Fruit-forward and light cocktails often rule the summer months as temperatures soar. During blistering months, a cool Margarita might seem the best way to quench your thirst.
It’s no wonder that some cocktails seem more apt for August than others — cool cucumber and soothing mint make it seem like you’re relaxing in a refreshing oasis. But do they really help your body beat the heat?
VinePair reached out to Dr. Michael Richardson, a family medical doctor in the Boston area, to get to the bottom of this question. In general, he advises against imbibing in the hot summer months. But if you choose to drink, the situation and drink’s components are key to preventing dehydration.
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The alcohol content of the drink has the biggest impact on the body’s dehydration levels, he says. So saying no to a double shot in that Blackberry Mojito is more helpful than the drink’s sweet berries and cooling mint. A greater volume of non-alcoholic mixers helps limit intake, too.
The perfect equation? A low-alcohol drink you can sip for longer. While a shot and 12-ounce pour of beer might both be considered a standard measure of drinks, they have vastly different ABVs and are consumed in different ways. A tequila shot might be gone in several seconds, while a beer could be sipped over an hour’s chat. Richardson advises choosing the brew as it encourages less concentrated alcohol consumption.
The best, most hydrating ingredient in a second round of Mojitos? More ice, Richardson says. “Anything you can do to decrease the alcohol content can help — whether it’s putting in more ice or a mixer,” he says. “It’s good to have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink you have. Maybe when it’s hotter, up that to two glasses of water.”
Recent research suggests that drinks that seem especially hydrating, like sparkling water seltzers, could dry you out even more. A 2007 study of 21 participants found that carbonated mixers in cocktails actually allowed participants’ bodies to absorb the alcohol faster, possibly accelerating dehydration.
Patio or outdoor dining can also create a dangerous situation in a heat wave, Richardson says. A couple of drinks in direct heat can lead to sleepiness at the patio table. And falling asleep in that situation increases the risk of heat exhaustion or stroke.
Bottom line, Richardson says: Unfortunately there’s no magic ingredient to cancel out the dehydrating effects of alcohol.
“Since alcohol is a diuretic, the way that it’s going to impact your body is preventing it from holding onto the fluid,” he says. “There’s nothing you’re going to add to your drink to make it less dehydrating. It’s just about drinking less alcohol.”