How to Shave Calories Off Your Favorite Cocktail

Now I like to have a nice cosmopolitan as much as the next girl. However, that was until I found that a single cosmo equals 212 calories per 4-ounce serving. Maybe you’re rather a Pina Colada, which weighs in a whopping 250 calories. That margarita—up to 400 calories!

Suddenly you can see how swilling 4 on a girls night really adds up.

Luckily, I’ve found some crafty ways to enjoy a few fancy cocktails with my friends without ruining my healthy diet.

Here are 10 tricks for shaving calories off your favorite cocktail…

Take Advantage of Fresh Fruit for Sweetness

The idea that a few cocktails can totally take a full meal’s worth of calories might make you put your swizzle stick elsewhere.  Luckily, with drinks like daiquiris, mojitos, and so forth you can cut a lot of calories just by using fresh fruit rather than added sugar and syrups.  I freeze berries and add them to my drinks. Crushing grapes in a drink also sweetens the deal as does muddling fresh mint or other sweet herbs.

Sway Simple Syrup for Agave Nectar

Skip the high calorie cocktail syrup and mix your favorite cocktail with agave nectar instead.  This zero calorie sugar substitute is just as sweet, but it will ensure that you only taste it, not feel it on your hips. Try a margarita with agave nectar, derived naturally from the agave plant. Add your tequila, soda, and lime juice to taste.

Use No-Sugar Added Fruit Juices

The almost unmistakable swap of sugar added fruit juice to the no sugar added variety is barely noticeable in a mixed drink—especially if you’re actually using fresh or frozen fruits to your blender. I always stock up on unsweetened cranberry, raspberry, and orange juices before any party. And my guests never notice the difference.

Opt for Soda Over Tonic

Bartenders often get tonic and soda mixed up, but your waistline doesn’t. While soda has zero calories; tonic has almost 150 per serving—the exact same as any other soda pop. Soda water is more like bubbly seltzer and it’s a great base for cocktails. That way you can add a splash of juice instead of a whole glass for mixing.

Stick To Lower Calorie Alcohols

While most mixing alcohols are fat-free and low in carbohydrates, they contain calories that count when you’re trying to stay in shape. You’re typical 1.5 ounce servings of whisky, dark or white rum, vodka, and gin contain around 69 calories each. However, once you start mixing liquors like Irish cream, chocolate liquor, Crème de Almond, and so forth, well the sugar in those calories quickly adds up. Instead, stick to the basics—like vodka, gin, and whiskey—and blend with low calorie mixers.

Reach For Flavored Sodas vs. Sugary Juices

Flavored soda waters or seltzers are worth just as much flavor per serving than sugary juices and full sugar sodas. However, it’s easy to find flavored seltzers or mineral waters with zero calories. So for mojitos use a lime flavored mineral water, for tropical drinks a grapefruit flavored seltzer, and for fruity cocktails try a raspberry infused bubbly water.

Seltzer Is Your Best Friend

When I first became conscious of the calories in my favorite cocktails, I made sure seltzer or mineral water was the base of every future drink. However, seltzer is your best friend when drinking for more than one reason. Not only does soda water cut major calories from each glass; you can also sip it between alcoholic beverages so that you don’t get out of control.

Use Fruit Puree Instead Of Syrups

Slimming down is difficult—particularly if you like fruity, blended cocktails that call for sugary syrups, like raspberry, lime cordial, and even simple syrup, which calls for dissolved refined white sugar.  To cut calories, I got in the habit of making my own fruit purees. Now I have jars full of peach, strawberry, and orange purees to mix my favorite cocktail in classy champagne flutes.

Look to Alternative Alcohols

You might have heard about the super-slim alcohols on the market. Skinny versions of vodka, gin, and rum are making the rounds at liquor stores at around 45-calories. Another boozy option is shochu, a Japanese spirit with a flavor similar to vodka. It weighs in at a meager 35-calories and works great with martinis.

Moderation is Key

Regardless of how you cut your calories, moderation is key whenever you drink if you really want to trim that belly. So keep a tally of how much you’re imbibing at parties and drink seltzer between each drink so you don’t embarrass yourself.

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.