Nutrition / Recipes

4 Low-Calorie Cocktails to Enjoy this Holiday Season

Move aside, eggnog.

The holidays are just around the corner, which means rich foods, savory desserts, and, for many of us, celebratory drinks. While there’s nothing wrong with indulging (in fact, it’s important you do enjoy yourself!), it can be easy to go overboard—especially when it comes to alcohol. Luckily, there are some great low-calorie cocktails out there that pack a flavorful punch without all the sugar.

Mixed drinks and sugary cocktails are tasty holiday staples, but they’re often loaded with artificial flavors and added sweeteners. This means they’re high in calories but offer little nutritional value. Even cocktails made from seemingly more natural ingredients can be deceptive, such as homemade mulled wine, which has about 200 calories per cup thanks to its sugar content. Creamier holiday drinks are high in calories, too, as one serving of milky eggnog contains around 220 calories. Any more than one of these heavier cocktails can easily make up a significant portion of your daily caloric intake.

“Any liquors that involve excess sugars, like liqueurs, are going to be traditionally higher in calories,” says Meghan Rogers, a guest services manager at Victoria Distillers, a small-batch spirits distillery in Victoria, B.C. “Things like gin or vodka, or any spirit that doesn’t have any added flavor or anything that’s not a natural component, are going to be a little bit better in terms of lowering your calorie intake.”

When it comes to low-cal cocktails, the fewer the ingredients, the better.

Like Rogers pointed out, hard liquor typically has fewer calories per serving than beer and wine. A standard serving of gin contains about 70 to 80 calories, and vodka has about 65 calories per ounce. A bottle of beer can have upward of 130 calories, and a five-ounce glass of red wine has around 125 cals.

This means that when you’re crafting cocktails, it’s best to use a lower-calorie alcohol. Rogers says it’s also important to keep your drink recipes super simple and avoid added sugar as much as possible. “Really heavy syrups—which are traditionally seen in quite a few cocktails—egg whites, and excess ingredients are going to bring more calories into the drink,” she explains.

Consider what your non-alcoholic base is, too. While gin and tonics are often seen as a healthier option, tonic water surprisingly has a lot of sugar in it. To combat this, Rogers recommends using a lower-calorie variety, such as Fever-Tree Light Tonic. Soda water is a great mix for vodka or gin drinks, as it has zero calories and no added sugar.

Natural ingredients are rich in flavor.

Just because you skip the sugar doesn’t mean you have to pass on flavor. Rogers says incorporating liquids like brewed tea into cocktails is a simple way to add some punch. “A green tea or a berry tea is packed with flavor, and tea is traditionally one of the most low-calorie drinks,” she says. “Especially something like a berry [tea] around the holidays is really lovely. If you’re looking for a warmer cocktail, you can also use spiced chai.”

Muddling fresh ingredients such as fruits and herbs can infuse your beverage with flavor but not the calories. “When you muddle something like ginger or mint … it’s another way to release flavor and create a beautiful cocktail without adding a flavored syrup,” Rogers says. “You can shake in frozen berries [to cocktails], too, so you do get sweetness—but it’s not overbearing or the same as bringing in that sugar element.”

Low-Calorie Cocktail Recipes

Here are some low-calorie cocktails to try this holiday season. Feel free to get creative with garnishes, such as slices of fruit and herbs like rosemary or mint.

Green Tea and Ginger Cocktail

by Meghan Rogers

Ingredients:

1 to 1½ ounces gin
Muddled ginger
½ to 1 ounce lemon juice
Honey or agave syrup to taste (if desired)
1 cup cold-brew green tea
1 slice lemon, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Shake on ice, and strain into a glass.
  2. Top with cold-brew green tea.
  3. Garnish with lemon slice.

Berry Tea and Mint Cocktail

by Meghan Rogers

Ingredients:

1 to 1½ ounces gin
Muddled mint
½ to 1 ounce lemon juice
Honey or agave syrup to taste (if desired)
1 cup cold-brew berry tea
Mint, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Shake on ice, and strain into a glass.
  2. Top with cold-brew berry tea.
  3. Garnish with mint.

Vodka Mint Cocktail

by LCBO

Ingredients:

1 ounce vodka
Fresh mint
Soda water
½ ounce lime juice
1 to 2 teaspoons no-calorie sweetener (if desired)

Directions:

  1. In a highball glass, add lime juice, five torn mint leaves, and no-calorie sweetener. Muddle or mash.
  2. Fill glass with ice, and add vodka.
  3. Top with soda water and mix.
  4. Garnish with mint.

Pomango

by Smirnoff

Ingredients:

1½ ounces pomegranate-flavored vodka
1 ounce green tea
1½ ounces mango juice
¼ ounce simple syrup (if desired)

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker, and shake thoroughly.
  2. Strain into an ice-filled glass.
  3. Garnish with a mango-chunk skewer.

As with any food or drink, it’s important to enjoy alcohol in moderation. An easy way to keep your alcohol intake in check is to think of drinks like you do dessert: any more than one, and you could feel sick, sluggish, or, in the case of booze, hungover.

Nutrition Recipes

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