By Perrie Samotin
Whether we want to indulge during a party, or treat ourselves to something delicious on the weekends, it's usually in the form of food and drink.
While we know indulging in sweets can pack on the pounds, empty-calorie cocktails can also be sneaky diet busters thanks to hidden ingredients like simple syrup, added sugars, juice, and various sweet liqueurs.
Luckily, not all cocktails are waistline saboteurs — there are healthy alcoholic drinks that won't totally ruin your diet.
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What is the healthiest alcohol to drink?
Red wine is thought to be the healthiest alcohol out there. With numerous studies calling red wine the best alcoholic drink for your heart, it's no wonder why.
Red wine contains antioxidants called polyphenols which protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. The best polyphenol in red wine is resveratrol, which prevents damage to blood vessels, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and prevents blood clots.
What is the best alcohol to drink on a diet?
While most diets or lifestyle changes require you to remove alcohol from your diet entirely, we all need something to take the edge off once in a while. Also, why deprive yourself of drinking if it helps you combat those sugar cravings?
The key to drinking alcohol while on a diet is choosing liquors that are low in calories and refraining from mixing them with soda, juice, or any other liquids with sugar. Vodka, gin, tequila, and whiskey are all low in calories, as long as you're consuming a small amount.
What is the lowest-calorie alcoholic drink?
The same liquors that are okay to drink while on a diet are the same liquors that are low in calories. That means refraining from wine and beer, which both include a high number of empty calories.
In fact, one 5-ounce glass of wine can have over 120 calories, while beer ranges from 120-300+ calories per can, not including cider which has even higher amounts of sugar!
Good low-calorie alcohols include vodka, whiskey, tequila, and gin, all of which are low in carbohydrates and have no added sugar. Vodka contains roughly 100 calories per 1.5-ounce shot; brandy has around 97 calories per shot; whiskey, gin, and tequila contain roughly 110 calories per shot.
Which alcohol has the least amount of sugar?
As mentioned, most liquors don't contain added sugar; it's the mixers you have to worry about.
Tonic water on its own includes over 20 grams of sugar per cup, while cranberry juice, commonly used in cocktails, has as much as 30 grams of sugar per cup. Talk about empty calories!
Luckily, you can substitute juice or soda for seltzer or club soda, meaning your drink will contain no sugar. Vodka has the least amount of sugar, so you can order a vodka club soda with lime for a sugar-free drink.
And if you need some kind of sweetness in your cocktail, you can muddle fruit for natural sugar, rather than opting for sugary juice drinks.
20 Best Healthy Alcoholic Mixed Drinks & Beverages
While we know the word "healthy" is relative when it comes to booze, there are several ways to make occasional imbibing decidedly guilt-free. But remember: everything in moderation!
1. Red Wine
The antioxidants found in red wine, such as flavonoids and a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits, so feel free to enjoy a glass or two.
2. White Wine
Red wine may have health benefits, but dry white wines tend to be slightly lower in calories. Light whites, such as Riesling and Pinot Grigio, have fewer calories than those with higher alcohol content, such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
3. Bloody Mary with Fresh Tomato Juice
The problem with these — though made with healthy tomato juice — is that pre-made mixes are typically packed with salt and additives.
Try ditching the pre-bottled stuff and use no-sugar-added, low-sodium tomato juice instead. From there, add in your fixings: one shot of vodka, a squeeze of lemon, a teaspoon of horseradish, and a nice big celery stalk.
4. Dark and Stormy
This classic cocktail is made with fresh rum and ginger beer, which is packed with artificial sweeteners. Instead, mix one shot of light rum with two shots of sugar-free ginger ale. Then, serve over ice.
5. White Sangria
Sangria is wine-based, but it’s also packed with sugar, brandy, and, often, ginger ale. To cut major calories, use white wine, tons of chopped fruit (like apples, strawberries, pears, and peaches), and seltzer. You won’t miss the sweet stuff at all.
6. Tom Collins
This lemonade-like cocktail is typically mixed with gin, sugar, lemon juice, and club soda. To lighten it up, use one shot of gin, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and top it off with seltzer. (No penalties if you don’t have a Collins glass.)
