This page is continually being updated with freshly excavated Cosmopolitan cocktail history research in order to provide you with the best Cosmopolitan Cocktail history possible.
Current Read Time | 67 minutes
NUTSHELL: I first became interested in the Cosmo Cocktail in 1998. Over the next several years, I received many emails asking if I was the Cheryl who lived in Florida and created the Cosmopolitan Cocktail. I did not, but it piqued my curiosity because my name was Cheryl, I lived in Florida, and I was a bartender. In late 2016, I began aggressively researching this cocktail to add it to my 16th book, The Cocktail Companion.
So, down the rabbit hole, I went. Below is what I learned. I've added nutshells for you along the way.
Madonna / EDB Image Archive/AlamyStock
I paid a lot of money for the above photo.
I bought it because the stage prop glass looks like a Cosmopolitan with the help of pink light and four people associated with the creation /an or re-creation of the Cosmopolitan say they served Madonna a Cosmo.
Gary Regan once said, “The Cosmopolitan is the last true classic cocktail to be born in the twentieth century, and this is true —but—the Cosmopolitan would never have reached international fame and prevailed mainstream as long as it has if it had not been for the HBO show Sex and the City, which aired between 1998 and 2004. This time in history coincided with the height of the “flavored Martini craze,” so its impact was immense. But how did the Cosmopolitan make its journey to the TV show? Well, as you probably guessed, there are a few stories about its creation.
Regan began researching this cocktail in 2003. I began my research in 2006 after I surfed the "World Wide Web" to learn when this cocktail was first seen and mentioned in the HBO show Sex and the City. I discovered that no one knew the answer, so I checked out the media at my local library. Over the years, I kept a Cosmopolitan file but then aggressively researched the cocktail's origin in 2016 for my 16th and favorite book, The Cocktail Companion. Regan was fascinated with my findings. We Facebooked messaged about it up until his death.
None of the bartenders connected to the Cosmopolitan would have ever guessed in a million years that one day this cocktail would become world-famous. Imagine if someone contacted you with questions from 30-40 years ago. It took most people a moment to remember that far back, which required many emails, texts, and phone calls. If you are a journalist, you have hit the goldmine of the best Cosmopolitan research available because I have provided useful information where you can easily contact these people to verify the information. Contact me if you need more. I'm happy that I could talk to so many people still alive and happy to share.
At times, I do give my unbiased opinion, but for the most part, I share what I recorded. I also shared what I wrote with almost everyone to check for mistakes because I need to be as accurate as possible. You, the reader, will need to connect your dots. Respectfully, I do not share personal information about them or others, their celebrity stories, what I was asked not to share, or anything that felt to me to be “off the record” conversations. And I have not included those who asked not to be included for various reasons.
The nutshell version of my research is that two bartenders, at two different times (fourteen years apart), in two different cities, created a cocktail with almost identical ingredients and named it the same name—Cosmopolitan. These bartenders are Neal Murray and Cheryl Cook. Two New York City bartenders claim to be the first to have upgraded the Cosmopolitan recipe by using quality ingredients; however, only one of them has been credited. Their names are Melissa Huffsmith and Toby Cecchini. And then there is Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff, who independently retooled/upgraded the Cosmopolitan without the knowledge of others who had already.
Author Candace Bushnell wrote a column for The New York Observer called Sex and The City between 1994-1996, and the column led to a hit HBO show by creator Darren Star (1998-2004). The rest is history—as well as herstory.
I believe the Cosmopolitan derived from the Kamikaze shooter, the Kamikaze from the Vodka Gimlet, and the Vodka Gimlet from the Gimlet (made with gin). The modern classic Cosmopolitan is made with citrus vodka, orange liqueur (Cointreau/triple sec), lime and cranberry juices with a citrus garnish. Before I share my research, there are a couple of cocktails the cocktail community would probably like me to
share—The 1933 Cosmopolitan Daisy and Ocean Spray’s 1968 Harpoon. In the 1933 book Pioneers of Mixing Drinks at Elite Bars published by the American Travelling Mixologists, there is a cocktail named Cosmopolitan Daisy that some believe to be an early version of the Cosmopolitan. I don’t agree.
