Healthy Cocktail Substitutions

Happy hours can be tough on a diet, but cutting down on sugar and fat doesn’t mean cutting out cocktails. If we have learned anything from our elders, it’s that cocktails have a place in any balanced diet. While we would never suggest cutting out creamy dessert cocktails entirely, you can definitely pick your battles. Here, a few easy substitutions to make your favorite drinks just a wee bit healthier.

Replace Simple Syrup with Agave Syrup

Not only is agave the basis for some of our favorite spirits, it’s also a great way to sweeten drinks naturally. Agave syrup clocks in lower on the glycemic index than white sugar, but actually tastes a bit sweeter so you can even use less and have the same effect.

Use Real Fruit Instead of Liqueurs

Regardless of your diet, you should always use fresh citrus in your cocktails. Pre-bottled lemon and lime juices don’t hold a candle to the fresh stuff, so do yourself a favor and learn how to cut up some citrus. Moreover, you can often sub fresh fruit for store bought liqueurs, especially if you’re mixing in season. You can simmer crushed berries or chunks of fruits down into syrups without adding much additional sugar, if any, or you can muddle the fruit straight into your drink a la a Bramble or Caipirinha.

Ditch Cream for Greek Yogurt

Many health-centric cooks will tell you to replace heavy dairy products like sour cream or whipped cream with Greek yogurt, which adds body and texture without a ton of fat. The smart swap can also be applied to cocktails. Shaking Greek yogurt produces a texture similar to frothy shaken egg whites, making it a great replacement for both the cream and egg whites in a Ramos Gin Fizz. Or, swap it in for the cream in a Grasshopper to make a tangier, lighter version of the classic dessert cocktail—just remember to double-strain any yogurt cocktail you whip up to avoid any unsightly chunks.

Swap Soda Water for Tonic Water

Tonic’s bittersweet taste brightens and balances strong botanical gin, but the sweet part of that equation can upset your diet if you’re not careful. If all you crave are boozy bubbles, top your spirit of choice with plain soda water instead. You’ll get a light, spritzy cocktail that won’t weigh you down. For a hit of extra flavor, try dashing in some bitters like orange, lavender or even celery.

Trade Boozy Lowballs for Low-ABV Highballs

Sipping tall, low-ABV drinks is a great way to imbibe all day long without tipping the intoxication scales, but it’s also a great way to cut down on calories—as long as you stay away from any sweet liqueurs heavy on the sugar. Top off your choice of vermouth or bitter liqueur (Campari is always a great bet) with soda water and sip away. You’ll cut down on alcohol intake, mixer calories and the sheer number of drinks you consume.