7. Light White Russian
This creamy dessert drink is packed with fat and calories, but it’s possible to still get the taste using lighter ingredients. Instead of heavy cream or half-and-half, combine chilled coffee with skim milk. From there, add a shot of vodka and lots of ice.
8. Light Margarita
Most margaritas are loaded with calories, as they usually include sugar-filled liqueurs and mixers, like triple sec or simple syrup. Instead, combine tequila with fresh lime juice. If that’s too strong, pour in a dash of orange liqueur — but only a dash, since that’s where the calories are.
9. Healthy Mimosa
Overall, orange juice and champagne aren’t the worst ingredients, but you can still cut calories by using only fresh-squeezed orange juice and replacing half the bubbly with seltzer.
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Despite its reputation, this super-thick Irish beer isn’t as caloric as you’d think. A serving of the stout brew clocks in at just 125 calories, which is 19 less than a Budweiser and 24 less than a Heineken.
Guinness also contains just under 10 carbs, which is less than something like Sam Adams Boston Lager (18 carbs per serving). Why? It’s partly due to Guinness’ low alcohol content.
11. Vodka and Club Soda
It might be a bit on the boring side, but this clean cocktail is a sure bet when it comes to low-calorie drinking. Spice it up with lots of fresh lemons, limes, or even sliced cucumbers.
12. Mojito with Honey
Mojitos are typically loaded with simple syrup, which is quite easy to replace. Muddle a sliced lime with fresh mint leaves, and add rum, club soda, and a half-teaspoon of honey for a touch of sweetness sans extra calories.
All sparkling wines have sugar — it’s required for fermentation — but there are measures you can take to cut calories.
But be sure to check the label. It pays to stick with brut nature varieties of champagne (“brut” signifies that little extra sugar has been added), cava (Spain’s sparkling wine), and sparkling wine from the U.S., as these regions have stricter rules about added sugar than Italy, the home of Prosecco.
A 5-ounce glass of brut nature has about 120 calories, compared to around 175 for a non-brut variety.
14. Straight Bourbon
You don’t have to sacrifice flavor for health! Bourbon generally ranges between 97 and 110 calories per 1.5 ounces, and it’s packed with complex flavors unlike, say, vodka.
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15. Spicy Michelada
This zesty drink features a bottle or can of light lager mixed with lots of low-calorie extras like fresh lime, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, pepper, sea salt, and ice.
16. Hot Toddy
Unlike eggnog, this classic winter cocktail won’t pack on the pounds, and it will keep you toasty. Combine one-to-two ounces of scotch, whiskey, or bourbon with hot water, a little honey, lemon juice, and either clove, a cinnamon stick, or star anise.
17. Classic Martini
Martini culture has been muddled with high-calorie impostors like Cosmos, apple martinis, and — the biggest offender — creamy dessert martinis.
Take a cue from "Mad Men" and enjoy a classic vodka or gin martini, which is mixed with dry vermouth and includes no fattening additives. Those bleu cheese-stuffed olives, however, are another story.
18. Gin and Tonic
A refreshing gin and tonic might not seem terribly bad for you, but tonic water is made with high fructose corn syrup or sugar, and clocks in at over 125 calories per can or small bottle. Instead, try mixing gin with club soda and only adding a small splash of tonic for fizzy sweetness.
19. Light Piña Colada
Everyone knows that piña coladas are a one-way ticket to Calorieville, thanks to the use of lots of rum and that super-thick cream of coconut. However, there are ways to still get the fruity flavor without all the guilt.
Replace the cream of coconut with coconut milk or even coconut water. From there, add one shot of rum and fresh pineapple juice.
20. French 75 with a Colorful Twist
This bygone cocktail usually mixes champagne, lemon juice, cognac or gin, and sugar.
Instead of the sugar, add a small splash of antioxidant-packed pomegranate juice or kidney-healthy cranberry concentrate (that’s 100 percent pure cranberry juice). Not only will it taste super-tangy, but it will also have a seasonal red tint.
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Perrie Samotin is the Digital Director at Glamour, as well as a writer, editor and host of What I Wore When podcast. Past jobs include style and entertainment editor at amNewYork, and editorial manager at Theory.
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This article was originally published at StyleCaster. Reprinted with permission from the author.