After years of working as a bartender — and even more years of pouring for myself –I have learned how to make not only delicious and fun drinks, but low-calorie alternatives to these drinks as well. Sometimes I decide to follow a recipe to the letter, but more often than not, I amend it just a touch in order to keep the calories down — and the numbers on my scale. I drink often enough — I don’t need my jeans size to betray that fact!
I have found that the lighter versions are sometimes even tastier, and the feeling of doing something better for our health — well, that’s nice too. Here are a few of my old standby recommendations on how to drink well:
1. Substitute seltzer water and a splash of a light juice for full-calorie juice ingredients. Two of my favorites are Ocean Spray Light Cranberry Pomegranate and V-8 Diet Splash. These two juices are so flavorful, that if you simply mix them with vodka and soda, you will have tasty, juice-inspired cocktail. An added bonus – the cranberry helps your body flush the alcohol through your system faster. If you want to go for the lowest of all sparkling mixers, switch out fizzy water for 2-calorie Fresca.
2. Sometimes you need more than “just a splash” to make the recipe the right way. So in these cases, always use fresh squeezed fruits rather than juices when they are specifically called for. If you squeeze your own at least you’ll be reducing the amount of sugar and additives that things like Sweetened Lime Juice and premade orange juice have. It takes a little longer, but the nutrients in whole fruit juices are worth the extra aggravation.
3. Stick to clear colored spirits over darker ones. Vodka and Gin have fewer calories than Dark Rum and Whiskeys. Light Rum is better than dark, but both are still more sugar-laden than vodka and gin.
4. Better yet, eliminate mixers altogether and drink infused vodka instead. Vodka that has been infused with flavors (a fall favorite of mine is Apple Cinnamon Infused Vodka!) is not only better tasting, but you can actually sip it on the rocks since the burn of the alcohol is mellowed out by the smooth flavor of whatever’s been tossed in there. It is so easy – and not at all limiting – to make your own Infused Vodka. Jalapeño and Garlic; or Orange Vanilla; even herb-infused vodkas. Drink less, get buzzed, and at virtually no calories (60 calories per ounce of vodka)?!?! Count me in.
5. Dry white wine and dry champagne are good to consume, both by themselves, or mixed in with something. Not that I am fan of diluted wine, but there is something to be said for the lasting power of a white Wine Spritzer – grandmas and twenty-somethings alike are always drinking these. And look at the celebrities we see downing champagne at swanky clubs. It’s more than a status statement – those skinny girls know what’s what.
Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut Champagne is one of the lowest-calorie champagnes on the market, clocking in at only 60 calories per glass. No surprise – models like Kate Moss know what they are doing. Cheaper sparkling wine alternatives (Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut runs around $60 a bottle) that are also dry and belly-friendly include DomaineChandon Blanc de Noirs ($15 a bottle) and Westport Rivers Blanc de Noirs ($23 a bottle). With these prices and benefits, there will always be a reason to celebrate with some bubbly!
These few suggestions will keep your drinks flowing – without overflowing your love handles. I am willing to bet that you won’t miss the extra sugar. And around the holidays, you know you are going to have a bite or two of Aunt Midge’s mince meat pie or Santa’s cookies. Save the calories for that — and you’ll feel entitled to that yummy drink.