A Spiced Cosmopolitan has all the same components of the original cosmo cocktail, vodka, Cointreau, and lime juice, but with something extra added. It’s a drink that is driven by my strong association of cranberry and orange with autumn and the holiday season that follows.
The simple addition of falernum, a rich, spiced liqueur from Barbados with the flavors of allspice, cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and a hint of almond, transforms the classic cosmo into the kind of sophisticated cocktail you can serve at an autumn dinner party or sip while cozying up to the firepit on a cool night.
This Spiced Cosmopolitan is simple to make, but its flavors are deep and complex. Warming spices meet the bold, tart, and sweet cranberry juice for a cocktail that manages to be both refreshing and comforting at the same time.
History of the Cosmopolitan
The classic cosmo is a relatively young cocktail. While versions of a similar drink with different spirits and juices can be found as early as the 1930s, the modern version began to gain popularity in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, the drink became more familiar to many thanks to the numerous references in the popular sitcom, Sex and the City.
What is Falernum?
Falernum is a spiced liqueur from Barbados with warm flavors of allspice, cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and a hint of almond. It’s often used in tiki drinks.
Most well-stocked liquor stores will carry at least one brand of falernum. Sometimes it can be found as a non-alcoholic simple syrup. If you can't find falernum, use orgeat, a sweet almond- flavored syrup. The cocktail will lack the warming spices of allspice and clove, so try to find falernum if you can.
Use Good-Quality Cranberry Juice
Many people overlook the quality of the cranberry juice. Some cranberry juices are blended with other fruit juices, which make them super sweet.
This Spiced Cosmopolitan requires something more complex and tart, which is why I suggest 100 percent, unsweetened cranberry juice. It will balance the sweetness of the Cointreau and falernum.
It’s important to use high-quality spirits, but it’s not essential to buy the most expensive, top-shelf liquor since this cocktail is a blended drink.
- I like to use a vodka that is smooth and not too spicy. Both Absolut Vodka and Skyy Vodka have a smooth, subdued taste that allows the bold flavors of the cranberry juice and falernum to stand out. Both are high-quality and affordable.
- Cointreau is a branded, orange-flavored liqueur that is vibrant, but not too sweet. It can be pricey, so feel free to use a less expensive triple sec.
- If you have access to small craft distillers, ask if they make falernum. Some of the best falernum are small batch creations. Velvet Falernum Liqueur, from Barbados, is a common brand carried in liquor stores and online. You can taste the sweetness of almonds and the flavors of clove, ginger, and lime.
- A non-alcoholic alternative: BG Reynolds Falernum Cocktail Syrup is made with natural ingredients, and it doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup.
Best Glassware for a Spiced Cosmopolitan
A Nick and Nora glass or a coupe glass is the best choice for a Spiced Cosmopolitan. For example, the coupe glass used in these photos has a thicker stem and a broad, shallow bowl that feels more slosh-proof than a martini glass—great for mingling at a cocktail party. A martini glass works too. Be sure to chill the glass before serving!
A cosmopolitan is often garnished with a lemon peel, but orange works better for this cocktail. Add a small slice of orange or a spiraled orange peel. If you have the time, dried orange slices add a fun autumnal feel. During the holidays when cranberries are in season, a fresh whole or sugared cranberry would feel festive.
More Vodka Cocktails to Try
- Ice for chilling
- 1 ounce Cointreau
- 1 ounce 100 percent cranberry juice
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1/2 ounce falernum
- 1/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- Orange slice for garnish
Chill your glass:
Place a coupe glass in the freezer for 5 minutes or fill it with ice and cold water to chill it well.
Mix the cocktail:
Pour the Cointreau, cranberry juice, vodka, falernum, and lime juice into a cocktail shaker. Add a handful of ice and shake for 20 to 30 seconds, until the shaker feels very cold.
Pour the cocktail:
Strain the drink into the chilled glass.
Garnish the cocktail:
Garnish the rim of the glass with a small slice of orange before serving.