In case you need reminding, yeah, it’s the holiday season. And for many of us, that means a dangerous hopscotch from one holiday party to the next, where cheese plates are aplenty and low-cal options are few. One way to combat the annual seasonal gut-bust? Keep your drink choices on the lower calorie side.
Seems like a weird place to cut calories, especially if you’re at a mandatory office party or your in-laws, where alcohol might be your best defense against “when are you giving me grandchildren” lines of questioning. But you can actually still have a decent, slightly slimmer holiday season by managing your liquid choices. (Whether you finish that last slice of cheesecake is entirely up to you. And do it.)
A couple of general rules: it’ll be hard to find a creamy drink like Egg Nog or a Tom & Jerry that doesn’t register at 300 or more calories, and you’re welcome to search for a lower calorie version, but your best bet is saving these for a special occasion or for the end of the night (i.e. this shouldn’t be your go-to tipple if calorie counting is your goal). Also, don’t fall into the lower-calorie-consume-more trap, and not just because you’ll regain any saved calories by doubling up on drinks. Many of these drinks are made with 80 proof spirits, so the alcohol will still hit hard.
You’ll notice one major trend: no pre-mixed ingredients like Sour Mix or Apple Pucker, etc. Your best bets for lowest calorie drinking are fresh citrus juices, a bit of simple syrup or grenadine (where sugar is needed), and avoiding any and all juice-plus-juice-plus-multiple-spirits drinks (since those will mess you up anyway, and you already broke the fax machine at last year’s party).
With that in mind, here’s a list to get you started on (safe), savvy seasonal drinking. Cheers!
Classic Daiquiri: Just rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Unless your bartender is heavy-handed, you should pretty safely be under the 150 calorie mark.
Rum & Diet Coke: If you’re a Rum & Coke kinda person, go diet and save yourself a hefty handful of calories. The rum should taste sweet enough to keep your taste buds satisfied.
Gin Gimlet: Juniper tastes a bit like Christmas trees–not that we’ve tried–and lime brightens it all up like a strand of lights. A bit of sweetener and it barely registers 160 calories.
Mojito: This might seem like a warm weather drink, but those office parties get hot. And the mint is super seasonally appropriate, right? With only rum, mint, lime, and soda water, you won’t go over 150 calories.
Gin & Tonic: Another chance to sip juniper/pine. There’s actually sugar in tonic (hard to tell with all that quinine) but even if you go for regular (not diet) tonic, you’ll still only rack up 175 or so calories.
Negroni: Another gin drink, but the Campari really shines here with a nice rounded pink grapefruit bite, softened by sweet vermouth, and hitting just around 200 calories. Tons of flavor bang for your calorie buck.
Old Fashioned: Want something a bit darker? Go for an Old Fashioned. With just bourbon (or rye) whiskey, Angostura bitters, a sugar cube and a splash of water, you’ll have a classy fix at about 150 calories.
Manhattan: Another darker spirit classic, with just a few ingredients—rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters—calories only tick up to 180 or 190 (that Maraschino cherry garnish may tip the scale, but it’s also delicious).
Jack Rose: A 1920s favorite, featuring America’s oldest spirit, it’s Applejack, citrus, and a bit of grenadine, around 180 calories of seasonal apple flavor.
Tequila & Soda: An easy, ultra low calorie drink—since the only source of calories is the spirit. If it’s a really nice reserva or an anejo, of course, we recommend sipping it straight up.
Paloma: It’s citrus season, so getting your hands on some fresh grapefruit shouldn’t be too hard. Add tequila and lime juice and you’ll be tippling pretty (and pink) at around 180 calories.
Cosmopolitan: A bit higher on the calorie register, at 200 or thereabouts, but it looks seasonally appropriate and—despite any Sex and the City stereotypes—is a decent, tasty drink.
Caipirinha: If your host or hostess happens to have a bottle of Cachaca—and the requisite 6 pounds of fresh limes any cocktail party ends up requiring—you should be able to enjoy the slightly sweetened (preferably demerara), bright Brazilian cocktail and still be beach-ready at 160 calories.
French 75: Lemon juice, gin, champagne, all for about 140 fabulous calories.
Champagne: Not a cocktail, but when in doubt, a 4-ounce serving of Champagne or sparkling wine is 90 calories, festive, and typically available at most holiday parties.