I’ve had a bout lately of nostalgia for the 1990s, a decade when we were younger, prettier perhaps, and definitely more civil with one another. One reason for this nostalgia was spending a lot of time in Provincetown this summer, which reminded me of my first visits to town in the ’90s. In the course of those visits, which culminated in our moving here in 1997, I became acquainted with some of the near-legendary bartenders of the day. There was Paul at the original Lorraine’s, Robert at the Flagship, Jane at the Commons, and, especially, Ed at Front Street. Each had a following and all showed a flair for cocktail making and a genuine generosity of spirit(s).
The drink of the decade was the cosmopolitan. And Ed at Front Street was a maestro of the cosmo. According to barman extraordinaire Dale DeGroff in his book The Craft of the Cocktail, the cosmo first appeared in the late ’80s in New York at the Odeon in Tribeca and at San Francisco’s Fog City Diner. (I lived in San Francisco at the time and may well have had my first cosmo at Fog City but my recollection is, well, foggy.) The drink was popularized by Madonna and “Sex and the City.” For me, though, the cosmo will always be a part of my Provincetown story.
I learned how to make the cocktail correctly from Ed one night sitting at the bar at Front Street while waiting for a table. Many might now think of the cosmo as just some sickeningly sweet pink florescence. But a well-made cosmo (like a well-made margarita) bears little resemblance to the mass-produced concoction into which the cosmo devolved. And Ed’s cosmo was the real deal.
Ed let me in on the secret that made his cosmo so special — a specialness underscored by the qualities that made the drink so popular in the first place. As with many drinks and dishes that make their mark, the secret was simple and depended on good, authentic ingredients. In this case, it was fresh lime juice and simple syrup — no packaged juice or sour mix ever.
Ed would cut fresh limes (ideally Key limes), squeeze the juice into a cocktail shaker, and muddle the juice and limes with simple syrup. Then he added the vodka, cranberry juice, and a dash of triple sec, and shook the ingredients vigorously, finally straining the drink into a chilled martini glass. Garnish was a simple yet artful orange twist.
Many barmen and women (including DeGroff) insist on the more expensive, sweeter Cointreau instead of triple sec, obviating the need for simple syrup. The thing about simple syrup, though, is that it adds an ineffable layer of richness that deepens the flavor of the drink — which it does for all cocktails.
Ed’s take on the cosmo was an inspiration a few years later when my now husband and I opened a restaurant in Provincetown and introduced our own version called the Audrey Cosmo (named after one of our first Airedales).
So take a moment to remember a great decade in a great town by revisiting a great cocktail. Cheers!
THE AUDREY COSMO
1.5 ounces Skyy Citrus Vodka
1/2 ounce triple sec liqueur
1/4 ounce simple syrup
1/4 ounce fresh lime juice (preferably Key lime)
1 ounce cranberry juice
Muddle lime juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker, add remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with an orange twist.
NB: Simple syrup is a mixture of equal parts granulated sugar and water. Heat in a small saucepan and stir until sugar is dissolved. Let cool before using. Refrigerate in a covered container.