“If you’re calorie conscious, skip the sugary mixed drinks and sip a glass of wine or a wine spritzer,” says Marisa Moore, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist. Pair a light white wine or summery rosé (typically lower in calories than heavier reds) with a few splashes of sparkling water (a zero calorie freebie!) for a refreshing buzz you can sip on the porch or the beach. You can also try wine brands that specialize in low-calorie varieties, but Moore cautions that they tend to only save about 25 calories per pour, so it may be worth sticking to your favorite regular bottle and lightening it up with some bubbles.
A good liquor
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Although hard liquor tends to run about 100 calories per shot, they’re also higher proof, so you get more buzz for your calorie buck. Find a vodka smooth enough to drink plain on the rocks (try elit by Stolichnaya, the brand’s “ultra luxury vodka”) and add citrus wedges for a burst of fresh flavor sans sugar or calories. You can also pour it over chunks of frozen fruit for a hint of sweetness that will keep your drink cold without watering it down. If you like tequila, 123 Spirits crafts all-organic tequilas and mezcal (tequila’s cousin), all distilled from Mexican agave without any added sugar; try it on the rocks with a lime squeeze and coat the rim in a sugar and salt mixture for a hint of guilt-free flavor.
Spiked sparkling water
Sometimes you just need a cold drink ASAP after a long week. Avoid the hassle of pulling multiple bottles from your liquor cabinet and fridge by stocking up on Truly Spiked & Sparkling, a boozy spritzer with just one gram of sugar and 100 calories per bottle or can. “I was looking for something light, crisp, and refreshing to fit into my health conscious lifestyle,” says product developer Casey O’Neill. Truly comes in five unique flavors—Colima lime, grapefruit and pomelo, pomegranate, Sicilian blood orange, and lemon and yuzu. If you run out, make your own spiked sparkling water by pairing a quality vodka with a fizzy water like Spindrift, a sparkling beverage that uses triple-distilled water and fresh squeezed fruit for fresh flavor without breaking the calorie bank. Try the newest flavor, cucumber, for a trendy and refreshing drink.
Lighter mixed drinks
You don’t need to give up your favorite cocktail entirely, just find ways to lighten it up for summer. If you’re hooked on Moscow Mules, try swapping out caloric and sugary ginger beer for Ginger DRY Sparkling, a 45-calorie soda with just 11 grams of sugar. And while you can find sugar-free or lighter versions of most of your favorite juices or sodas, RSVP Skinnies are much easier than cluttering your kitchen with diet-friendly mixers. Each single serving packet is zero calories and comes in your favorite cocktail flavors, like a margarita, cosmopolitan, gimlet, and mai-thai; just mix with straight liquor or add a splash of sparkling water for a bit of fizz. If you do have time to experiment with slimmed down drinks, try making a margarita from scratch. Choose a quality tequila like Patrón, so you don’t have to mask the flavor, and skip the pre-made mix (which are usually sugar and calorie bombs); instead, use fresh squeezed lime juice and just a hint of simple syrup for purer and more intense flavors.
“Add ingredients like fresh ginger, mint, or fresh fruit for a flavor punch with a bit of added nutrients,” says Moore. Muddle or puree fresh fruit and mix with your favorite liquor, then pour over ice and add sparkling water to tickle your taste buds without empty calories from sugar.
This traditional Cuban highball can easily be spun into a skinny version. Use one part rum to two part club soda, then pour over lots of muddled mint leaves, fresh squeeze lime juice, and a small splash of simple syrup. “With soda water making up a good portion of the drink, half the battle is won, and the fresh mint and lime make sugar an afterthought,” says Moore.
If you’re a beer lover, summertime is prime time for the light version of your favorite brew. Choosing the light variety will cut down on calories, but you should still indulge in moderation since most are still at least 100 calories. If you can’t stand to stray from your mainstay heavier beer, choose one with a higher alcohol content and stop yourself after one or two; you can still get your buzz without having to drink a whole six-pack.
Naturally skinny traditionals
Some classic cocktails are naturally lower in calories and sugar because they use so few ingredients. For example, an Aperol Spritz is just Aperol (a bitter Italian aperitif), Prosecco or champagne (try Bolla prosecco, a dry and un-sweet variety), and soda water.