Cutting the Calories Out of Cocktails
Happy hour can be healthy hour if you stick with lighter, leaner libations.
(page 5 of 5)
Mix It Up
Let’s say you do stick to 100 calories of liquor. How do you control the mixers? First, read the ingredients on the menu and ask questions of the server. A drink that has simple syrup in it is one to steer clear of. If there’s sour mix in the recipe, opt for a squeeze of citrus instead, Harrison suggests.
Choose 0-calorie club soda (soda water) instead of full-calorie sodas or tonic water. “If you’re going to go for flavored sodas, choose Diet Coke or ginger ale,” says Nikki Farley, a former manager at Harry’s Seafood Grill. A splash of fresh-squeezed fruit juice makes a healthier, lighter mixer—if the bartender doesn’t add any simple syrup, as they sometimes do to balance out the tartness of limes or lemons.
“Our signature cocktails tend to be sweet, so we do add syrup to many of them,” Farley admits. If you want to go lighter, she suggests trying something like a classic martini instead. “Skip the vermouth to save calories and instead add more pickle or olive juice for additional flavor,” she adds.
Nage has begun making its own infused liquors to up the flavor without adding unnecessary sugar, according to Harrison. These naturally flavored liquors allow you to go lighter on the sweetened mixers. Gin or vodka can be infused with just about any fresh or frozen fruit—peaches, blueberries, cherries, pineapples—and some vegetables and herbs as well, like cucumber, jalapeño or lemon with rosemary. Seasonal fruits are especially appealing. For the fall season, Nage will infuse bourbons with figs, cherries and oranges.
You can even infuse liquor at home, Harrison says, but it takes 24 to 48 hours. A quick alternative to infusing liquor is to muddle the fruit in the bottom of the glass before adding the liquor. Muddled fruit or fruit purées add taste and sweetness without the need for flavored syrups.
If you are truly a fan of very sweet drinks, you can “take baby steps” to wean yourself from the sweetness by asking the bartender to cut back on the simple syrup, Harrison suggests.
“People want to live healthier lives and people still want to have fun on weekends,” Holmes says. “And there’s no reason why you can’t have both.”