In terms of being both low-calorie and clean, this might be your best option, says Beth Warren, MS, RDN, a dietitian in New York City and author of Living a Real Life with Real Food. “Bitters are herbal mixtures of alcohol and other interesting ingredients, with about 30 to 45% alcohol. Combining that with a no-calorie club soda makes this a tasty treat that won’t wreck your diet.”
No. 2: Champagne
Don’t save the bubbly for New Year’s Eve: A 4 oz glass of champagne is only 90 calories, which is about 10 calories less than a 12 oz bottle of lightbeer or a 4 oz glass of wine (and, let’s be honest, who pours a 4 oz glass of wine?!). “Between the antioxidant polyphenolic content, the typically small serving size, and low calorie count, champagne would be my second choice for ‘clean’ drink options,” says Warren.
No. 3: Coconut water + berry-flavored vodka
Coconut water is super-hydrating, which helps counteract some of the dehydrating properties of the vodka, says Autumn Calabrese, a celebrity fitness trainer and creator of 21 Day Fix, the Beachbody fitness program.
No. 4: Mojito, minus the simple syrup
Mint, lime, and soda water are all naturally low-cal, and adding a shot of rum is only going to be about 100 calories. Just be careful of the added sugar, says Warren. If you keep it to no more than a tablespoon or better yet, go without the sweet stuff, you’ll have an even healthier option.
No. 5: Tequila and soda
While margaritas are typically loaded with sugar and supersweet liqueurs, like Grand Marnier, ordering tequila on the rocks with club soda and a squeeze of lime is a 100-calorie drink. “Plus, adding lime or any other citrus fruit will give you a boost of vitamin C and antioxidants,” says Warren.
Hosting a party or simply like to play mixologist at home? Cassandra Rosen, head of mixology and recipe development for Crave Local offers the following tips for drinking clean:
Add bubbles and fruits for flavor. “I find that adding sparkling water or infusing drinks with fruits and herbs can add layers of flavors without extra calories,” says Rosen.
Ditch the dairy. Skip the heavy cream and use coconut milk or almond milk instead, says Rosen. While you’re at it, replace sugar and simple syrup with stevia or agave nectar, which is lower on the glycemic index.
Avoid sugary liqueurs. “While they may taste good, they can be loaded with calories,” says Rosen. If you must, use them sparingly. Or, go for liqueurs with spices like chilis and ginger, which will ramp up your metabolism.
Here are 3 of Rosen’s favorite “clean” cocktail recipes:
Cucumber Green Tea Cooler
1.5 c brewed Sencha green tea
3 Tbsp peeled, seeded, pureed organic cucumber
2 Tbsp muddled fresh mint
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 packet Stevia powder
5 oz vodka
Cucumber slices, thinly sliced
Rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Combine all ingredients except vodka and sliced cucumber to pitcher and stir. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours. When well chilled, double strain mint and cucumber. Add vodka and stir. Add ice to each glass, and float thinly sliced cucumbers. Garnish with rosemary sprig.
Calories: 92 per serving
Sparkling Hibiscus Martini
.75 oz vodka
.50 oz hibiscus tea, brewed and cooled
.75 oz white grape juice
.75 oz sparkling wine
Add vodka, tea, and juice to shaker. Shake with ice and strain into martini glass. Top with sparkling wine. Squeeze lemon peel over glass to release oils, garnish with mint.
Calories: 96 calories
Sparkling Ginger Appletini
4 slices Honey Crisp apple
1 Tbsp lemon juice
.5 Tbsp Stevia ginger syrup*
1.5 oz vodka
1 oz hard cider
Muddle apple, lemon juice, and ginger syrup. Add vodka. Shake over ice, and double strain into ice-filled highball glass. Top with hard cider.
*To make stevia ginger syrup, heat 3 packets of stevia stirred into 1/2 cup of water, along with 2 slices of fresh ginger. Simmer over medium to low heat 10 minutes, then cool. Will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.