The Cosmopolitan Daisy is made with gin, Cointreau (high-end triple sec/orange liqueur), lemon juice, and raspberry syrup with a raspberry
garnish—making the only common ingredient the orange liqueur. Plus, it should be called "Cosmopolitan Daisy." For example, would you drop the cocktail category name of Tom Collins or John Collins to Tom or John? Yes, it is served straight up in a cocktail glass and is also pink in color, but four other ingredients do not match up; gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup, and raspberry garnish. I made this drink, and I liked it. However, it's nothing like the modern Cosmopolitan, but again, how can it be when they both only have one ingredient in common
In 1968, Ocean Spray cranberry juice promoted the “Harpoon” in a 25-cent recipe booklet titled Mix Around with Cranberry Juice. I was fortunate enough to locate one. You can read the ingredients in the photo to the right. Amusing that, they describe 1 ounce of spirit and 1 ounce of juice as “A whale of a drink.” This recipe is pretty wide open, giving you the option of making up to 20+ cocktails, depending on what you want. However, the orange liqueur is missing, and it's served over ice. I know they placed the two red cocktail glasses graphic next to the recipe, but the graphic seems to match the Mexicali Rose recipe.
The Cosmopolitan Cocktail
Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City, Season 5, 2002. HBO / Photofest
Photo of Candace Bushnell by akalifepr [CC BY-SA 3.0] GFDL gnu.org/Wikimedia Commons
Libbey Cocktail 4.5 oz #8882
Before diving deep below, I wanted to share the Libbey Cocktail Glass 4.5 oz #8882. This cocktail glass has been around since the 1950s. This cocktail glass was used for the 1975 Golden Valley Cosmopolitan. It was the first cocktail glass I saw in 1970s bars and the first cocktail glass I poured a Martini into in the 1980s. It was the cocktail glass used for the 1981 San Francisco Cosmopolitan, and it was the glass used for the 1989 Miami Beach Cosmopolitan. And Paul Bacsik, bar manager (1984-1998) of The Odeon in NYC told me that they used it as well. Today, there are two sizes to choose from; 4.5 oz and 6.5 oz. I just thought you'd like to know.
Golden Valley, Minnesota and San Francisco, California
Golden Valley to San Francisco
NUTSHELL: Neal Murray says he created his Cosmopolitan in 1975 at the Cork ’n Cleaver Steakhouse in Golden Valley, Minnesota. In 1981, at the Elite Café in San Francisco, he showed bartender Michael Brennan how to make his Cosmopolitan. It slowly became a popular cocktail throughout the city. In 1986, Murray worked at the world-famous Fog City Diner, making the cocktail even more popular.
I first tried to contact Neal Murray in December 2016 and heard back from him on April 15, 2017. Here is the story he has shared with me. Murray was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 15, 1951, to politically influential parents of European, Native American, and African descent. When he was ten years old, his family moved to Roseville, Minnesota. His parents had a white woman/friend buy their land in Roseville because at the time, people of color were not allowed to purchase and build homes in this area.
As a young boy, he had been in the room with many political figures, including President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Evert Dirksen to name a few. He got to meet Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Vice President Walter Mondale, and a couple of Minnesota governors, all before he was in high school. Murray was a high achiever and grew up being the “only black kid in school” from 5th grade to 12th grade. Out of 1200 students in junior high, he was the president of the student council. At Alexander Ramsey High School, Murray was the vice president of the junior class, student council, and the canteen council that planned the dances. As a senior, he was to become student council president, but he told the school principal that he would like to see the first woman in the history of the school become student council president. Murray then convinced the principal to let him create a new conference-wide student council. After meeting with all thirteen principals, he founded and became president of a Suburban Conference Student Council representing 22,000 students in thirteen high schools.
In the second semester of 1975, while studying political science at the University of Minnesota, Murray applied for a bartender position—without experience—at the Cork ’n Cleaver Steakhouse in Golden Valley, located at 905 Hampshire Avenue South (it’s a Volvo car dealership today). Murray applied for the position with the encouragement of two college friends who worked at the Cork ‘n Cleaver, Michael Hannah and John Peterson. Murray made it through the interview and hiring process quickly but learned from Hannah and Peterson that he would not be getting the job because he was black. The restaurant accountant called Murray a week later to tell him that the managers would be out of town, and if he could learn to be a bartender in four days, then she would hire him. As any good college student would, Murray bought Mr. Boston’s Bartender Guide and crammed for three days.
By the fall, he was still employed and noticed changes in cocktail trends. Murray watched the Gimlet (gin and Rose’s lime juice) change into a Vodka Gimlet and then into the shooter Kamikaze (Vodka Gimlet with triple sec) One cold autumn night, Murray was experimenting with cocktails and made a connection between a Cape Cod (vodka and cranberry with a lime garnish) and the Kamikaze. He poured a little cranberry juice into the Kamikaze, then shook and strained it into a stemmed cocktail glass (Murray made it with Gordon’s vodka, Leroux triple sec, Rose’s Lime Juice, and Ocean Spray cranberry juice with a lime wedge garnish). A regular sitting at the bar asked Murray about the pink drink. At first, Murray didn’t have an answer but then smiled and said, “I just thought it needed a little color,” making a joke about how he was hired. The regular said, “How cosmopolitan!” and the Cosmopolitan was born.
