Let’s face it, cocktails aren’t known for their health benefits.
The calories in alcohol have zero nutritional value. Most standard mixed drinks start with at least 1.5 oz of pure spirit (gin, whiskey, etc.) which on its own has around 96 calories. And most of today’s trendy, creative cocktails include syrups and sweeteners not just in the drink itself, but extending all the way to the sugary coating around the rim of the glass.
So how can we indulge our inner imbiber without throwing our healthy lifestyle out the window?
First off, instead of heading out to your favorite watering hole for drinks, stay home and make your own. That way, you can control the serving size of your cocktails and adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.
Next, look for simple mixed drinks, ones that can be made with club soda or light fruit juice instead of syrups. Many vintage cocktails are constructed this way.
Also, be sure to use plenty of ice (preferably chipped or crushed) in your drink preparation. As it melts, the ice will cut the intensity of the alcohol, allowing you to go lighter on the added sweeteners and syrups.
Finally, of course, practice moderation. I don’t know about you, but the more I drink, the more I eat. Neither of these traits are conducive to a healthy lifestyle. One or two cocktails (preferably one) should be plenty.
Here are 5 cocktails that can easily be made at home and won’t have you writhing in post happy hour guilt:
(Note: vigorous shaking is the hallmark of a good cocktail ,and it helps the ice to melt. But you don’t need to own an expensive cocktail shaker – a glass mason jar with a snug fitting lid works perfectly)
1. RICKEY COCKTAIL
Starting off simply — this classic, vintage drink can be made with gin or bourbon, depending on your preference. Quick and easy, it just takes the addition of ice, lime juice, and soda water to complete this sparkling, old school cocktail.
Delish has a gin-based version of this perfect summer sipper here (http://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a2544/gin-rickey-drink-recipes/)
You can substitute club soda for the soda water (also known as seltzer) in this recipe to expand its taste if you wish. Both club soda and soda water are merely carbonated waters; with club soda having added minerals for flavor. It’s personal taste preference really.
And, as an added bonus, aside from its general hydrating properties (it’s WATER, after all), Self (http://www.self.com/story/which-is-healthiest-drink-quiz) points out carbonated water may have digestive aid properties, too. So fill ‘er up!
2. SKINNY MARGARITA
Who doesn’t love a margarita? How about one that ramps up the citrus by replacing the triple sec with fresh squeezed orange juice? Well Plated by Erin has a fun take on everyone’s favorite summertime classic here (http://www.wellplated.com/skinny-margarita/)
With fresh lime juice and a bit of light agave nectar, this margarita is sweet and tart and satisfying. Like any good margarita, it’s quite flexible too – serve it blended with added berries. Or swap out the OJ for your favorite fresh tart citrus juice. If you’re watching your sodium intake, omit the salted rim. Anything goes in Margaritaville.
3. SPARKLING SANGRIA
A study in the Journal of Nutrition (http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/10/2279.full) reported that Cava may reduce the buildup of arterial plaque and therefore perhaps also minimize the potential for arterial disease.
So, while not strictly a cocktail, this sweet sangria combo of berries and sparkling wine earns a slot on our list.
Cooking Light has a Cava-based sangria recipe (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/sparkling-sangria) that is also chock full of antioxidants in the form of blueberries, strawberries and cherries.
Yes, there’s a bit of brandy in there too, but this recipe serves 8 — please do be sure to invite your friends over for this one – so it should have no major detrimental effects (and brandy is made of fruit! So…)
4. CLASSIC MARTINI
No cocktail list is complete without a martini. Nowadays flavored martinis are all the rage – from the once ubiquitous apple martini to the more recent decant desert-style flavorings of chocolate and key lime pie. All of them are delicious, and all are packed to the gills with calories and sweeteners.
Try it stripped back to its original essential ingredients. In this recipe from Epicurious (http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/classic-dry-martini-237574) the martini is once again a simple, elegant cocktail that won’t completely derail your healthy lifestyle.
For a slightly sweeter version, you could substitute sweet vermouth for the dry vermouth, add a dash of orange bitters, and replace the olive with a twist of orange peel.
5. BLOODY MARY
Bloody Mary’s were once considered the go-to hangover cure drink, probably due to inspired decision of mixing electrolyte and vitamin-C packed tomato juice with hot sauce. Nowaday’s the peculiar combination of ingredients (what’s up with the celery stalk garnish?) has become a brunch staple.
Saveur offers up this traditional Bloody Mary recipe (http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/Original-Bloody-Mary) although thankfully they have replaced the usual celery stalk with a more sophisticated lime wedge.
If you can find it, I’d recommend using tomato juice that doesn’t have salt added. Alternatively, you can always omit the added salt in the recipe when mixing the drink.
Remember, it is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle and still enjoy the occasional cocktail. You just have to get creative. Explore alternative sweeteners, or adjust the taste profile of your favorite drinks with more ice or carbonated water. And don’t forget about vintage cocktails – there are many classic recipes that are simple, timeless and very tasty.