is easier to make than you think! This vibrant pink drink is perfect for any occasion, starring vodka, cranberry and orange liqueur.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ounce* vodka or citron vodka**
  • 1 ounce 100% cranberry juice (not sweetened!)
  • ½ ounce Cointreau
  • ½ ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon simple syrup
  • For the garnish: lime wheel (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau, lime juice, and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake 15 seconds until cold. Strain the liquid into a martini glass.
  2. Garnish with a lime wheel if desired. 

Notes

*1 ounce = 2 tablespoons

**If you have it, use citron vodka for the most authentic Cosmo: in this case you can omit the lemon juice. In our tests we found it was just as tasty to use standard vodka with lemon juice, so you don’t have to buy another type of vodka.

***If all you can find is sweetened cranberry juice, omit the simple syrup.

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Cosmopolitan cocktail, Cosmopolitan drink

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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17 Comments

  1. I am needing to serve a cocktail in a dispenser for a party and am wondering if this Cosmo would be ok made in a larger batch and served from a dispenser. I would have garnishes of course.

  2. Would agave be an okay substitute for the simple syrup? I’m thinking it might give it the same gentle sweetness without the slight maple flavor.

  3. I have to say…
    The maple syrup is a game changer. I don’t believe I’ll ever use simple syrup again! Thank you for the tip!

    1. We’d recommend a cocktail shaker, simple syrup and fresh citrus. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of building up different liquors that you enjoy.

  4. Hiiiiii i made this for my mom and dad for valentines day they loved i thank you very much

  5. My husband & I have tried a number of your cocktail recipes. We have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one! You are our go-to source every time we want to try something new, or enjoy again those we have already tried.

    We had relatives visit recently and they were very impressed with our bartending skills…thanks to you both!!

  6. LOVE it that you so well-addressed the importance of 100% cranberry. Roughly a third the sugar of your 100% ‘Juice’ Cranberry ‘Cocktails’. By wording it like that, they get away, by the letter of the law, with making people think it’s 100% cranberry. Anyway, I usually do regular vodka and lime, which is great. But this time, per your suggestion, used Stoli Oranj (I had a couple 50 mls on hand haha), with lemon instead on lime. And a tsp less of Cointreau (always have that on hand). It is perfection. But OTOH, I’m not sure now whether it’s the citrus vodka or the lemon vs lime (or both) that makes such a big difference. Oh, I always add a couple dashes of Angostura orange bitters. Optional for most, but you should really try it. If you do, you’ll probably do it all the time from now on. :-D

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