I have not been able to locate college classmates and co-workers Michael Hannah or John Peterson yet, but in 2017 I was able to speak with other friends, Greg Harris and Steve Knapp, who had visited Murray at the Cork ‘n Cleaver.
Fun fact: Murray, Harris, and Knapp were Alexander Ramsey High School classmates with Richard Dean Anderson, better known as MacGyver. I talked to Harris (born in 1950), and he confirmed that he and his wife Patty did indeed visit Murray at the Cork ‘n Cleaver, but admitted he’s never been a “mixed drink person” and does not remember the Cosmopolitan. He said he would ask his wife if she remembers and get back to me. I never heard back. It took some time to connect with Steve Knapp (born in 1950) as he lives in an off-grid cabin without a car, phone, or Internet six months out of the year. Murray told me that when Knapp was in high school, he rode his bicycle from St. Paul to Vancouver, British Columbia and that he still rides hundreds of miles every year. Anyway, I finally was able to speak with Knapp over the phone, and he was full of energy. He remembered Murray’s Cosmopolitan, remembers visiting Cork ‘n Cleaver with Harris, and told me about a farewell John Denver concert he worked before Denver moved to Colorado and some other bars he tended bar at Butler Square in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Knapp even suggested that I contact bar schools to see what year the Cosmopolitan first entered into their curriculum. I contacted Ricky Richard, the owner of Crescent Bartending School, founded in 1983, and he researched for me. He discovered that the Cosmopolitan recipe was in his curriculum around 1990.
In 1977, Murray moved to Washington, DC, to take a position as a congressional intern. While traveling to visit friends, Murray always ordered a Cosmopolitan, explaining to each bartender that it was a Kamikaze with cranberry juice served up in a cocktail glass. He ordered the cocktail everywhere he traveled including Boston, Manhattan, Atlanta, Miami, airport bars, and every bar he visited up and down the East Coast.
In 1979, Murray gave up politics and moved to San Francisco to study psychology at San Francisco State University. While in school, he worked as a waiter at Enzo’s restaurant in the Embarcadero Center and then at Kimball’s—not once pushing the Cosmopolitan. But all that changed in 1981 when he handed his 30th resume of the day to co-owner Tom Clendening at a New Orleans cuisine restaurant called the Elite Café (2049 Fillmore Street). Murray accepted a waiter position because even in this day and time, you still did not see black bartenders. I finally made contact with Clendening in July of 2019, and he confirmed that the Cosmopolitan was indeed invented by one of his employees. Murray recommended the Cosmopolitan cocktail to his customers, making the Elite Cafe (est. 1932) the first place the Cosmo was served in San Francisco. The first bartender Murray taught to make the Cosmo was Michael Brennan. Brennan must have forgotten to renew his domain in 2019 because it is defunct. If you would like his contact info, then ask me. You can read about him here, here, here, and here. There are other artists with the same name so I wanted to give you the correct one. I spoke with Brennan (born in 1952) over the phone in 2017. He bartended in San Francisco for 15 years and remembered Murray, other co-workers, and of course, making many Cosmopolitans. He did not know that he was the first in San Francisco to make one, though. Brennan's passion has always been art. He started painting in the third grade. Today he is a famous San Francisco artist and has designed many spaces, restaurants, and bars in San Francisco. You can check out his latest unconventional design work at the Curio Bar, which opened in June of 2018 (775 Valencia Street). As for the Elite Cafe, it went through four owners and closed in April of 2019. I asked Brennan for some "back in the day" photos, and he replied, "The ex-wife has all of those."
I also spoke with co-worker and waiter Hugh Tennent. During my research on Tennent, I found a small September 10, 1982 article in The Honolulu Advisor Hawaii newspaper that read, “Honolulu adwoman Lynn Cook was dining at the Elite Café in San Francisco, and her waiter was Hugh Tennant, [sic] grandson of artist Madge Tennant [sic]”. Hugh’s grandmother Madeline “Madge” Grace Cook Tennent (1889–1972), was considered the most important individual contributor to Hawaiian art in the 20th century. I found Tennent via his sister, Madge Walls, who is a writer and lives in Oregon. It took quite a while to connect with Tennent because he does not have an email address, doesn’t text, and rarely answers his cell phone. I left several messages, and then finally, one December day in 2017, he answered. Tennent (born in 1947) lives in Hilo, Hawaii. For fun, he drives a tour van, but his passions are golf and cars. Tennent was very outgoing and remembered Murray, Brennan, and Cosmopolitans at the Elite Café. He also recalled another bartender named
Willie Karnofsky talked about him for quite some time about how back in the day, he was a model and golfer. In 2018, I called Karnofsky (born in 1956) via the phone number on his website. He remembered the Elite Café days, Murray, Brennan, and Tennent, but sadly did not remember serving the Cosmopolitan. But he said his focus at the time was golf, not cocktails.
