nina maxwell

This user hasn't shared any biographical information


Do You Know Your Martini From Your Martinez?

Today is “National Dry Martini Day” (who comes up with this stuff?)…another excuse to drink, but also an excuse to learn a little about the history of the classic American cocktail.

The Martini is the quintessential drink; full of history, legend, and most importantly liquor! There are almost as many versions of the origin of the Martini as there are ways to make it. Some say the drink was invented in San Francisco during the late 19th century. Others, say it was invented by a bartender in New York City in the early 1900’s. There is also documentation that the modern day Martini evolved from a classic cocktail called the Martinez (named after Martinez, California where it originated). Perhaps this is the original East Coast-West Coast rivalry?

The Martini, already popular, really took the drinking world by storm during Prohibition. Gin was easy to get and so the Martini was easy to drink. During the 1960’s, James Bond helped revive the drink by ordering a Vodka Martini (shaken, not stirred). This version of the Martini quickly outpaced the original Gin recipe. During the 1980’s, the Martini had another boom in popularity, but this gave way to the 90’s when people were ordering all sorts of jacked up versions of drinks that were called Martini’s simply because they were served in a Martini glass! (Chocolate or Apple-tini anyone?). Thankfully, the original Gin Martini is back in the good graces of drinkers/bartenders (due in part to the current cocktail renaissance and the rediscovery of some original cocktail ingredients that weren’t available until recently).

Aside from this long and undulating history, the proper preparation of the Martini  is also something worth noting. An original Martini is made with Gin and Vermouth. Period. If you order a Martini with vodka, that is considered a Vodka Martini and a completely different drink in my opinion-sorry Mr.Bond!

Historically, you ordered a Martini with sweet vermouth aka Martini Rosso, (made popular by the Martini & Rossi brand in 1863, the preferred brand of vermouth hence people asking for their Gin to be mixed with “Martini Vermouth” leading to the shortened name “Martini”). Those who wanted a dry Martini would request white vermouth, or Vermouth Bianco. The basic version of the drink called for 1 part vermouth to 3 parts gin. Today, the amount of vermouth denotes the dryness of the drink, rather than the type of vermouth used. The ratio has gotten so out of control some Martini recipes only call for a rinse of vermouth. You can also serve your Martini dirty, by adding olive juice. I prefer the dry to dirty, using a good quality Rosso/Rouge, a dash of bitters, and a garnish of lemon or orange.

Such feverous debate over the origin of a cocktail almost seems silly; the bottom line is the Martini a good, strong drink that gets the job done.

As Dorothy Parker says: I like to drink martinis. Two at the most. Three I’m under the table, four I’m under the host.

So, to celebrate National Dry Martini Day, here are the recipes for the Classic Martini, Dry Martini and my version of a Modern Martini.

Drinking is all about preference…drink what you like! I recommend trying all three and decide how wet or dry you like your Martini; but remember A Martini should never, ever, ever be shaken. Always stirred.



Original Martini

2 ½ oz Gin (Try Old Tom’s– it has a nice floral, slighter sweeter flavor which complements the dry vermouth)

1 oz Dry Vermouth

Lemon or Olive

Pour Gin and Vermouth into a glass filled with ice. STIR. Strain into a chilled cocktail/Martini glass. Garnish with olive or lemon.


Dry Martini

2 ½ oz Gin

2-4 dashes Vermouth

Lemon or Olive

Pour Gin and Vermouth into a glass filled with ice. STIR. Strain into a chilled cocktail/Martini glass. Garnish with olive or lemon.


Nina’s Martini

Equal Parts Gin and Sweet/Rouge/Rosso Vermouth (I like 2:2)

2 dashes Orange/Angostura Bitters

Orange rind for Garnish

Pour Gin and Vermouth into a glass filled with ice. STIR. Strain into a chilled cocktail/Martini glass. Add bitters and garnish with Orange.


, , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Get Drunk, Not Fat.

Summer is finally here (well, not officially but you get the point) and with the long days and warm weather come lots of opportunities for socializing…and drinking. In my circle, even a day at the beach isn’t complete without a bottle of vodka and a 12-pack of beer!

So, what’s a cocktail groupie to do when she wants to indulge in a tippling or three, without going overboard on the calories? You could workout while you drink, but that might be a little dangerous.


I  know that when you are out having a good time, and the drinks start flowing the last thing I want to do is count calories (or points), but at the same time a MGD 64 just isn’t going to cut it!

I like to eat and I LOVE to drink. so I’ve found that applying the same principle to cocktails as food generally works- the fresher, and more natural the ingredients the better the flavors. Makes sense right? (Why do you think Puckers tastes like $h!t?). So, that being said once you have the basic alcohol base down you actually have a ton of great options for mixers that don’t over do it on the calories.

