It’s easy to see how some drinks become permanently associated with iconic films or characters (we name-checked our top 5 movie/cocktail connections in a recent Oscar-themed journal entry). It’s fun to imagine James Bond shaking his bar order up a bit – ‘piña colado, easy on the pineapple’ – but impossible, really, to separate him from his trademark vodka Martini.
The proliferation of product placement deals means that big brands are now regularly inserted into films and TV shows to try to force an affiliation in the minds of viewers.
In some movies, it feels sympathetic enough – as in the wartime classic Ice Cold in Alex, when the bartender sets up a line of glasses filled to the foamy brim with fresh-from-the-pump Carlsberg for our desert-parched heroes. We’d challenge anyone not to lick their lips at this scene, even when fully hydrated.
But, more commonly, these deliberate brand pairings can seem clumsy or forced; the uncomfortable result of an off-screen arranged marriage rather than the happy-ever-after that’s born of natural on-screen chemistry.
Often, the most memorable associations are a complete fluke – witness the, now legendary, pairing between Jeff Bridges’ slacker character ‘Dude’ and his beloved White Russian cocktails in the Coen brothers’ classic The Big Lebowski, or Brad Pitt’s stuntman Cliff Booth’s encounter with a Bloody Mary, complete with recalcitrant celery stalk, in Tarantino’s tribute to the golden age of film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Sex and the City
Relatively few, though, evoke an era’s zeitgeist as effortlessly as the Cosmopolitan – a veritable poster child for late 1990s hedonistic glamour and one that eventually eclipsed its small-screen origins.
Interestingly, it seems that the cocktail was a seminal part of the hit show from the outset. Sex and the City creator, Candace Bushnell, once confessed that the Cosmopolitan was her go-to cocktail at the time and because Carrie Bradshaw was her alter-ego, it made sense that it became her signature drink, too.
It’s generally considered to be a contemporary cocktail and yet its roots plausibly extend back as far as the 1930s: Mueller’s influential book ‘Pioneers of Mixing at Elite Bars’ included a cocktail called a Cosmopolitan Daisy with a similar flavour profile to its 90s namesake but with its pleasingly pink tinge due to the inclusion of raspberry syrup rather than cranberry juice.
In the 1960s, presumably in a bid to shift a few more metric tonnes of cranberry juice, Ocean Spray created a cocktail called the Harpoon – certainly similar in composition to the modern-day Cosmopolitan – specifying vodka (or rum) mixed with cranberry juice (natch) in a 1:2 ratio, served on the rocks or topped with soda with an optional splash of lime or lemon.
A decade later, Minnesota bartender Neal Murray created a Cosmo contender – a variation on a classic Kamikaze but with cranberry added to the regular vodka-and-orange-liqueur combo – that was apparently hailed as ‘cosmopolitan’ by a customer.
The definitive Cosmopolitan?
Most agree, though, that the modern-day Cosmopolitan was probably popularised by Miami Strand bartender Cheryl Cook in the 1980s.
Her recipe paired vodka (specifically, the newly launched Absolut Citron variant) with Triple Sec, a dash of lime cordial and ‘just enough cranberry to make it pink’ and was named in honour of Cosmopolitan magazine. It could be argued that New York bartender Toby Cecchini later polished the cocktail to perfection by replacing the cordial with fresh lime juice.
Whatever its precise origins, this close-up-ready sour/sweet drink quickly went viral after its starring role in the HBO hit and remains as popular as ever in cocktail bars. It’s a classic sour: a blend of vodka with a splash each of lime juice, Cointreau (or Triple Sec) and cranberry juice, shaken thoroughly with ice and strained into a cocktail glass before garnishing with a generous twist of orange peel.
Like Cheryl Cook, we use Absolut Citron to give the Edmunds’ Cosmopolitan an extra citrus hit. We think it might be time to dust off the SATC box-set, shake ourselves a Cosmo and spend a weekend on a virtual visit to New York City – how about you?