Classic Cocktails For America’s Birthday

photoEvery time I go out for a drink I always order the same thing (Jack and diet). One night I was at a speak-easy themed bar in downtown San Diego and asked the bartender to make me something different. That night I discovered the Sazerac and I now order them regularly (not everyone knows how to make it, though). This Fourth of July celebrate the birth of America with these classic concoctions.


The Manhattan was named after the borough in New York (are you really that surprised?). It is traditionally made with two and a half ounces of rye whiskey (I like Bulleit), one ounce of sweet vermouth and a dash of Angostura bitters. Serve in a martini glass with a garnish of maraschino cherry.


The Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans and is thought to be America’s oldest cocktail. Muddle two ounces of rye whiskey, three dashes of Peychaud’s bitters and a sugar cube. Rinse an old fashioned glass with Absinthe to coat and pour the whiskey mixture into the glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

Gin Rickey

The Rickey was invented in Washington D.C. and can be made with Gin or Whiskey. Add two ounces of your spirit of choice with the juice of half a lime to a highball glass with ice. Fill to the top with soda water and garnish with a lime wedge.


The Martini is commonly made with gin and vermouth in a ratio of 10:1. However, when the drink first originated it was made in a 1:1 ratio. Pour all ingredients into a shaker and mix well. Pour into a martini glass with a garnish of olives or lemon. Add a splash of  olive juice to make it a “dirty” martini.


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Pumped up Gin and Tonic

The classic gin and tonic is an earthy, botanical drink and one of my favorites. It works really well with other earthy flavors like basil, grapefruit, cucumber or even berries. Try these combinations at your next event by setting up a “Create Your Own G&T Bar”. Provide two or three types of gin, regular and diet tonic, freshly squeezed lime juice and a bunch of your favorite “extras”. Everyone will love experimenting and tasting thier creations.


  • 3 oz Gin
  • 4 oz tonic water (I usually use diet – you will save 100 calories per serving!)
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime

Optional Extras:

  • 3-4 of your favorite berries
  • 3-4 leaves of basil
  • Slice of orange
  • 4 slices of cucumber
  • Subsitute the lime juice for grapefruit juice

How to Make it

  1. If you are adding berries, basil or cucumber add them first with the lime juice and mash them with a muddler or the handle of a spoon.
  2. Pour all other ingredients over ice and stir.
  3. If you are adding orange, add the slices to the top of the drink.
  4. Enjoy!

Helpful Hints

  1. If you are adding berries you can mash them up, keep them whole or even freeze them and use them instead of ice!
  2. If you are planning a “Create Your Own G&T Bar” make sure to provide the basic recipe to get your guests started. You will also need a bucket of ice and a muddler.
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Spiked Sweet Tea

Photography by Whitebox Weddings via Elizabeth Anne Designs

Spiked sweet tea is a great pitcher drink to serve at your next summer barbeque. Clearly label it though (and keep it away from the kids) it tastes like the real thing.


  • 4 Cups of your favorite instant lemonade (I like crystal light – 4 cups cold water and 1 packet mix)
  • 1 1/2 cups Sweet Tea Vodka
  • 2 lemons
  • How to make it

    1. Mix your favorite lemonade in a pitcher (4 cups total).
    2. Add 1 1/2 cups Sweet Tea Vodka.
    3. Add the juice of one lemon.
    4. Garnish with remaining lemon.

    Special thanks to Grace for introducing me to Sweet Tea Vodka!

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    6 Low Calorie Drinks

    With spring just around the corner we are all trying to shed some pounds. Keep these drinks in mind and you can still meet up for happy hour and have a good time. Remember: the higher the proof, the greater the calories.

    1. Champagne

    Champagne is usually stereotyped as a celebratory drink but can be enjoyed anytime (for real!)! Pop open a bottle at your next gathering to get the evening started.  Only 100 calories in a 5 oz glass. My favorite is Martini and Rossi Asti.

    2. Gin and Diet Tonic

    This classic drink has a nice bite to it and is very refreshing when made with fresh lime juice and only has 130 calories.  Add 2oz of Gin, 4oz of diet tonic water and 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice to a glass of ice and stir.

    3. Rum/Whiskey and Diet

    Mix anything with a diet drink and you are saving TONS of calories.  However, don’t be fooled. Some alcohols pack a big punch to the gut. Add 2 oz of Bacardi Rum, Jack Daniels Tennesee Whiskey or Malibu rum to diet coke and you will sacrifice only 138 calories.

    4. Vodka and Light Cranberry Juice

    If you are drinking juice for anything but its natural properties (vitamins, minerals etc.) go light. Juice contains a surprising amount of calories and choosing the light version will save you hundreds of calories over an entire evening.  Word of Warning: Diet juices tend to taste like chemicals. If you actually want to enjoy your drink, I would go with the light version with 2oz of vodka at 140 calories per serving.

    5. Mojito

    Not only are you reducing your calorie intake with a mojito but you will get a free arm work out while you are crushing the mint. This minty refresher will only set you back 150 calories. GET MASHING! If you order one while you are out, ask for half the sugar or Splenda instead.

    6. Beer or Wine

    An average 12oz light beer is about 110 calories and a 4oz glass of wine is about 85 calories. Just like liquor, the higher the alcohol content the higher the calories.