1. Pick Your Base

A light beer or glass of wine is always a good option for watching calories because of the built in portion control, but if you want a real drink there is a little more math involved. Most cocktails call for 1-2 servings of booze (a standard pour is about 1 1/2 ounces). Below are the calories for some common alcohols, based on the standard pour, you can be looking at 100 calories a shot (Is that going to stop me? Hell No!):

Vodka- 1oz 73 calories

Tequila- 1oz 65 calories

Rum- 1oz 65 calories

Gin- 1oz 70 calories

Whiskey- 1oz 65 calories

Bourbon- 1oz 69 calories

I believe in respecting a drink, and in my mind that respect is lost when you cover up the taste of the alcohol with crap! So, once you know what type of alcohol you want to drink (and assuming you aren’t just taking a shot or drinking it straight up/on the rocks) pick a mixer that compliments the alcohol.

2. Pick a Mixer

Some of my recommendations:

Fresh Grapefruit Juice- 76 calories for the juice of a medium sized fruit

Lime- 10 calories for the juice of a medium sized lime

Lemon- 13 calories for the juice of a medium sized lemon

Coconut Water- 8 oz. 46 calories

Watermelon (my current fav)- 1 cup about 46 calories

Green Tea (fresh brewed, unsweetened)- 8 oz 2 calories (yes, 2!)

Seltzer is a great option too- 8oz 1 cal

I don’t drink soda so I haven’t included it in my list, but diet soda is cool if that’s your thing.

Okay, now you have your base and options for mixers…time to get your (low-cal) drink on! How easy was that?

3. Make a Drink

Watermelon-Cucumber Aqua Fresca (<175 Cal)

1 1/2 oz Tequila, White Rum, Vodka OR Gin

1 medium cucumber, diced

1 cup watermelon, diced

Splash of honey/agave/simple syrup

Fresh Mint

Puree Cucumber, Mint and Watermelon in food processor or blender until liquefied and strain to remove seeds/pulp. Combine liquor, sweetener, and 3 oz juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a rocks glass and garnish with a few sprigs of mint.

This recipe is great with just about any pureed fruit! Try strawberries, apple (really good with dark rum), cantaloupe, etc. Experiment with whatever you have on hand.

Paloma (<135 Cal)

1 1/2 oz Tequila Blanco

Juice from 1/2 Pink (or white) grapfruit

Soda Water/Seltzer


Pour tequila, and grapefruit juice over glass filled with ice. Stir. Top with seltzer and a splash of lime juice. You may need a splash of sweetener depending on the grapefruit used and your sweet tooth).

Gin and Tea (<125 Cal)

1 1/2 oz Gin

3 oz. Strong brewed Green Tea (unsweetened)

Slice of Lemon


Add gin, green tea, and honey to a cocktail shaker to combine. Shake well to dissolve honey, pour over iced filled glass and garnish with lemon.

Now you can go drink your skinny ass off. Cheers!


, , , ,

Leave a comment

Happy Anniversary Kentucky!

Happy Anniversary Kentucky!

A random bit of U.S. History trivia for you…which state was officially accepted into the Union 220 years ago today?


That’s right…good ol’ Kentucky! 

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Kentucky I think of many things…Fried Chicken, Horse Racing, the Judds…but most importantly I think of Bourbon!

Celebrate this historic day in History (hey, any excuse to drink right?) and make yourself one of the fine Bourbon cocktails below…and practice rooting on another famous Kentuckian in this weekend’s triple crown show down.

Summer Breeze

1 1/2 oz Bourbon

Splash Orange liqueur

Ginger ale

Orange wedge

Fill rocks glass with ice. Add Bourbon, a splash of orange liqueur and a squeeze of fresh orange. Top off with ginger ale. Garnish with an orange wedge.

Pink Bourbon Smash

1 1/2 oz Bourbon (Try Maker’s Mark 46)

Juice from 1/2 pink grapefruit

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Rosemary Sprigs

Squeeze grapefruit into shaker,  add Bourbon, simple syrup and Rosemary. Add ice and shake to combine (this will release the flavors of the Rosemary). Pour over a tall collins glass filled with ice. Serve with a spring of fresh Rosemary for garnish.

Baker’s Brew

1 1/2 oz Baker’s Small Batch Bourbon

4-6 Blackberries

1 tsp Honey

Juice of 1 lemon

Muddle Blackberries, lemon and Honey in glass. Add ice and Bourbon. Stir to combine and garnish with a lemon wedge and 1-2 berries.

