What’s in a cosmopolitan cocktail? It’s easier to make than you think! This vibrant pink drink is perfect for celebrations of all kinds.

Cosmopolitan cocktail

It’s got a brilliant pink color and tangy, refreshing flavor: yes, it’s a Cosmo! 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! The Cosmo is a legit sour cocktail that’s worth drinking: the beautiful color is reason in itself. Here, Alex and I have put a modern spin on it. Here’s how to make it!

What else goes in a martini glass? Try our Lemon Drop Martini.

Cosmopolitan Cocktail

What’s in a Cosmopolitan cocktail?

A Cosmopolitan Cocktail is a classic alcoholic drink that makes the list of International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails. The history of the Cosmo is disputed: some claim it was invented in the 1930’s, others in the 1970’s. (Read all about it if you want to geek out.)

What’s in a Cosmo? The classic version of this cocktail uses Citron vodka, cranberry juice (usually sweetened), Cointreau, and lime. Why make our version of this classic? Keep reading.

Why to make our Cosmopolitan cocktail recipe

Alex and I have a long list of cocktail recipes that we’ve created for you: the home cook! Our drink recipes are easy to make so you don’t have to be a cocktail expert! We have lots of versions of classic cocktails, from gin fizz to whiskey sour to French 75 to Moscow mule. Why make our 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 (more on that below).
  • It’s not too sweet, and you can customize the sugar level! Versions you’ll order at a bar have varying amounts of sugar: in this recipe you can make it your own. (More on that below, too.)
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. It’s 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. (We’re kind of into keeping things pretty simple.) So here, we’ve used standard vodka plus lemon juice. If you have citron vodka on hand already, absolutely use it here! You can omit the lemon juice.

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. Why use unsweetened cranberry juice?

  • It has less sugar, and you can customize the sweetness. Use 100% juice and you can customize the sweetness of the drink by adding maple syrup or simple syrup. We like using maple syrup as a sweetener because it’s all natural and provides a gentler sweetness.
  • The color is brighter. The color of this Cosmo is electric pink because 100% juice has a deeper color.
Cosmopolitan cocktail

Using 100% juice means you can sweeten to taste.

The sugar level in a Cosmopolitan cocktail usually comes from using sweetened cranberry juice. Alex and I like our drinks on the tart side, and don’t like drinking a lot of added sugars. We also had 100% cranberry juice on hand from our cranberry champagne cocktail.

The 100% cranberry juice makes a crisp and tart Cosmo drink. We’ve specified to add 1 teaspoon of maple syrup or simple syrup, but if you’d like, you can make it more tart or a little more sweet. Alex and I prefer using maple syrup because it provides a gentler sweetness, and we use it in lots of our recipes. But if you have simple syrup on hand you can use that too.

Cranberry cocktail recipe

What other drinks use cranberry juice?

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:

  • Madras The Madras features vodka, cranberry and orange juice for tart and tangy drink. It’s very similar to the Cosmo!
  • Vodka Cranberry One of the easiest cocktails there is: vodka and cranberry juice on the rocks with a spritz of lime.
  • Cranberry Champagne Cocktail Instead of vodka, add a bit of champagne and you’ve got a killer festive cocktail! Or try the Cranberry Mimosa for brunch.
  • Rum & Cranberry uses rum, Cointreau and lime juice for a sweet tart, balanced drink.
  • Sea Breeze or Bay Breeze The Breezes are classic and refreshing cocktails, fit for sipping al fresco, a laid back happy hour or as a brunch drink. Sea Breeze features grapefruit juice, and Bay Breeze 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 (New & Improved!)


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

Description

What’s in a cosmopolitan cocktail? It’s easier to make than you think! This vibrant pink drink is perfect for celebrations of all kinds.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) vodka or citron vodka*
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) 100% cranberry juice (do not use sweetened!)
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) Cointreau
  • ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) lemon juice
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or simple syrup)**
  • For the garnish: lime wheel (optional)***

Instructions

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

Notes

*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 syrup.

***You’ll need at least 2 limes: one for wedges and one for wheels. 

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

Keywords: Cosmopolitan cocktail, Cosmopolitan drink

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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1 Comment

  1. 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