In 1984, Murray often visited Union Street bars and always ordered the Cosmopolitan. Singer Boz Scaggs owned one bar he often visited called Blue Light Cafe. Also, in 1984, he left the Elite Café to be part of the opening crew at the Café Royale (2050 Van Ness). But in 1985, Fog City Diner General Manager Douglas “BIX” Biederbeck hired Murray as a bartender to help serve a celebrity clientele. Bill Higgins, Bill Upson, and Cindy Pawlcyn owned The Fog City Diner. Within five years, it became a national hot spot much due to VISA featuring it in a commercial. While at Fog City Diner, Murray created his first Cosmo spin-off by switching out the vodka for Mt. Gay Barbados Rum and called it a Barbados Cosmopolitan. It became an instant hit in the gay community.
Biederbeck became part of the Real Restaurant Group and opened many more San Francisco restaurants. In 2008, he released a book called Bixology . On page 11, he writes, “We were the first West Coast restaurant to respark the current Martini boom. It’s a little hard to imagine that, only twenty years ago, the white-wine spritzer, gin and tonic, and occasional sweet drink were the calls of choice. The Cosmopolitan had only recently been invented, and there were about six vodkas known to man.”
By 1988 Douglas “BIX” Biederbeck went on to be a true San Francisco restaurateur. He opened his first restaurant, BIX (56 Gold Street), which is a swanky jazz bar and still employs two original white-jacketed barmen, Bradley Avey and Bruce Minkiewicz. I contacted Biederbeck via bixrestaurant.com, and to my great surprise, he called me at 5 PM central time on November 22, 2017. He remembered hiring Murray at Fog City Diner and even put his Barbados Cosmopolitan on his BIX menu. He said, “It was a good drink.” We chit-chatted about how I lived in New Orleans and how BIX was a jazz bar. He ended our conversation by suggesting that I contact the Fog City Diner owner and chef at the time, Cindy Pawlcyn—a pioneer in the development of wine country cuisine.
I was able to contact Pawlcyn via her website. Her email said, "Of course, I remember the Cosmopolitan at Fog City Diner. It was one of my favorite cocktails, and it was very popular amongst [sic] the customers." Like Murray, she grew up in the Minneapolis area and made her way to San Francisco in 1979. She said that the waiters referred to it as a “girl drink.” At Fog City Diner, Pawlcyn was pairing cheeseburgers with Champagne. Today she has four cookbooks and is a James Beard Award winner. She has also been nominated twice for the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef in California.
In 1986, Murray was given a VIP card by a Fog City Diner customer to the famous Limelight nightclub in New York City (20th Street and Sixth Avenue). So, he and his friend Dana Williams flew to the Big Apple to use the card. Sure enough, the card got them to the front of the line, and they walked in immediately. And, of course, Murray ordered a Cosmopolitan, explaining to the bartender how to make it. Murray said he also visited Area (157 Hudson Street) and Milk Bar (2 Seventh Avenue South), each time ordering a Cosmopolitan. I have joined Facebook pages for all of the clubs mentioned, and no one has posted that they remember a Cosmopolitan yet.
In 1989, Julie Ring from Julie’s Supper Club (1123 Folsom Street) hired Murray to become her head bartender and part owner of Miss Pearl’s Jam House (601 Eddy Street in the Phoenix Hotel). Murray said that Ring didn’t realize Murray had a large following around San Francisco with his Cosmopolitans. He introduced another new Cosmo twist called the Cactus Cosmo, made with aloe vera juice and tequila.
In 2004, The Almanac published an article titled How Cosmopolitan! Marche's maitre d' lays claim to creating the Cosmopolitan cocktail. In 2010, Cheers Magazine Online released a story with the title "The True Original Cosmopolitan Cocktail Story".
Murray traveled a lot throughout his life and ordered a Cosmopolitan at every bar he visited. He went on to work at many San Francisco restaurants as a consultant and general manager, and in 2016 he retired. Murray now enjoys traveling and writing about restaurants through his website. In April of 2018, he visited me at the Bourbon O Jazz Bar in New Orleans, and I was so busy that I never got a photo taken with him :(
The Cosmopolitan recipe he gave me is with the others under the Cosmopolitan Fun Facts section.
