This page is continually being updated with freshly excavated Cosmopolitan cocktail history research.
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Madonna / EDB Image Archive/AlamyStock
Yes, I paid a lot of money for this photo. I bought it because
four people associated with the Cosmopolitan say they served
her a Cosmo or more.
The Cosmopolitan Cocktail
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 around its creation.
I have been researching the Cosmopolitan since 2006. I surfed the "World Wide Web" to learn when this cocktail was first seen and mentioned in the HBO show Sex and the City and discovered that no one knew the answer, so I walked to the Orlando Downtown Library and checked out all the show's VHS tapes (and some DVDs). Over the years I kept a Cosmopolitan file, but then aggressively researched the origin of the cocktail in 2015 for my 16th book The Cocktail Companion.
Please understand that my Cosmopolitan research is
just that—research. You need to realize that 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 back that far, which required many emails, texts, and phone calls. If you are a journalist then you have hit the goldmine of Cosmopolitan research because I have provided useful information where you can contact these people to verify the information. Contact me if you need more.
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 most everyone to check for mistakes because it's important for me 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. Also, I have not included those who asked me not to include them in my research for various reasons. In conclusion, I feel very fortunate to locate as many people as I did before it was too late to record their stories.
The nutshell version of my research is that two bartenders, at two different times (fourteen years apart), in two different cities (1800 miles apart) 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 a Tom Collins or John Collins to Tom or John? Yes, it is served straight up in a cocktail glass and 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. I find it 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.
While I applaud the research in finding these two cocktails in history, however, I have to use a term from their time—Close, but no cigar.
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
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 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 from 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 in 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 with 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, 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 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 that 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 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 and 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 employees 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 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
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" that 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 from 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, that 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. Caines 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
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 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.
New York, New York
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 in 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 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
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 Patrick 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 into 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
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 was she doing then told me that she was his absolute favorite person to tend bar with.
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
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.
New York, New York
I emailed Toby Cecchini (cha-KEE-nee) in December of 2016, and we spoke on the phone in early January 2017. I bugged him with questions via text for over a year. I'm sure I annoyed him, but as you can see I like to dig deep and gather much info from many people. While I appreciate Cecchini taking his time with me, sadly, I was never given any real leads and was discouraged from seeking more information from people around at this time in history. His exact words were, "It's a dead end." Cecchini did not share requested photos even though I asked many times.
I learned most of my information from his book and online interviews from sites and video that seemed reputable. Cecchini was born September 23, 1963, and is a first-generation born American who grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. In 1951 his dad emigrated from Florence, Italy to Madison, WI and was an artist, great cook, allowed his children to drink watered-down wine at the dinner table, and had a unique way to make a pitcher of Gin & Tonics.
Cecchini documented his life as a bartender in his 2003 memoir Cosmopolitan: A Bartender’s Life. In the book, he talks about waiting tables to put himself through college in Madison, then in his junior year he signed up for a France college program where he learned a lot about wine. Cecchini made his way to New York City by following a girl he had met in Paris, but in his words, it “blew apart.” He said one afternoon in 1987, he recognized The Odeon neon sign from the 1984 Jay McInerney novel’s cover Big Lights, Big City and decided to take a waiter position long enough to make money to return to France. He writes, “I had no idea I would leave the Odeon, four years later, a wholly changed man.” While reading Cecchini’s book, I enjoyed learning new words—with each digital page turn, I clicked words to discover their meaning. You can read an excerpt from the first chapter of his book here.
Cecchini’s Cosmopolitan story is a few pages long and begins with the sentence, “I did not invent the Cosmopolitan.” You can read these pages on Google Books or go the Amazon route. The book has three different covers now; the burgundy is the original. Here are the exact words pertaining to the Cosmopolitan:
I did not invent the Cosmopolitan. Not technically, at any rate. I’ve had to reiterate this position to someone or other every year or three since 1987, whereupon that person invariably writes me up as the Inventor of the Cosmopolitan. I did invent what you think of as the drink, the version everyone means when they order it, last decade’s instantly understood signifier of crass, table-hopping New York privilege. Perhaps it’s better to say I re invented it. But a drink called the Cosmopolitan existed in name before I took my hand to it, and so, by strict definition, I am not its creator. By every other consideration, however, it’s my drink, for better or worse.
