Friday, February 27, 2015


The Cosmopolitan has been getting bashed a lot by modern mixologists as of late, and I have found myself defending it a bit more than expected. Sure, the 1980s drink got fame in the 1990s and made big splashes thanks to Madonna and Sex and the City. It is often touted as a chick drink as well. During my early bar years in the 1990s, the Kamikaze was still revered as a serious shot. Vodka, lime juice, and triple sec. So if you add a splash of cran to a Kamikaze, what do you get? True, it would be so much better as a gin drink, and that had already been done in the first few decades of the 20th century with the gin-based Cosmopolitan using raspberry syrup instead of cranberry. In fact, at a Milagro buy-out event, I asked the bartender for a tequila Cosmo perhaps with a hint of irony given that it was expected that I would request something highfalutin to stump the bartender. People looked at me funny until I explained that it was a Margarita with a dash of cranberry. The idea came to me after asking for a tequila Scofflaw since that whiskey classic was on their menu already, and I was thinking of other classics to tequila-ize.

Two days ago on Facebook, there was a thread where one bartender complained that, "Tonight a man told me, after ordering a Cosmo, that he 'truly hated' mine. And that it was 'undrinkable'." I commiserated and shared how someone once called my 3:1:1 Margarita at work the worst he had ever had. But the rest of the thread devolved into bashing the Cosmopolitan ranging from the drink itself to the people who order them as well as questioning their masculinity and class. It got me thinking about how the art form of a Daisy with a splash of tart and bitter cranberry juice could be elevated. My mind went straight for Fernet Branca for it works well in drinks containing triple sec and citrus such as the Ali-Frazier (which was inspired by the citrus-less Alcazer from the same book as the 1903-33 Cosmo). However, all that rosiness from the cranberry and brightness from the other ingredients would be drowned out by a sea of black or brown from the liqueur. But wait, what about Campari? It has worked well for drinks in Beta Cocktails, at the Anvil, and in my own experiments, so why not? I sent myself an email at 1:30 that day to remind myself to tinker with it at work during a slow moment over the next few days.
That night during my shift, CJ, one of the servers, had spoke highly of me to his table, and he came by to relay their question if I could make something with Campari as the base spirit. It just doesn't get any better timing than that! When the ticket for "Campari Up$ (Message: YARM)" came in, I set to work and whipped one up as a modification of my standard Cosmo (more lime and cranberry juice by a touch). It was still a bit bitter before I shook it, so I added a pinch of salt to cut that bitterness and bring out Campari's rich orange flavors that would complement the other citrus notes in the drink. Before I could get their opinion through the server, another ticket came in for "Campari Up$ (Message: YARM)" to the same table which answered my question. Apparently, one of the tablemates fancied it as well. That second one before I sent it out is pictured above. For a name, I opted for the Camparipolitan although the Cosmopari was a close second.
Camparipolitan (or Cosmopari?)
• 2 oz Campari
• 1 oz Triple Sec (Clement Creole Shrubb here)
• 1 oz Lime Juice
• 1/2 oz Cranberry Juice
• 1 pinch Salt
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist. A home version of 1 1/2 : 3/4 : 3/4 : fat 1/4 : 1 pinch would work well too.
Yesterday, I made a mini version to get tasting notes. The orange twist at first contributed a lot of bright orange oil notes, but as those oils were sipped away, the nose became more orange peel driven over time. The sip was tart lime and orange, and a different orangeness, a darker more bitter one from the Campari, came through on the swallow along with the cranberry flavors. Finally, the drink ended with a slightly tart and bitter finish. Overall, it was like a Cosmo made with some extra citrussy vodka with some additional bitter herbal complexity.

The Daisy itself is such a strong base of a drink. I even tinkered with it for a recent Mixology Monday with the Double Daisy where I hybridized the Margarita and the Sidecar. Indeed, it is a family of drink that still makes people very happy and has a classic and elegant history and feel to it.


bza said...

I've always been a big defender of the Cosmopolitan, even though I don't actually like the drink very much. Considering how terrible most drinks were in the dark ages of the 70s-90s, here is one drink that was not only extremely popular, but actually could survive the onslaught of sophisticated cocktails in the 00s and come out as one of the better vodka cocktails ever.

My only complaint about the Cosmo is that Ocean Spray has a lot of corn syrup in it and I wish it wasn't quite so sweet. I'd love to see a more thoughtful cranberry juice produced - it could be used as a mixer in countless recipes. If I ever have unsweetened cranberry juice on hand, I usually play around with it in drinks, using simple or salt where needed to balance the sour or bitter qualities, but I drink that stuff with a dash of orange juice so I admit it's not a taste that's for everyone.

Ellen said...

I have long thought a well made Cosmo is a thing of beauty. And some time ago I came up with a version involving Campari:
Would love to know what you think! And I have to make your version now...

frederic said...

BZA, we have the more pure stuff at home. It's still sweetened but it has a lot more cranberriness to it (which includes tartness and bitterness). Ocean Spray makes both a cocktail and a 100% cranberry juice; the cocktail (not sure if it has other fruits or if it has a lot of sugar water diluent) is most common especially off of soda guns. Few people (other than women with UTIs) opt for the 100% stuff. The other down side is that the 100% pure stuff is pricy (the Knudson or similar brand we bought for home costs $8/quart).

Ellen, that sounds great and reminds me a bit of the Jasmine

Ellen said...

Cool! I'm now adding the Jasmine to my list. I think a Cosmo experimentation night will be in order for me soon.