, , , , , ,

1 Comment

Raising the Bar: Part 2

When I wrote about stocking your own at-home bar, I listed some of the basics that form the foundation of any good personal watering hole. Crazy thing is, I actually don’t have a bar to keep all my stuff…it’s in random places throughout my apartment (sad, but true). I store my liquor in my TV stand, my barware in the kitchen, and I have half a case of wine under the dining room table! My goal is to have a legit bar by the end of the year.

Living in New York, space is obviously a premium and I don’t have the room for some ridiculously remarkable home bar like this:

However, there are a ton of options for space saving bars that have both form and function. Here are a few that I like:

Storage will be key since I tend to accumulate various spirits and hold on to things for a while (I have a bottle of Haitian Rum I can’t drink but won’t get rid of…actually it makes a good rum cake). The good thing is liquor has a great shelf life – no need to worry about Tequila going bad the way white wine does. I’m like a kid at Disney World when I go to a well stocked Liquor Store or visit the barware section of Crate & Barrel.

My mom and I literally go into supermarket sweep mode when we visit Total Wine in River Edge! As I mentioned before, I like to try to recreate cocktails I’ve had out at home and so I end up buying random bottles of liquor to “recipe test.” I probably have more flavored brandy than anyone should.

This weekend, I will be buying a bottle of St. Germaine because I love it and it keeps popping up in all these amazingly mouth-watering cocktails around the city! I’m also coveting a few other bar goodies–so if I have any friends out there who are wondering what to buy me for my b-day or Christmas please refer back to this post in November.

My Top 5 Most Wanted Bar Items

1. King Cube Ice Tray. I love giant ice cubes!!! They look amazing, cool your drink fast, and don’t melt as quickly as smaller cubes do. If you’ve never experienced these remarkable hexahedrons pay attention the next time you are out at a good bar.

2. Whiskey Stones. I know, I just said I love ice but sometimes you need to keep a drink cool for an extended period of time- like when sipping cognac or whiskey and you don’t want it watered down. Just pop these babies in the freezer and you are all set for a slow-sipping-strong-scotch (say that three times fast).

3. Wine Decanter. Some argue that they don’t really enhance the flavor of wine, but they look cool and I want one. Nough’ said!

4. Small Bar. It’s about all I have room for.

5. Vintage Cocktail Books. I envision my living room having a lovely little bar in the corner and above it I will have a bookshelf filled with vintage cocktail books. Books, which I will reference as I lounge around said living room wearing a long caftan and a turban sipping a fine crafted vodka gimlet that doesn’t melt because I have really large ice cubes in it.

And of course, here are the recipes for the cocktails I will be trying this weekend. I will do a full post on St. Germain soon. Cheers!

ST Rita

2 oz. Tequila Blanco

1 oz St Germain

¾ oz Fresh Lime Juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and mix. Strain into a salt- rimmed rocks glass (I’ll be skipping the salt) and garnish with a lime wedge.

French Gimlet

2 oz Gin

1 oz St Germain

½ oz Fresh Lime Juice

Splash Simple Syrup

Pour all ingredients into an ice-filled shaker and shake well. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Leave a comment

Raising the Bar – Part 1

I always keep at least one bottle of Vodka on hand- you never know when family will stop by (and my family is big on the Vodka drinking!). As of late, I have also started expanding my existing liquor collection to include other basic spirits as well as some auxiliary tipples. As I experiment more and more with recreating cocktails at home, it has given me cause to add to this collection and so I thought, why not just work on fully stocking my home bar…nevermind the fact that I don’t truly have an actual bar yet (more on that later). Below is my list of all the necessities (and some non-essential, but enjoyable extras) to pick up and build your at home bar.

Liquor: the first thing any bar needs is liquor (duh). Build your collection based on your drinking preferences and those of your friends/family. I recommend five main spirits to start- they are all the basis of most cocktails and can also be enjoyed on their own, either straight up or on the rocks:

1. Vodka
2. Gin
3. Tequila
4. Rum (Dark & Light)
5. Cognac

You may also want to consider Bourbon, Whiskey or Scotch in addition to the above. Personally, I stay away from the “brown juice” so I don’t have any of these yet, but I have been curious to try the new Honey Whiskeys so I will be picking that up soon. It is also good to have a few bottles of wine on hand (red, white and possibly sparkling or champagne) and some beer for the non-liquor drinkers…or just don’t invite those people over; they’re probably boring anyway!

Mixers: Now that you have your basics, it’s time to get your mixers in order. Again depending on personal preferences you may just need tonic, club soda, and juice. I recommend keeping at least a few of the more traditional mixers stocked for constructing classic cocktails such as Martinis and Manhattans.

