Cool and refreshing, a Cosmopolitan Martini is the perfect treat on a warm summer day. With their pale pink color, Cosmos (as they are called for short) just look like summer in a glass! Developed with input from experienced bartenders around the world, my Cosmopolitan recipe is time tested to be perfect, every time.

hands holding a silver tray filled with three cocktails, including a Cosmopolitan Martini in the front
Cosmopolitan Martini pictured with (left) Derby Day Mint Julep and (right) Perfect Sidecar Cocktail. Photo by Laurie Smith.

What does a Cosmopolitan taste like?

I first started drinking Cosmopolitan Martinis back in the 1990s, when they became famous thanks to the HBO TV series Sex in the City. They are so pretty – a pale pink cloud inside a sophisticated stemmed martini glass. And, with a garnish of green lime, I felt like I was back on Martha’s Vineyard, where I spent a summer during college. (All those bright pink and green summer dresses!) They are the perfect summer drink – cool, clean, fresh tasting, with a perfect balance of tart and fruity overtones.

a hand holding a Cosmopolitan Martini. Person is in background
Photo by Laurie Smith

How I found the perfect Cosmopolitan Martini recipe

When I first started drinking Cosmos, as they are called for short, I discovered that occasionally they didn’t look – or taste – quite right. Sometimes, they were a darker red, and sweeter. Other times a bit sharp and bite-y. So, I started talking to bartenders about their classic Cosmopolitan recipes. As I was traveling a lot on business at the time (1990s), I was able to obtain input from professional mixologists around the country – and even in Canada, England and France.

I took all those various recipes home and started experimenting. Once I hit on a combination I liked, I tried it out on a few friends, then tweaked the recipe based on their input. Why did it take so much effort for such a simple recipe? Well, because just a slight change in an ingredient – like using Triple Sec instead of Cointreau – has a big impact on the taste. While both liqueurs are orange-flavored, in my opinion Cointreau is smoother and less dry – and therefore better in a Cosmo. (As you may recall, my husband uses Cointreau in his Vodka Martini with a Twist.)

Cosmopolitan Martini pictured with (left) Derby Day Mint Julep and (right) Perfect Sidecar Cocktail. Photo by Laurie Smith.
What’s in a Cosmopolitan Drink?

My recipe calls for only 4 ingredients – good quality vodka (I like Tito’s), Cointreau liqueur, sweetened cranberry juice, and fresh squeezed lime juice.

Also, fresh squeezed lime juice is an absolute must – no substitutions! It adds just the right amount of sharpness to balance the sweet cranberry and Cointreau.

What alcohol is in a Cosmo?

The two alcohols in a Cosmopolitan Martini, or Cosmo, are vodka and Cointreau (or other orange liqueur). While some bartenders follow the original Cosmopolitan recipe created by Toby Cecchini at The Odeon in NYC and use Absolut Citron, I prefer the slightly less citrusy flavor of my version, that doesn’t use a flavored vodka.

What is the best vodka for a Cosmopolitan?

It’s really personal choice. My husband Robert and I like Tito’s – it has a nice flavor and is reasonably priced.

How to make a Cosmo Martini

  1. Prep glasses.
    Fill martini or coupe glasses with ice water to quickly chill; let stand 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and dry.
  2. Prep shaker.
    Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes (large cubes won’t melt as quickly as small cubes in the spirits and/or liqueur).
  3. Add ingredients and shake.
    Add all ingredients and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
  4. Strain and pour.
    Pour through a cocktail strainer into a chilled martini glass.
  5. Garnish and serve.
    Garnish with a slice or wedge of fresh lime.
Hands holding a Cosmopolitan Martini. Person is in background
Photo by Laurie Smith

Tips for making a perfect Cosmo Martini Recipe

These tips come from my husband, who is known far and wide for his wonderful martinis!

  1. Chill your martini glass. You can chill your glasses either by putting them in the freezer or filling them with ice water to quick-chill for 2 to 3 minutes just before using.
  2. Put all the ingredients and a handful of large ice cubes in your shaker and shake vigorously for around 15 seconds. Large cubes won’t melt as quickly as small cubes in the spirits and/or liqueur. Shaking for 15 seconds not only ensures the mixture is very cold, it also forms ice crystals that will then float on top of the martini.
  3. Use a separate cocktail strainer to pour the shaken mixture into your chilled martini glasses. Often the strainers built into shakers don’t tend to work very well – and don’t let the ice crystals flow through to the glass.

Can this recipe be made in a pitcher?

Yes, you can make these Cosmopolitans in a pitcher. Fill pitcher with ice, add ingredients and stir until well combined – at least 15 seconds. Strain into chilled martini glasses. If there is still some Cosmo mixture left in the pitcher, remove the ice cubes – otherwise they will dilute the mixture.

What is the difference between a Cosmopolitan and a vodka cranberry?

A Vodka Cranberry, also called a Cape Codder or Cape Cod Cocktail, only has the two ingredients – vodka and cranberry. In a Cosmopolitan, you also add orange liqueur (I like to use Cointreau) and fresh lime juice. And, a Cape Codder is served over ice, while a Cosmo is served straight up (no ice).

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hands holding a Cosmopolitan Martini

Cosmopolitan Martini

  • Author: (From “A Well-Seasoned Kitchen®” by Saly Clayton and Lee Clayton Roper)
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Total Time: 5 mins
  • Yield: 1 Cosmo 1x
  • Category: cocktails, drinks
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

A time tested recipe for Cosmopolitan Martinis, developed with input from experienced bartenders. Cool, clean and fresh tasting!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons (1 3/4 ounces) really good vodka
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) Cointreau
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) sweetened cranberry juice (like Ocean Spray)
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) freshly squeezed lime juice (no substitutes!)
  • Slice or wedge of fresh lime, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Fill martini or coupe glasses with ice water to quickly chill; let stand 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and dry.
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes (large cubes won’t melt as quickly as small cubes in the spirits and/or liqueur).
  3. Add all ingredients and shake vigorously for 15 seconds.
  4. Pour through a cocktail strainer into a chilled martini glass.
  5. Garnish with a slice or wedge of fresh lime.

Keywords: cosmopolitan, martini, cocktail

Lee Clayton Roper

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I’m Lee Clayton Roper, and I’m passionate about making cooking and entertaining easy, elegant and fun. Here you’ll find scrumptious recipes, helpful tips and seasonal menus that will spark inspiration in your kitchen!
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