A fairly large quantity of virtual ink has been spilled on the topic of the cosmopolitan. Still, the cosmo’s origin is a bit fuzzy. Most sources credit bartender Toby Cecchini, who added the blend of Absolut Citron vodka, fresh lime juice, Cointreau, and cranberry-juice cocktail to the menu at New York’s Odeon bar in 1988. Regardless of where and how the drink was born, HBO’s Sex and the City — wherein Carrie Bradshaw and company treat it like the only potable substance in Manhattan — provided the push that ushered it into household-name territory.
These days, the poor pink pariah is widely maligned by mixologists, who (not without cause) turn up their noses at many vodka-based drinks — to say nothing of flavored vodka — as well as the pre-mixed sweetness of Ocean Spray. Despite the fact that the cosmo is a perfectly respectable member of the sour family, ordering it at an urban spweakeasy will likely earn you eye rolls or sidelong glances, but Jinja (510 N. Guadalupe St., 505-982-4321, jinjabistro.com) is a convivial place. There, a sign above the door says “Welcome to paradise,” the lights are low, the air is cool, the bar and tables are richly hued wood, and Great American Songbook standards are piped in at just the right volume. In Jinja’s bar, the drink gets a tropical twist, christened the mandarin blossom cosmopolitan. It’s one of the so-called Jinja Legends on the roughly 20-page cocktail menu, where it joins a host of fruity tiki-themed beverages like the mai tai, zombie, and piña colada; classics like the sidecar or Sazerac; variations on the martini, margarita, and mojito; and multi-strawed bowls designed for groups of brave drinkers.
Jinja’s hypnotically aromatic pastel-pink potion practically transports you to an orange grove in bloom, and while vodka is here to deliver a boozy kick, not complexity, this cosmo teeter-totters between fruity sweetness and citrus tang. Garnished with a slightly too-thick ribbon of orange peel and, if you’re lucky, a fuchsia-and-white orchid flower, this easy-to-drink blend of Grey Goose L’Orange vodka, both lemon and lime juices, Cointreau, and that infamous “splash of cranberry” is served in a frosty martini glass almost sizable enough to warrant holding with both hands. As you sip, a bowlful of salt-sprinkled edamame by your side, Frank Sinatra could be crooning “Witchcraft” in the background, and you might sense a new dimension to the lyrics: “Although I know it’s strictly taboo ... I’ve got no defense for it/The heat is too intense for it/What good would common sense for it do?”