I remember when I first graduated to vodka soda after college. It’s an easy, low-calorie cocktail that I could order everywhere, making it ideal for both office happy hours and late nights spent with friends. Fast forward ten years, and most of the time you'll find me drinking the exact same thing. After all, vodka soda does minimal damage to the waistline. But as my drinking habits continue to change, sometimes I want a cocktail that’ll actually excite my taste buds. The only problem: Cocktail menus are full of tasty options that add empty calories. That’s exactly why I asked Joshua Hannah and Cesar Valderrama, managers at Disney Spring’s Paddlefish in Orlando, FL, for low-cal options that are still full of flavor.
Most cocktails are high in added sugar (think syrups and juices) or made from sugary mixes, which contribute to a higher calorie count, they explain. So the secret to keeping cocktails on the healthier side is choosing the right ingredients. “In order to make low-calorie, health-conscious cocktails, you must take into consideration every ingredient used,” says Valderrama. “Using fresh, all-natural or organic ingredients will make a big difference in keeping a cocktail’s calorie count lower while also enhancing the flavor profile.”
Whether you like gin, tequila or whiskey, here Hannah and Valderrama share three low-calorie cocktails to sip without guilt. Not only do they taste way better than your standard vodka soda, but they’re all less than 200 calories and easy to mix up at home, too.
Cucumber Elderflower Cocktail
- 2 ounces gin
- .25 ounce elderflower liqueur
- .75 ounce vermouth
- .75 ounce lemon juice
- Sliced cucumber
- 1 egg white
- In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cucumber with the lime juice until it is well smooshed.
- Add the elderflower liqueur, gin, vermouth and a handful of ice. Shake for 30 seconds.
- Fill a tall glass with ice (Hannah suggests using crushed ice) before straining in the gin mixture. Top it off with a splash of pasteurized egg white. Then garnish with a cucumber ribbon or two and a lime wedge.
Ginger Beer Margarita
- 1.5 ounces tequila 100% agave
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 3 ounces diet ginger beer
- .5 ounce simple syrup
- Rub fresh lime juice along the rim of a small serving glass and dip it coarse salt (optional).
- Add tequila, lime juice, ginger beer, simple syrup, and ice to a large glass or cocktail shaker and stir vigorously. “Don't shake with a lid on or it will erupt from the ginger beer carbonation,” cautions Hannah.
- Pour the liquid sans ice into serving glass and add a few fresh cubes. Serve with a lime wedge.
- 1 scant teaspoon of simple syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
- 2 ounces bourbon
- Sliced orange peel
- Maraschino cherry
- Add the simple syrup and bitters with a bar spoon into an Old Fashioned glass.
- Mix in half (1 ounce) of the bourbon and two to three large ice cubes, stirring repeatedly.
- Pour in the second half of the bourbon and two to three more ice cubes, continuing to stir.
- Express the oil of an orange peel over the drink then drop in the peel.
- Finish with a cherry.