One night Mesa showed me this drink some girl from San Francisco had made for her at Life Café, where Mesa had worked before. It was called the Cosmopolitan and she made it with it much better. Absolut had just come out with Citron, so we wanted to use that, for no particular reason other than that it was the new, cool thing at the moment. We naturally substituted fresh lime juice for the Rose’s and put Cointreau in it to soften the citric bite. To stand in for the grenadine we added just enough cranberry juice to give it a demure pink blush. We decided it had to be shaken extra hard and long, to make it frothy and opaque, and garnished it with a lemon twist for color and flourish. We found it was surprisingly good, like a high-end, girlish Kamikaze. Cute. We didn’t think anything much else about it, it was just another drink we made up in a long line of them that we concocted to amuse or gross out one another, which were then palmed off on the wait staff.
1. In the first paragraph it's I, I, and my. In the second paragraph it's her, we, and we. As a matter of fact, the word "we" is used eight times.
2. Cecchini said Melissa (Mesa) told him about a drink some "girl" from San Francisco made it for her at Life Cafe. I believe this was Patty (which is Patrick Mitten's nickname), the bartender who brought the cocktail from SF to NYC in 1987. Because Patty sounds like a girls name, so in Cecchini's mind, it was a girl who told Melissa, when it was actually a guy named Patrick.
I could not find a bar called Life Cafe in San Francisco, which brought me to a dead end. But in an October 16, 2017 text, Cecchini told me that the Life Cafe was in the East Village not San Francisco, which finally burst open the research door connecting me with the previous owner, Kathleen “Kathy” Life and its employees in the late 1980s.
Cecchini did tell me one piece of information that I didn't see in any online interviews. He said that in 2005 or 2007 (he could not remember the exact year) he saw the Cosmopolitan on a bar menu in Warsaw, Poland, that credited him as the inventor—it was then he realized the impact and popularity of the Cosmopolitan. I asked him a few times throughout the year if he ever remembered the exact year and he did not.
During my research, I tried to pinpoint the year when Cecchini was credited for creating Cosmopolitan. Today, I believe it came from articles by cocktail writer Gary Regan in the 2000s and articles by cocktail writer Robert Simonson in the 2010s. (Regan changed his story in 2012)
Writing about and researching history can be tricky because new information can be excavated at any time that can completely change a story. I'd like to add that everyone is entitled to "their"story because everyone has their truth. While thoroughly researching the Cosmopolitan I found stories that matched up and others that didn't.
Gary Regan began researching the birth of the Cosmopolitan.
This article written by Cecchini from December of 2000 says, "I have pointed out clearly to every journalist I’ve spoken to over the years that I did not, in fact, invent the drink, but it seems to dampen no one’s enthusiasm. I did, with my friend Melissa, cobble together the version everyone drinks now, or perhaps reinvent the drink."
Cecchini's book, Cosmopolitan is released. In the book, he writes that in 1987 a girl named Melissa told him about a grenadine-lime drink from San Francisco and together they revamped the cocktail in 1987 at The Odeon.
1. Melissa and three others told me that she didn’t start working at The Odeon until the spring of 1989. At this time, Cecchini was still a waiter and was promoted to a bartender in the fall of 1989.
2. Later in interviews, Cecchini changes the year 1987 to 1988. My guess because he was made aware that Absolut Citron was not around until 1988.
3. The San Francisco Cosmo never had grenadine in place of cranberry juice. Never. I spoke with many bartenders, owners, managers, co-workers and more and not once was Rose's grenadine mentioned. Not sure how that made it into the story.
You can download a radio interview here and listen to Cecchini talk about his book Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life. In the intro, the radio host describes Cecchini as the
reinventor of the Cosmo."
1. At 9:00 the radio host asks about the Cosmopolitan saying that Cecchini is the inventor or one of the people who invented it, he agrees with a hum but never mentions the girl named Melissa. Later, he says he stopped laying claim to the cocktail.