    7. Drinks to Avoid

    • Long Island Ice Tea: At around 800 calories this drink has 5 different alcohols and 2 different mixers.
    • Pina Colada: Coconut milk sends this drink up to around 650 calories.
    • Mai Tai: Lots of alcohol and mixers will set you back 350 calories
    • Avoid anything with cream (white Russian ~425 calories) or off the shelf mixers

    The most important thing about drinking smart? Always measure. I love OXO Good Grips Liquid Measuring Cup.

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    Refreshing Fruit Water

    Over the past couple of months I have noticed a lot of places serving fruit and mint infused water. It is really easy to make yourself at home so try my suggested combinations below for a relaxing and refreshing afternoon.

    • Lemon and Mint
    • Strawberry and Lemon
    • Cucumber and Mint
    • Cucumber, Mint, Lemon, Lime and Strawberry
    • Pineapple
    • Watermelon

    How to make it

    1. Slice your fruit (about 3 lemons, 3 limes, one large english cucumber, half a pineapple, 4-5 pieces of watermelon, 10 sprigs of mint)
    2. Add fruit and/or mint to a large pitcher.
    3. Fill with water
    4. Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to diffuse into the water.
    5. Serve over ice.

    Helpful Hints

    • You are making fruit infused water not fruit juice so don’t go over board. Put in just enough fruit to make it refreshing.
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    Sangria is great for big parties or events. It is really easy to make and everybody loves it! I recently made a batch for a fourth of July party and it was a hit. You can also try this with white wine and different variations of fruits and fruit juices.

    Special thanks to Michelle for sharing her awesome Sangria recipe!


    • 1 lemon and 1 orange per pitcher
    • Sangria wine (I like Carlo Rossi Sangria wine-about $9 and makes three pitchers per jug).
    • 1 cup of orange juice
    • 1 cup of lemon-lime soda.
    • Splash of brandy.

    How to make it

    1. Slice an orange and a lemon.
    2. Put half of the slices in your pitcher (save the other half to garnish your drinks).
    3. Fill pitcher 2/3 full of Sangria wine.
    4. Add orange juice, lemon-lime soda and brandy.
    5. Stir and serve on ice with a garnish of lemon and/or orange.
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    Happy Hour Margaritas

    My Fiance and I love to go to Reposado (our favorite local Mexican restaurant) for their happy hour margaritas.  It was the first margarita that didn’t give me headache so we went back and I watched to see how it was made. We have tried a lot of recipes over the years and this one stands out as the best.


    • 2.5 oz tequila (I like Cazadores Reposado)
    • 1 oz triple sec
    • 1 oz fresh lime juice
    • .5 oz fresh lemon juice
    • .5 oz simple syrup (Don’t be scared! See helpful hints below)

    How to make it

    1. Place 3-4 cubes of ice in a margarita glass (this makes sure your drink is icy cold)
    2. Put all liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add the ice from your glass
    3. Shake hard for at least 10 seconds (shake it hard enough and you’ll get icy bits floating on the top when you pour, my favorite part).
    4. Rub the rim of your margarita glass with what is left of your squeezed lime
    5. Rim it with salt (optional, but delicious)
    6. Pour and enjoy.

    Helpful Hints

    • Simple syrup is so…simple! Place one cup of water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Add one cup of sugar (or Splenda if you want to skip the calories) and stir until dissolved.  Let cool. This will last for a couple weeks in the fridge.
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    Guilt free, Homemade Hot Cocoa

    The other night I had a craving for some hot chocolate. I didn’t have any packaged stuff on hand so I went digging through the cupboard and found some Ghiradelli baking cocoa. The label had a recipe for hot cocoa so I gave it a try using Splenda and water instead of the recommended sugar and milk. It. Was. Awesome. Not only was it rich and delicious, it saved me over 130 calories. Try adding some mini marshmallows, whipped cream, or a scoop of your favorite ice cream. Garnishes don’t have calories, right? 😉


    • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa
    • 1 1/2 Tablespoon sugar (or Splenda to save on calories)
    • 1 cup water or milk

    How to make it

    1. Mix the cocoa and sugar in a mug
    2. Bring the water or milk to a boil
    3. Add water or milk to cocoa mixture
    4. Stir and enjoy!
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    The Perfect Girls Night Cosmopolitan

    This is how I unwind after a particularly long week. I’ve tried dozens of cosmos at restaurants and bars and this is by far the best (and probably healthiest) one I’ve ever had.


    • 2 oz Smirnoff Cranberry Vodka
    • 2 oz Triple Sec
    • 2 oz Light Cranberry Juice
    • 1 oz Fresh Lime Juice

    How to make it

    1. Place 3-4 cubes of ice in a martini glass (this makes sure your drink is icy cold)
    2. Put all liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add the ice from your glass
    3. Shake hard for at least 10 seconds (shake it hard enough and you’ll get icy bits floating on the top when you pour, my favorite part).
    4. Pour and enjoy.

    Helpful Hints:

    • Before pouring your drink, rub the squeezed lime on the edge of your glass and roll it through some sugar.
    • Looking for something fancy? Some stores carry cosmo sugar made for rimming the edge of your glass.

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