Food & Drink

5 Healthy Upgrades For Classic Cocktails

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Let’s face it, if you’re counting carbs or care about fresh ingredients, downing multiple cocktails in one night is not the best idea. Many cocktails contain sugar as a primary ingredient to balance the flavor of booze or citrus, and a lot of bars don’t use the freshest or highest quality mixers to concoct drinks (i.e. sour mix, cheap corn syrup-based sweeteners or off-brand “gun” sodas). To combat drinking unhealthy cocktails without resorting to switching to white wine or water, we devised this list of ingredients that you can add to any cocktail without dramatically altering its intended flavor. From vinegar to natural sugar alternatives, here are five healthy upgrades for classic cocktails.

Add Vinegar to a Vodka Soda, Tequila Soda, Mezcal Soda or Bloody Mary

Vinegar has been proven to lower blood sugar levels; it kills many types of bacteria (but hey, so does booze) and has a high amount of amino acids and antioxidants—especially higher quality apple cider vinegars like Bragg. It also adds depth, tartness and more flavor to your cocktails. Vinegar can be incorporated into a variety of shrubs with seasonal fruit, or poured straight into a cocktail. We especially like adding it to tart cocktails with fresh citrus (start with a quarter to a half an ounce of vinegar) to amp up their acidity, or as an umami boost in Bloody Marys (we prefer using a quality Japanese rice vinegar in the brunch staple).

Add Fresh Citrus Juice to a Rum & Coke, Whiskey Ginger, Screwdriver or Harvey Wallbanger

In addition to high amounts of fiber and vitamin C, citrus fruits also supply calcium, potassium, folate and vitamin A—all of which are essential to functioning properly as a human being (no one wants scurvy). If your cocktail doesn’t already come with a measure of citrus, you can add it to a variety of drinks to make them better. Instead of just garnishing your Rum & Coke with a wedge of lime, add three quarters of fresh lime juice to the spritzy soda-tail. You can also add the same measure of lemon juice to your Whiskey Ginger to liven it up, or fresh grapefruit juice to your Paloma (instead of just grapefruit soda and a touch of lime). It is also beneficial to your cocktail—and your body—to use freshly squeezed orange juice in lieu of store bought juice in any recipe that calls for the fruit.

Add Bitters to a Vodka Soda or Highballs

Bitters have been used since their creation to aid with digestion. In fact they were originally developed as a medicinal tonic, not as a cocktail ingredient. Beyond their restorative properties, bitters can add a unique edge, rich depth, and a broad range of flavors to a variety of cocktails—especially simple, two ingredient-Highballs. Instead of just opting for a simple Vodka Soda, you can add herbal bitters to the drink (like Cecil & Merl’s Turmeric bitters) fruity orange bitters or something savory like celery or cucumber bitters. It is entirely up to your taste, what you find in your local liquor store, or what your bartender has behind the bar.

Add Fresh Fruit to a Tom Collins, Daiquiri, Margarita, Jack Rose or Tequila Sunrise

The fruit that you use will determine how healthy-ish your cocktail is. Adding freshly muddled blueberries to your Tom Collins will make a delightfully tart year-round sipper that is high in antioxidants—including vitamins A, C, E, selenium, zinc and phosphorus. Blending freshly picked strawberries into your Daiquiri won’t just produce a delectable Strawberry Daiquiri, the red-hued fruit can help boost your immune system. Banana Daiquiris are just as easy to make and will give you a potassium boost. You can also use freshly made pomegranate juice in your Jack Rose or Tequila Sunrise in lieu of super saccharine grenadine for a kick of flavor and one of the biggest bumps of antioxidants in the known fruit juice world.

Use Natural Sugar Alternatives

This fix applies to almost every classic cocktail in the cocktail kingdom. If a drink recipe calls for simple syrup—which is made with equal parts white sugar and water—you can simply swap that measure for a raw honey syrup or agave nectar syrup. Honey not only boosts your immunity, it’s a natural energy source (which is why it is included in a variety of pre- and post-workout snacks and drinks) and an antioxidant powerhouse. Agave nectar has significantly lower glycemic properties than other sugar alternatives like Splenda, Sweet’N Low or Equal. Also, the less sugar that you consume in cocktails the less likely that your body will turn excess sugar into fat—which in turn, can lead to numerous other health problems.