Photo by Neal Murray in the 1970s.
1981 photo of the Cork ’n Cleaver Steakhouse in Golden Valley,MN
Photo by mhcphotography.wordpress.com
The famous Elite Cafe neon sign from 1932. From sfneon.blogspot.com.
1981 Elite Cafe owner, Tom Clendening. In July of 2019, he fondly remembered the two bartenders (Michael Brennan & Willie Karnosky) and two waiters (Neal Murray & Hugh Tennant) who I already spoke to then thanked me for the memories.
I asked what glass he used and he said, “We served all of our “up” cocktails in a Libbey Martini glass (Libbey 8882 Retro Cocktail 4.5 oz).
1982 Elite Cafe menu. Neal Murray said the menu changed daily by hand.
Photo by michaelbrennanart.com. I believe Michael Brennan is the first San Francisco bartender to make the Cosmopolitan in 1981.
Madge Tennent lectures at the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1950. By HawaiiCalls [CC BY-SA 4.0] Wikimedia Commons
Douglas “BIX” Biederbeck from bixrestaurant.com
Photo of award-winning chef Cindy Pawcyn mustardsgrill.com
Neal Murray in 2017. Photo by Neal Murray.
Provincetown, Massachusetts, Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio, and San Francisco, California
NUTSHELL: John Caine says that he first heard of the Cosmopolitan around 1986 while tending bar at
The Rusty Copper in Cleveland, Ohio. He moved to San Francisco in 1987. One place he tended bar was
Julie's Supper Club. The owner would introduce Caine as the inventor of the Cosmopolitan.
When you google the Cosmopolitan cocktail, the name John Caine always comes up in association with Provincetown, Ohio, and San Francisco. I was able to locate Caine in November of 2017 in San Francisco, where he has lived with his wife since 1987. All of the Cosmopolitan-related Internet articles I read on Caine gave me the impression that he was quite boisterous and energetic. So, his first email reply to me on November 27, 2017, did not surprise me when he said, “Hey Cheryl, Good to hear from you, and yes, I am still quite vain in this ego-based business of cocktail culture and love talking about myself...still!” His second email reply said, “Let's be clear. I did not invent the Cosmo.”
Caine (born in 1959) first heard of the Cosmopolitan cocktail around 1984 when he worked at The Rusty Scupper in Cleveland, Ohio (corner of 14th and Euclid Streets). He said, “My gay co-workers went on pilgrimages to gay capitals such as P-town (Provincetown). I'd be working with them when each one recounted "magic nights" celebrating freedom of expression all along talking about this drink—The Cosmo.”
When The Rusty Scupper closed in 1984, Caine moved to Cincinnati, Ohio for his 8th year of undergraduate school. Caine was one of those people who loved college. He said it was easier than real life. Caine took a bartender job at The Diner (1203 Sycamore Street) and worked there for three years. It’s where he met his future wife, Sarah as well. Just the way he heard about the Cosmopolitan in Cleveland, so was true for Cincinnati.
In 1987, the couple decided to move to where restaurant service is more of a career—San Francisco. Caine worked a few places in the city but then finally
found himself working for Julie Ring at Julie’s Supper Club (1123 Folsom Street). Caine said Julie’s was a great supper club where Julie layered in Frank Sinatra and James Brown music. Later into the night, Caine changed the music to hip cocktail lounge mixes. He said bar top dancing was the norm. Caine taught the staff how to make a Cosmopolitan, and Julie would introduce Caine as the inventor of the cocktail. Caine did not tell me that he denied it. He just said, "I had to explain that I was merrily along for the ride with a good go-to cocktail. Julie’s sold a lot of Martinis, so it was a perfect environment for the Cosmopolitan." I believe there’s a connection here of how Anthony Dias Blue came to write the Cosmopolitan recipe from Julie’s Supper Club in the first known book to mention the Cosmopolitan in The Complete Book of Mixed Drinks in 1993.
I show the book cover down below in Cosmopolitan Fun Facts. Thank you, Marcovaldo Dionysos!
Caine has opened many restaurants and bars in San Francisco. As of 2021, he owns two: ATwater Tavern (295 Terry A Francois Blvd) and HIDive Restaurant (28 Pier).
Below was "John Caine's Famous Cosmopolitan" which was listed on his ATwater Tavern menu. in 2018. When I checked the link in 2020, it had been removed. In 2021, the entire drink menu was deleted from the website.
1. There is an ingredient missing in his "John Caine's Famous Cosmopolitan" on his online ATwater Tavern menu. Do the ingredients appear to be an Absolut Cape Codder?
