The quotient of a triangulated category modulo a subcategory was defined by Verdier. Motivated by the failure of the telescope conjecture, we introduce a new type of quotients for any triangulated category which generalizes Verdier's construction. Slightly simplifying this concept, the cohomological quotients are flat epimorphisms, whereas the Verdier quotients are Ore localizations. For any compactly generated triangulated category S, a bijective correspondence between the smashing localizations of S and the cohomological quotients of the category of compact objects in S is established. We discuss some applications of this theory, for instance the problem of lifting chain complexes along a ring homomorphism. This is motivated by some consequences in algebraic K-theory and demonstrates the relevance of the telescope conjecture for derived categories. Another application leads to a derived analogue of an almost module category in the sense of Gabber-Ramero. It is shown that the derived category of an almost ring is of this form.