1. Vermouth (Sweet & Dry)
2. Bitters (Angostura is great, but also check out some of the new blends out there)
3. Triple Sec (I actually prefer Cointreau)
4. Olives
5. Lemon/Lime Juice (Fresh is best!!!)
6. Simple Syrup (click here for a recipe)

Bar Tools: Finally, let’s not forget the tools of the trade…you wouldn’t bake without a measuring cup or mixing bowl, so don’t try to mix drinks without the proper accoutrements.

1. A Cocktail Shaker (A Cobbler shaker is a good standard, and easy to use for the at home bartender)

2. Jigger (or shot glass with measurements)

3. Glassware (again, this may seem Captain Obvious, but a nice selection of glasses does make a difference) At the very least you should have wine glasses, martini glasses, highballs, and rocks glasses)

4. A corkscrew (for the aforementioned lame oenophiles… j/k)

5. A muddler (yes, there are various ways to improvise your muddling utensils, but I find an actual muddler is so much easier- and cooler looking)

6. Bar Spoon/Stirrer (Not a true necessity, but nice to have…a chopstick, or other long thin utensil will do the trick as well)

7. Juicer

8. Strainer (I use a Hawthorne strainer)

9. Ice Cube Trays/Ice Bucket

10. The most important thing…some good company to imbibe with!


Feel free to add to this list as you go along, and by no means do you have to get everything at once. I would also add a pitcher of some sort to this list, which is great for large batch drinks like Rum Punch or Sangria.

Finally, you need somewhere to store all your stuff…the beauty of a personal bar is it can be whatever you want, whether it’s an actual bar or just a baker’s rack that holds all of your supplies. Use your imagination and let the existing décor of your space be inspiration (Ha! I think that rhymes).

Now for the fun part, getting to play with your new toys

Here are a few good cocktail recipes to get started. They are easy enough to memorize or you can keep a recipe book at your bar. Cheers!!!

(one of the most argued about recipes in cocktail history! below is the recipe for a Dry Martini, click here for the dirty version)
1 1/4 oz Vodka (or Gin)
¼ oz Dry Vermouth
Twist of Lemon
Add Vodka and Vermouth to a shaker filled with Ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Serve with a Lemon Twist.

2 oz Vodka (or Gin)
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
¼ oz Simple Syrup
Lime for Garnish
Add Vodka to a glass with ice, top with Lime Juice and syrup and stir to combine. Garnish with a lime wedge. This drink can also be served straight up, in which case you would combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker and pour into a chilled Martini glass. I prefer my gimlet on the rocks.

Side Car
1.3 oz Cognac (brandy will do, but Cognac is best)
.6 oz Cointreau (or other triple sec)
.3 oz Fresh lemon juice
Shake over ice and pour into Martini Glass (try rimming the glass with sugar). Garnish with lemon twist.

Tom Collins
2 oz Gin
2 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 dash bitters
Club soda (about ¼ c)
Combine Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and a dash of bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a highball glass full of ice. Top off with club soda and garnish with a lemon slice and maraschino cherry.

1 ½ oz Tequila (Blanco is my preference)
½ oz Fresh Lime Juice
½ oz simple syrup (or try Agave)
Mix Tequila, lime juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour into rocks glass with ice (or Martini glass straight up) and garnish with a lime wedge)

Leave a comment

Our forefathers want us to go forth…and drink?

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

As Americans gather across the country to celebrate our nation’s independence (read: Fireworks, BBQ’s and drinking), I thought it would be interesting to post some fun trivia on alcohol in this great land of ours.

1. Our National Anthem is “The Star Spangled Banner” written by Frances Scott Key to the English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven”.

2. Bourbon is the official spirit of the United States, by act of Congress.
3. Martha Washington enjoyed daily toddies.

4. In the 1790’s, “happy hour” began at 3:00 p.m. and cocktails continued until dinner.

5. The bill for a celebration party for the 55 drafters of the US Constitution was for 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven bowls of alcohol punch large enough that “ducks could swim in them.”

6. Liquor stores in the US are called “package stores” and sell “package goods” because of laws requiring that alcohol containers be concealed in public by being placed in paper bags or “packages.”

7. The term “brand name” originated among American distillers, who branded their names and emblems on their kegs before shipment.

8. President Thomas Jefferson was the new U.S nation’s first wine expert.

9. The U.S. Marines’ first recruiting station was in a bar.

10. Sixty-two percent of Americans report that they have used the service of a designated driver. (Don’t Drink and Drive!)

Now you can impress your friends and family with useless American liquor facts at your next BBQ.