This article says, "Cecchini is known around New York for having reinvented the Cosmopolitan when he worked at the Odeon in the late 1980s...then one thing led to another. Maybe."
1. There is no mention of the girl named Melissa helping Cecchini reinvent the Cosmo.
This article mentions Neal Murray's Cosmopolitan. In April, The Almanac published an article titled How Cosmopolitan! Marche's maitre d' lays claim to creating the Cosmopolitan cocktail.
In September, Gary Regan published a review of Cecchini’s book in his popular ArdentSpirits.com (defunct) newsletter. The first sentence reads, "Whether he likes it or not, as far as we’re concerned Toby Cecchini, author of Cosmopolitan, created the Cosmopolitan Cocktail." You can read it here on the Wayback Machine.
Based on the most current Cosmopolitan information available, Gary Regan wrote an article in Cheers Magazine crediting Cecchini as the Cosmopolitan inventor. I am still looking for this article. It was Regan himself who told me about the article (Now I'm thinking he wrote it for another publication). I did, however, find this 2007 Cheers Magazine article from the staff. Later in the year, on September 25, Regan finally received an email from the longtime researched and rumored inventor of the Cosmopolitan, Cheryl Cook.
I know the power of having Gary Regan write about you. In 2006, he gave a review of my 5th book, "Miss Charming's Guide for Hip Bartenders and Wayout Wannabe's", in Nations Restaurant News Magazine, and it resulted in a full email inbox and voicemails from CEOs offering me consultant jobs.
Cheryl Cook also learned the power of Regan' writing (the hard way) when she made up a date from the top of her head about when she thought she invented her Miami Beach Cosmo. She said 1985. She did not know who Regan was because she had been out of the business for many years. Cocktail people debunked her story because Absolut Citron vodka was not introduced until 1988. I helped her remember the exact month and year. You can read that story later down the page.
The staff of Cheers Magazine credits Cecchini as the inventor of the Cosmopolitan. Here is the article.
In an interview, Cecchini says, “I didn’t invent the cosmopolitan.” Then goes on to say "There was a drink called the Cosmopolitan before, I basically made the drink that is now known as the Cosmopolitan." You can read it here.
1. His 2003 book, Cecchini says him and a girl named Melissa made it together. Why does Melissa not get credit?
Cheers Magazine puts out a press release of Neal Murray's story. It's called "The True Original Cosmopolitan Cocktail Story." Cecchini is mentioned at the bottom.
1. His 2003 book, Cecchini says him and a girl named Melissa made it together. Why does Melissa not get credit?
Absolut Vodka sent Jake Burger to interview Cheryl Cook, Gaz Regan, Dale DeGroff, and Toby Cecchini for a travelogue style film about his journey to discover the story behind the Cosmopolitan for the Absolut Academy in Sweden. Burger was able to speak to everyone except DeGroff but interviewed him months later. Sadly, the film never saw the light of day.
Gary Regan blogs his current updated Cosmopolitan research titled "The Birth of the Cosmopolitan" based on his newfound information of finally connecting with Cheryl Cook, the Miami Beach Cosmopolitan cocktail creator. The link is defunct because Regan passed away in 2019, but I found it for you on the Wayback Machine here. (You'll notice that my linked name is added to the top of this page. Regan added that link in 2018. It linked to the page you are reading right now.)
In this article, Robert Simonson says "I did thorough research into the cosmopolitan because I felt it was an important drink...I interviewed all the people who said they invented it, and I took a stand: I said that a man named Toby Cecchini invented the cosmopolitan in 1988 at The Odeon in New York."
1. I would love to talk with Simonson because I also asked "all the people" who have claimed the Cosmo and they said Simonson never contacted them. I emailed Simonson in May of 2019 and he has never responded.
The writer of this article titled "How I created the Cosmo-and why I wish I hadn't" quotes author Robert Simonson's book, A Proper Drink: The Untold Story of How a Band of Bartenders Saved the Civilized Drinking World. It reads, "Cecchini says he came up with the drink with help from a friend visiting from San Francisco."
My thoughts: <