2. On the menu below, Caine says he brought the recipe to San Francisco in 1987. However, the Cosmopolitan was already a "thing" in SF since 1981.
As for Provincetown, I have contacted fifteen people from the 1980s who lived and partied in P-town, and only four have returned my emails.
I started my search on this site and this site. All four contacts do not remember a cocktail called Cosmopolitan during that time. One lady, Pamela R. Genevrino, owned the Pied Piper bar (now called the
Pied Bar). She said her trademarked Pied Piper Tea was the most popular drink in P-town. When I asked if she remembered the Cosmopolitan in the 1980s, she said, "Nope!" then suggested I contact someone named
Jessie Muccie for more information. I'm still searching for Jessie.
1. This leads me to believe that since the Cosmopolitan was first introduced to San Francisco in 1981 and not introduced to New York City or Miami yet, Caine’s Ohio gay co-workers were visiting San Francisco and not Provincetown.
2. I have also tried to contact Julie Ring, but no such luck yet. Facebook shows that she was camping with John Caine in June of 2019. Caine's Facebook page has been taken down, and the photo of him with Ring has been too.
3. Sorry, no photos. I've asked several times, but none have been shared yet. Caine has stopped replying to my emails.
Public photo of John Caine from John Caine's Facebook page 2015. Caine has since taken his Facebook page down.
From San Fransico to New York
Patrick “Patty” Mitten
San Francisco, California and New York, New York
NUTSHELL: Patty Mitten first heard of the Cosmopolitan from his manager at the Patio Café in San Francisco. He moved to NYC in 1987 and began working at the Life Café in the East Village. He taught co-workers Melissa Huffsmith and Peter Pavia how to make the cocktail.
I believe that Patrick “Patty” Mitten is the bartender who brought the Cosmopolitan from San Francisco to New York City in October of 1987. Mitten was born in Coventry, England, in 1965. He attended the Royal Ballet School in London and then, in 1985, went to work for the San Francisco Ballet for a year. When his Visa expired, Mitten took a bartender position that paid “under the table” at the Patio Café (531 Castro Street...now Hamburger Mary's). It was here that he first learned of the Cosmopolitan cocktail. Mitten distinctly remembers his manager, Alan Mary Kay, walking in one day saying, “I just tried a new cocktail, and it’s pink! It’s called a Cosmopolitan. It’s a Kamikaze with cranberry but served as a Martini.” Mitten said that Kay was very colorful and loved the color pink, which is why he loved the Cosmo. Both Mitten and I have tried to locate Kay, but no such luck yet.
By 1987, all of Mitten’s friends, including his partner, had died of AIDS, so he made a fresh start and moved to New York City on the weekend of September 27 for the closing of the famous Paradise Garage nightclub (84 King Street). In October, he took a bartender position in the East Village at the Life Café (343 E 10th St B). I emailed the then-owner Kathleen “Kathy” Life in November of 2017 to see if she remembered Mitten working for her in the late 1980s. She said, “Yes, I do remember him. He was charming. A very nice, pleasant young man and a very good employee.”
By the way, the Life Café became famous in 2005 when it was a film location for the famous restaurant scene in the musical drama film adapted from the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning musical, Rent.
I learned of Mitten through communicating with Melissa Huffsmith, a Life Café co-worker. Huffsmith is the girl whom Toby Cecchini wrote about in his book who first told him about a San Francisco cocktail called the Cosmopolitan, but more on that later. Mitten adored Huffsmith. He said she was intelligent, funny, and sexy. Mitten also told me of another co-worker named Peter Pavia. I emailed Kathy Life again and asked if she remembered Pavia, and she said, “Yes, I remember Pete very well. I can hear his distinct voice. He worked for me for quite a long time. He was smart, interesting, had a good sense of humor, a great employee, and confident behind the bar. I enjoyed his good nature when on duty. I believe he was a writer when not tending bar.”
So, Mitten taught Pavia, Huffsmith, and the entire staff how to make the San Francisco pink Martini called a Cosmopolitan. They sold them to customers in Martini glasses, but the staff drank them on the rocks in to-go cups. Mitten said he served a Cosmo to Madonna when she was auditioning dancers for her hit "Vogue" and even served one to Sarah Jessica Parker when they were filming the pilot of Sex and the City.
Patrick "Patty" Mitten in the 1980s. Photo by Patty Mitten.
Patrick "Patty" Mitten and Peter Pavia in the late 1980s. Photo by Patty Mitten.
Patrick "Patty" Mitten 2016. Photo by Patty Mitten. Look at those curls! I love it.