Also, check out my recipe for a patriotic “Red, White, and Blue Sangria” which is a perfect addition to the weekend’s festivities.

Red, White and Blue Sangria

1 large btl (or 2 regular btls) of dry/semi-dry White Wine (I like Pinot Grigio, but Chardonnay would work as well)
1 cup White Rum
1 btl Champagne or Sparkling Wine
1 liter seltzer (You can also try a flavor like Lemon-Lime or Orange)
1 pint blueberries
1 pint strawberries (hulled, and diced)

Mix Wine, Fruit, and Rum in a large bowl and let stand for at least one hour (the longer this sits, the better the flavors will combine). When ready to serve add champagne and seltzer- I do not use the whole bottle of seltzer, pour some in and taste as you go. For stronger Sangria add less seltzer.
Serve over ice.


Leave a comment

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of (Premium, Aged) Rum

I’ve never been a rum drinker; unless you count the handle I carried around during a Halloween party in college forcing everyone to take a shot as soon as they walked in…Needless to say that didn’t end well!

When I think of rum, I think of overly sweet frozen drinks or some crazy tiki concoction that’s too many colors.

It’s not that I’m a purist, I just like to taste the alcohol in my drinks (*No Judging*).

Anyway, a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending an amazing event hosted by Zacapa Rum. I am thankful to have experienced Zacapa because my whole outlook on rum has changed. Not only am I now a fan (I seek it out on the menu at restaurants/bars), I even enjoy it on its own with a single ice cube (how sophisticated am I?)

Zacapa is a Guatemalan Rum that is aged in “the house above the clouds,” which happens to be 2300m (8,000 ft) above sea level. What’s the big deal? Well, the thin, cool air slows the aging process and helps intensify the flavors in the barrels (translation-it doesn’t burn the back of your throat when you drink it). One of the other things that makes Zacapa different, and gives it the smooth sweet flavor I love is the use of virgin sugar cane honey. Most rum is made with a molasses base which can give you that funky after taste…also, Zacapa is aged in four casks that give it an even greater dimension of flavor with hints of bourbon, sherry and oak. This process can take up to 23 years (hence the name Zacapa 23). Finally, the piece de resistance that sealed the deal with me and Zacapa…their master blender is a woman (oh yeah!) Lorena Vásquez Ampié is awesome, for being one of the few female master blenders in the world, and for a unique, premium spirit at that!

Now to the good stuff…a few recommendations on how to enjoy your next Zacapa beverage. I strongly suggest trying it neat or on the rocks to appreciate the warm flavor of the rum- but I have listed a few recipes I enjoy as well.

Improved Hawaiian Punch
(created at the Zacapa Event by brand ambassador Danny Valdez)
2 oz Zacapa Rum 23
¾ oz black tea
½ oz fresh pineapple juice
15 ounces lemon juice
¼ oz allspice dram
¼ oz palm sugar
Oleo saccharum to taste*
Grated Kona coffee for garnish
* Lemon peels & Sugar. Muddle lemon peels and sugar into a paste. Let sit for at least half an hour.
Create oleo saccharum one hour early. Combine Zacapa Rum 23, allspice dram, black tea, fresh pineapple juice, lemon juice, oleo saccharum, and palm sugar into a shaker. Shake well and pour over ice into a rocks glass. Garnish drink individually with grated Kona. Makes 1 Drink. .

The Old Virgin
2 oz Zacapa 23 Rum
Juice of 1 fresh lime juice
1 oz simple syrup
8 fresh mint leaves
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 oz chilled champagne or prosecco
Add rum, simple syrup, mint leaves and bitters to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously—no need to muddle, as the ice will smash the mint—then strain into a glass. Top with the sparkling wine.
Makes 1 Drink

A Real Daiquiri
2 oz Zacapa 23 Rum
½ oz fresh lime juice
1/4 oz simple syrup
1 Thinly sliced lime wheel
Combine rum, juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass. Float the lime wheel in the drink as a garnish. Makes 1 Drink.

2 oz Zacapa 23 Rum
3/4 ozfresh lemon juice
3/4 oz honey syrup*
3 slices fresh ginger
1/4 oz Islay single malt scotch (such as Laphroaig)
* Honey syrup: combine equal parts honey and hot water and stir until well mixed. Let cool before using, and keep refrigerated.
Muddle the fresh ginger in the bottom of a cocktail shaker until it is well mashed. Add the rum, lemon juice, and honey syrup- shake well with ice. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and pour the Islay scotch over the back of a bar spoon so that it floats atop the drink.
Makes 1 Drink

As always, feel free to experiment with Zacapa as the base of your favorite rum cocktail!

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: