How to Skinny Up Your Drink: A Guide to Low-Calorie Cocktails

AKA what to order at a bar that isn't as heavy as your last meal.

Woman holding two cocktails
(Image credit: Getty Images/Emily Suzanne McDonald)

While many of us resolve to hit the gym and follow a healthier diet every year, it's only too easy to have your willpower undermined by a delicious, sugary cocktail just waiting to be had. With that in mind, we spoke with Alissa Rumsey, Registered Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, about how to make your drinks just a tad less heavy on the calories, without sacrificing the taste. Find all of her tips below.

Step 1. Steer clear of high-calorie mixers.

Rumsey advises to avoid cocktails with juice, flavored sodas, or pre-made and powered mixes that contain excess sugar. Avoid: piña coladas, margaritas, or mojitos.

Three no-go cocktails

(Image credit: Getty Images/Design by Betsy Farrell)

Step 2. Look for these ingredients.

Regular soda water and tonic water are the top two ingredients that Rumsey recommends scanning for, as they'll cut out a ton of extra sugar and calories. Additionally, she notes that, "cocktails with fewer ingredients are generally going to be lower in calories, such as an Old Fashioned. Avoid cocktails that have a long list of ingredients including many different sugary add-ins like juices or simple syrup."

Step 3. Make these modifications.

Really itching for that margarita? Request tequila, lime juice, and agave syrup. More of a mojito girl? Try rum, mint, lime, soda water, and just a bit of sugar. Rumsey also recommends that when ordering cocktails made with simple sugar, ask for "just a touch" or "half as much as normal" to downsize on sugar. Ask for the bartender to use whole fruit instead of fruit juice, such as muddled limes, kiwi, or berries.

Tequila, lime, and agave nectar.

(Image credit: Getty Images/Design by Betsy Farrell)

Step 4. Embrace the vodka soda.

Sure, it's a bit bland, but Rumsey notes that it's also the drink with the lowest calories. Keep it from getting too boring by adding a splash of fruit juice for flavor.

Step 5. Find a cocktail alternative.

If you're watching your calories, opt for a glass of wine or champagne, which are usually around 120 calories. Want to go for an even lighter drink? Try a wine spritzer (less sugary, but also less boozy) or a light beer which can be as little as 100 calories.

Alcohol calorie infographic: Champagne 120 kcal, wine 120 kcal, light beer 100 kcal.

(Image credit: Getty Images/Design by Betsy Farrell)

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Alanna Greco

I'm a writer and editor based in New York City. I love a good coat, a well-articulated feminist rant, and face masking (yes, that’s a verb) like it’s nobody’s business.