From San Fransico to New York
NUTSHELL: Melissa Huffsmith-Roth says she first heard of the Cosmopolitan from co-worker Patty Mitten at the Life Café around January 1988. In April of 1989, she took a bartender job at The Odeon. She first showed her manager how to make the cocktail but upgraded some ingredients to Absolut Citron, Cointreau, and fresh lime juice.
Finding Melissa was a vital piece of the New York City Cosmopolitan puzzle because she is the co-worker whom Toby Cecchini mentions in his 2003 book Cosmopolitan: A Bartender’s Life who first told him about the San Francisco Cosmopolitan. I received a couple of friendly email replies from Huffsmith in November and December of 2017. I also emailed back in June of 2018 to verify a few dates. She began her Cosmopolitan story with “The real Cosmo story:” She said that she first learned of the Cosmopolitan from Life Café co-worker, Patrick “Patty” Mitten. She said Mitten learned to make the Cosmopolitan in San Francisco, and the recipe was a Kamikaze with a little cranberry juice. She said, “We used to make them in big milkshake to-go cups”. After speaking with two co-workers (Mitten and Pavia), I now know that she meant the “staff” drank Cosmos on the rocks in go cups.
Huffsmith left the Life Café to take a bartender position at The Odeon in April of 1989. She says that she remembers the exact month because she had a series of “April” jobs; she started The Odeon in April of 1989, left The Odeon five years later in April 1994 for a bartender position at Lucky Strike (59 Grand Street), and then left Lucky Strike in April for another job.
When Huffsmith started working at The Odeon, her manager was Paul Bacsik. One night Bacsik was making her a shift drink, and Huffsmith requested a Cosmopolitan. Bacsik didn’t know what it was, so Huffsmith told him how to make it. She explained that it was vodka, triple sec, and Rose's lime with a splash of cranberry juice. When Bacsik asked her what kind of vodka to use, she felt experimental (because at Life Café, they did not have upgraded brands), so she decided to try Absolut Citron since it was new Cointreau, fresh lime juice, and cranberry juice. She said it was yummy. Huffsmith went on to say that the fresh lime juice gave the drink a beautiful, refreshing cloudy light pink lemonade look, and all the bartenders started making them for the regulars. I asked Huffsmith if she remembers serving any celebrities, and she said, “I served everyone. Literally everyone.” She particularly remembered designer Gordon Henderson who was one of the biggest preachers of the word of the Cosmo because he loved the cocktail and made everybody he brought into The Odeon try one. She concluded with, “Pretty soon, we started getting calls from other bars about the recipe. It became a thing. Other people have different recollections, but that’s the real story. Fun, right? Let me know if you have any more questions.”
In the second email, I asked Huffsmith if she remembered working with a co-worker named Toby Cecchini, and she said, “Yep! I know he wrote a book and claims ownership of the Cosmo recipe. I haven’t read the book, but if there is a Melissa in there, then it’s me”. She also mentioned in another email that Cecchini was a waiter when she started working at The Odeon in April of 1989. Huffsmith is who told me about Patrick “Patty” Mitten, who then told me about Peter Pavia.
The Cosmopolitan recipe she gave me is with the others under the Cosmopolitan Fun Facts section.
Melissa Huffsmith in the 1980s. Public photo from Huffsmith's Facebook page.
Melissa Huffsmith-Roth 2014. Public photo from Huffsmith's Instagram.
Melissa Huffsmith-Roth 2016. Public photo from Huffsmith's Instagram.
New York, New York
New York, New York
NUTSHELL: Peter Pavis says he first heard of the Cosmopolitan from co-worker Patty Mitten at the Life Café around January 1988. He says his co-worker Melissa Huffsmith took the Cosmopolitan Cocktail to The Odeon on 1989.
Peter Pavia and Melissa Huffsmith started working at Life Café around the same time in January 1988—the same time that Patrick “Patty” Mitten introduced them to the Cosmopolitan. One of his first sentences to me was, “Yes, Patrick “Patty” Mitten was without a doubt the man who brought the Cosmopolitan to New York City.”
Pavia talked about how he drank a “raspy little concoction” called the Kamikaze in bars from 1975-1980, and the Cosmopolitan was essentially a pink Kamikaze with the only modification being a dash of cranberry juice. He said, “And Patty showed me how to make it.”
I asked Pavia if he ever made them in go cups. Pavia said, “The bartenders at Life Café certainly made drinks to go in large paper cups, although this would be illegal in New York City. There were two categories of liquor licenses in the State of New York: on-premises and off-premises. You could not consume drinks at an off-premises establishment such as a liquor store and, conversely, aren’t supposed to buy liquor to take out from a restaurant or bar.
