Keep it classic

Franklin has a variation which he has christened the Howard Hughes. This involves muddling sugar snap peas in a shaker with 40ml gin, “preferably Beefeater as it works well with citrus”, 20ml Maraschino and lemon juice, plus 10ml elderflower cordial. “It is shaken and served straight up and here Maraschino really enhances the vegetal notes of the cocktail,” says Franklin.

However, when it comes to classic cocktails no other liqueur can boast the claim to fame that the world’s number one triple sec, Cointreau, can. Arguably the Sidecar, with its judicious mix of cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice which was starting to get popular in the early 1920s, got the brand’s ball really rolling.

“Cointreau has a fascinating and rich history when it comes to cocktails,” says Panos Sarantopoulos the recently appointed CEO – liqueurs and spirits division at Rémy Cointreau. “It started with the Singapore Sling in the early 20th Century, then the Sidecar came along followed by the Margarita in the late 40s, and then the Cosmo in the mid-90s – it seems that Cointreau is always at the heart the action.”

The history of the Cosmopolitan says it all. It was first made back in 1987 by Cheryl Cook, a bartender working at the Strand in Miami. It combines two leading stateside brands – Cointreau and Absolut vodka – and was intended as a simple girly variant of the Kamikaze cocktail (made with tequila, Cointreau and lime juice).  It was almost an instant success as, according to the US subsidiary company, Cointreau sales were rocketing in Miami during this period.  

Later Toby Cecchini, a barman from the trendy Odeon in NYC, discovered the recipe and decided to modify it a little bit to improve the taste: he used vodka Absolut Citron instead of plain vodka, fresh lime juice, added Cointreau and replaced grenadine with cranberry in order to keep the pink colour with a lemon peel as garnish.  

Twist on a theme 

Over in New York in 1996, Dale DeGroff gave a new impetus to the Cosmopolitan – by twisting the recipe with an orange flambée peel (instead of lime peel). This twist became really famous in London where this cocktail was introduced by Madonna in private clubs she attended.

However, it wasn’t until 1999 – more than 10 years since the first Cosmo was mixed – that the television series Sex and the City was broadcast, aiding and abetting its national and international recognition and finally establishing the mix as a modern-day classic.   

The ongoing success of the Cosmopolitan underlines the US as the cocktail mecca. “The US is still very big on the Margarita,” says Rémy Cointreau’s Sarantopoulos. “It is the flagship there and much stronger than in the UK – so too the Sidecar. In the UK Cointreau is more of a signature drink – neat or over ice – while in Spain it’s the gin-based White Lady.”

It was in 1919 that one Harry MacElhone, while working at Ciro’s Club, London, England, created his first White Lady with two shots of Cointreau, one shot of white crème de menthe and one shot lemon juice. And four years at his own Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, he added the egg white to the recipe and the rest, as we say, is history.