Most alcohol is frustratingly caloric and mixed drinks are often surprisingly high in added sugars. It’s hard to know what hidden sugars to look out for and which low sugar solutions work as substitutes. While most cocktails average 65 calories per ounce there are ones inherently healthier. Thankfully, there are also sugar-free and low calorie alternatives so flavor need not be sacrificed.
Spirits: Spirits like cognac, some gins and rums have a few grams of sugar per liter. Fruit Juices: Most bottled juices contain added sugars and some naturally have more sugar than others. Sparkling Wine: Sparkling wine like Processo will have higher sugar content than a dry brut Cava or Champagne, which still have sugar but will be less. Bitters: Aromatic bitters often contain small amounts of sugar or caramel, though there are only trace amounts in a few dashes. Natural Sweeteners: While healthier than processed sugars, natural syrups like honey and agave still contain sugar.
Spirits: Spirits like tequila, unflavored vodka and whiskey have no carbohydrates and are reliable sugar-free options. Fresh Juices: Freshly squeezed or unsweetened juices will ensure no added sugars. Diet Soda: Opt for diet tonic water or diet soda, while most are sweetened with artificial sugars, there are some which use natural sweeteners that lack the negative side effects associated with artificial sweeteners. Sugar-Free Sweeteners: These are virtually calorie free and preserve the true flavor of the drink. No Syrup: There are 20g of sugar per ounce of simple syrup, it’s found in many cocktails and can be easily be omitted by the bartender.
There should be no surprise here as Martinis contain no fruit juices, syrups, and no sugar. A single martini is less that 1g of carbs and if you prefer a dry martini, the extra dry vermouth will increase it to 50g. Its no wonder this is the drink of choice for so many.
The Paloma is a tequila-based cocktail and when adjusted can easily become a low sugar cocktail. Traditionally made with tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, simple syrup, grapefruit bitters (optional), and soda water. Tequila, a no sugar spirit, is a great base to build a low carb drink on. Opt for fresh lime juice, fresh grapefruit juice, and scrap the simple syrup (or use a sugar-free sweetener). These substitutes will drastically lower the all over sugar and carb content of this flavorful cocktail.
This Italian aperitivo is both low proof and low sugar. The Americano is simply composed of the bitter Italian amaro Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda water. The sugar count from the liqueurs is limited to 15g and its total calories amount to 80.
This dark rum-based cocktail can easily be made low-carb by using substitutes. When made with diet ginger beer and fresh lime juice the total carb count is just 1.5g. To reduce the overall sweet flavor of the drink we recommend cutting the ginger beer with soda water.
This cocktail was named after the Washington D.C lobbyist Joe Rickey who favored zero-sugar drinks. This variation is dry and tart but surprisingly balanced and refreshing. While similar to the Gimlet and Tom Collins the Gin Rickey stands on its own with no added sugar and only 2g of carbs.
The Old Pal, essentially a dry Boulevardier, uses rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and Campari. Rye is drier and spicier in flavor than bourbon and the use of dry vermouth instead of sweet vermouth lowers the caloric content from 150 in a Boulevardier to 115 in this drink.
The Bicicletta is both dry and bitter, composed of Campari, white wine, and soda water. It’s part of the Spritz family but it swaps out the sugary sparkling wine with soda water and white wine. It has a total of 43 calories, compared to an Aperol Spritz at 279 calories, the Biciletta is a great low sugar alternative.
The Tom Collins is a light and refreshing cocktail. Traditionally it calls for Old Tom gin, this type of gin often contains added sugar depending on the brand, so choose carefully. Other ingredients in a Collins include lemon juice, simple syrup, and soda water. Opt instead for fresh squeezed lemon juice and a sugar-free sweetener (or none at all) and this drink drops from 176 calories to 101.
These adjustments are an excellent reminder that you don’t have to endure a dry bitter drink in order to be mindful of a cocktails sugar content. Consider low sugar substitutes with drinks like the Mojito, Daiquiri, or Mint Julep for lighter and cleaner cocktails.
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