As for Huffsmith, he said that Life Café was a hangout for East Village locals, and when Huffsmith went to The Odeon, she brought the drink much higher visibility because that bar attracted a much more urbane and moneyed international crowd, and the surge in the drink’s popularity was exponential. Now, of course, as bartenders will do, modifications were made, and the biggest shift was when the syrupy Rose’s lime with fresh lime juice, and as a nascent cocktail culture took hold, the ingredients were of a higher quality. He continues by saying, “It has been well said that success has a thousand fathers while failure is an orphan, and a number of players who were around at the time, claimed authorship of the Cosmopolitan.
After Life Café, from 1991-1992, Pavia worked as a fill-in bartender at a Soho bar called Kin Khao (171 Spring Street) that was managed by Toby Cecchini (Cecchini worked at The Odeon before that). I texted Cecchini, but he said he did not remember Pavia. Anyway, Pavia said the overwhelming number one popular drink at Kin Khao was the Cosmopolitan.
From 1994-1996, Pavia worked at another Soho bar called Match (160 Mercer Street) and was making many Cosmos with some of them quaffed by none other than Candace Bushnell herself. Bushnell is who wrote the Sex and the City column for the New York Observer between 1994-1996, which soon lead to the hit HBO show. Pavia’s last shift was at the Uptown Match at 29 East 65th Street. It was also the night he met his lovely wife.
Pavia is the author of Dutch Uncle, The Cuba Project, and co-author of The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History of the Porn Film Industry. His work has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, New York Post, GQ, Detour, and Gear. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.
Peter Pavia tending bar at Life Café sometime between 1988-1990. Public photo from Pavia's Facebook page.
Peter Pavia in 1999. Public photo from Pavia's Facebook page.
Peter Pavia in 2015. Public photo from Pavia's Facebook page.
New York, New York
NUTSHELL: Paul Bacsik first heard of the Cosmopolitan from Melissa Huffsmith at The Odeon in 1989.
I first learned of Paul Bacsik (born March 3, 1954) from Melissa Huffsmith. I emailed him on November 22, 2017, and heard back from him the same day, then we spoke over the phone after Thanksgiving. I loved listening to his stories. Bacsik was hired at The Odeon as a bartender in 1984, then in 1986, he was promoted to bar manager and wine director while also picking up three bartender night shifts a week. Bacsik worked for The Odeon for fourteen years until 1998. When Cecchini was a waiter, Bacsik asked permission to make him into a bartender. Ownership agreed, and Cecchini was all for it. Bacsik asked me about Melissa, where she was, and what she was doing, then told me that she was his absolute favorite person to tend bar with. I gave them each other's contact information so they could have a reunion.
Bacsik remembered a lot of things; the Cosmopolitan, celebrity stories, and Gary Farmer, who was the most charismatic bartender he ever
saw—he was so charming people didn’t mind waiting to be served by him. In 1984, Farmer left for a position at another celebrity-fueled restaurant, Indochine (430 Lafayette Street), then in 1985, moved to Miami Beach to open a bar called The Strand.
SUPER WEIRD COSMO CONNECTION: In March of 1989, Farmer played a part in the Miami Beach Cosmopolitan—which was totally independent of the Cosmopolitan at The Odeon (more on Farmer in the Miami section of the Cosmo story).
Bacsik is from Rahway, New Jersey, attended college at The University of Connecticut, and today lives in New York, New York. He is the co-owner of Little Wine Company.
Paul Bacsik in 2013. Public photo from Bacsik's Facebook page.
Chef Stephen Lyle
New York, New York
NUTSHELL: Chef Stephen Lyle first heard of the Cosmopolitan at The Odeon at the same time when Melissa Huffsmith worked there.
I learned that the chef at The Odeon who worked with Paul Bascik, Melissa Huffsmith, and Toby Cecchini was Steven Lyle. In January of 2018, I emailed him and he responded. He said that he remembered the Cosmopolitan at The Odeon because it was a big deal when he worked there. He also said they all drank a fair amount of them and it was still his wife’s go-to cocktail.
Stephen Lyle began his career at age 17, with a formal French apprenticeship in a Michelin-starred restaurant in the South of France, where he lived during his teenage years. He then moved to New York and worked at Quatorze, The Odeon, then he opened his own restaurant, Village, in 2000. In 2013, Lyle became a corporate chef at the cutting-edge, fast-growing chain, Dig Inn. He lives in Tribeca, New York City with his wife, and is an avid cyclist.
Steven K. Lyle photo is from stevenkyle.com