The Cosmopolitan might have been created in 1980s New York, but it arguably peaked at the end of the following decade when it became the go-to drink of the characters in Sex and the City. And when that wave crested in the early 2000s, the Cosmo was largely relegated to that era.
But Darren Leaney says it’s primed for another upswing in attention – thanks in part to more nuanced drinkers coming to appreciate its complex notes.
“Technically a Cosmopolitan is a vodka margarita with a splash of cranberry juice,” says Leaney, group bars manager for Melbourne CBD’s Southeast Asian destinations Aru and Sunda. “Both have stood the test of time.”
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He says the Cosmo’s endurance is partly due to the ever-versatile splash of cranberry juice. While the fruit is well known for its nutrients and antioxidants, making it a reliable hero in everything from sauces and salads to pastries and muesli, Leaney says its versatility extends to drinks. Here it can play equally well with white or dark spirits, whether in the context of a refreshing spritzer or mimosa, or a fruity Sea Breeze or Bay Breeze.
Despite the association with the early 2000s, drinkers still ask for Cosmos. To bring it up to date, Leaney says tinkering with the classic ingredients is key.
Reaching for unaged, double-distilled Arquitecto Blanco tequila for the base, Leaney has found inspiration in both the Margarita and Cosmopolitan to create a drink he calls the Modernist Cosmo .
Just a little bit of cranberry juice here goes a long way. The Modernist Cosmo only requires 20 millilitres – along with equal parts lime juice. To the natural tartness of those two juices, Leaney introduces sweetness with a homemade grenadine that showcases native Davidson’s plums. “You’ve got a lot of tartness and mouthfeel from the cranberry juice and the grenadine,” he says. “It’s sherbet-y and peppery. You’re bumping the mouthfeel with a little sugar and then cutting through with a bit of acid.”
If you don’t have fresh Davidson’s plum or powder at home, you can use regular grenadine from most supermarkets – or simply or leave it out altogether, making the drink completely sugar free. And for a zero-alcohol version, replace the tequila with citrus-forward Seedlip Grove.
Finally, for an earthy visual contrast to the drink’s bright-red hue, Leaney recommends sprinkling a half rim of Korean chilli salt as a garnish. “That adds a funky, sour touch of heat, which is really nice with the texture and tartness of the drink,” he says.
Here’s how to make the Modernist Cosmo at home.
Makes 1 serving. Approx. 1.67 standard drinks.
15ml Davidson’s plum grenadine
50ml Arquitecto Blanco
20ml lime juice
20ml Ocean Spray cranberry juice
Korean chilli salt for garnish (optional)
For the grenadine, combine sugar syrup (made using two parts sugar, one part water) with pomegranate molasses to taste (about 20%). Then infuse with either fresh Davidson’s plum or powder over very low heat on the stove.
Build all ingredients in a tin, mixing glass or mason jar. Add cubed ice and shake. Double strain over a large ice block in a rocks glass half-rimmed with Korean chilli salt.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Ocean Spray.