At Long Island Bar, the drink is made to the inventor’s exact specifications.
This isn’t 1999. The Cosmopolitan’s reign as New York’s hottest cocktail is admittedly long past. Sure, you can still get one made at most bars, but because the Sex and the City alco-prop now carries a bit of a stigma, it can be difficult to find a first-rate watering hole that derives pleasure from the execution of the drink. However, a few do exist — and at some unexpected spots, you’ll find bartenders who even honor the 20th-century classic. These are the spots that do it best.
The Absolute Best
1. Long Island Bar
110 Atlantic Ave., at Henry St., Cobble Hill; 718-625-8908
Long Island Bar is the handsome corner cocktail den in Cobble Hill, and it’s no mystery why the staff excels at Cosmo-making. The co-owner is Toby Cecchini, the bartender who — back in 1988 at Odeon — came up with the version of the drink that we know and drink today. (Authorship of the drink is disputed, but Cecchini’s story stands up to scrutiny better than most.) The drink is never on the menu, but there’s Absolut Citron and cranberry juice behind the bar, and every bartender employed there knows how to make the drink to Cecchini’s specifications: 2 ounces Absolute Citron, 1 ounce Cointreau, 1 ounce lime juice, and 1 ounce Ocean Spray cranberry cocktail. The formula — Cecchini’s original — looks none too dainty on paper (today, most people don’t use so much cranberry), but it works. And because Cecchini is heavily invested in the cocktail’s legacy, it’s made with care, and just a smidgen of pride.
2. The Odeon
145 W. Broadway, at Thomas St.; 212-233-0507
Odeon has every right to hype its status as the probable birthplace of the Cosmopolitan. But not only isn’t there a flashing neon sign outside the restaurant advertising that fact, the drink can’t even be found on the bill of fare. That, however, doesn’t mean the bar doesn’t turn out the drink in fair numbers. According to one bartender, Odeon still makes plenty of Cosmos. They render it with Belvedere (not the traditional Absolut), Cointreau, lime juice, a bit of simple syrup, and just a touch of cranberry. Well-shaken, the drink arrives with lovely little shards of ice floating on its surface. Nicely balanced and piquant, it is a credit to the place.
3. Suffolk Arms
269 E. Houston St., at Suffolk St.; 212-475-0400
Giuseppe Gonzalez, the bartender-owner of Suffolk Arms, has long positioned himself as a bar-world provocateur, reveling in jabs at cocktail orthodoxy. With his very first menu at the Lower East Side bar, he dedicated two pages to vodka cocktails that he considered modern classics, knowing full well that vodka is the enemy spirit of the Cocktail Vanguard. It’s no surprise, then, that the bar makes a lovely Cosmo. Made of 1 ½ ounces citron vodka, three-fourth ounces lime juice, 1 ounce Cointreau and half-ounce cranberry juice, the drink strikes the right balance between tart and sweet, and remains remarkably light-bodied (perhaps owing to Gonzalez’s practice of cutting the Cointreau with simple syrup). Gonzalez says the recipe is based on that of Audrey Saunders’s, proprietress of Pegu Club — a surprising twist, given Pegu’s past rep of eschewing vodka. Both Saunders and Gonzalez garnish the drink with an orange twist, not the usual lemon. Explains Saunders, “the essential oil from the orange twist provides additional warmth in the middle of the drink. The end result is more depth when you include it. It’s necessary with a drink that is comprised completely of ‘high-pitched’ ingredients.”
4. Genuine Liquorette
191 Grand St., at Mulberry St.; 646-726-4633
There’s no point in pretending the Cosmo is a thinking-man’s cocktail. The drink is not a philosophical battleground, the way Martinis and Old-Fashioneds are. That is why the whimsical Cosmo served at Genuine Liquorette can be received with equanimity and a warm chuckle. At the subterranean Little Italy bar, beverage director Eben Freeman specializes in “bulldog” versions of classic drinks. So his Cosmo involves a mini of Absolut Citron upended into a tiny can of Ocean Spray cranberry cocktail. Already inside the can are a half-ounce each of lime juice and Cointreau. Silly? Yes. Fun? Also, yes. And a Cosmo that’s not fun might as well hang it up and go home.