Alcoholic drinks can be a sneaky source of calories, sugar, and even salt—but not when you play bartender. Try to get a few healthier alternatives under that (suddenly much looser) belt to impress friends and family and order with confidence when out at the bar. Here are the eight key guidelines that make our drinks healthier options:
- Use only fresh-squeezed or 100 percent fruit juice to reduce added sugars. Fruit juice can still be a dangerfood, though, so sometimes it's best to dilute it with water or ice to cut back on calories.
- Choose seltzer water over other carbonated waters to eliminate added sodium and other additives. For recipes that call for soda, skimp on portions, or opt for diet or natural (read: less added sugar) versions—though those can have their pitfalls, too.
- Make simple syrup with honey which, though sugary, has some added benefits, like a healthy dose of antioxidants. It also gives you better control of the sugar content. Any recipe that calls for simple syrup will use the following recipe: ½ tablespoon honey mixed with ¾ tablespoon warm water.
- Use whole fruit instead of sugar or flavored syrups. The fruit itself adds fiber, natural sugars, and vitamins.
- Choose light alcohol over dark alcohol. The dark stuff contains more compounds known as congeners, which can worsen hangovers.
- Limit yourself to one shot per drink. Multi-alcohol cocktails can pack in serious calories, so we kept ours to one shot (or 1 ½ ounces) each. The shooters and shots we included actually contain less than one shot each to further lessen the caloric load.
- Size matters—especially when it comes to consuming liquid calories. That's why we kept all our drinks right around the 8-ounce mark.
- Choose nutritious ingredients. Ginger, coffee, and lemon star in several of our drinks. They've each got their own proven health benefits, even though they may not totally counteract the negative affects of alcohol. (Note: Too much alcohol and caffeine can both dehydrate—making hangovers even worse—so try to keep it at no more than one cup of Joe for the night.)
*We've tried to simplify the recipes to make them easier to understand. So we simplified all the liquid measurements to shots or cups—none of this "ounces" nonsense!
1. Bloody Mary
Scrap the mix and make a Bloody Mary from scratch! Start with ¾ cup of no sugar-added, low-sodium tomato juice and add the juice of ½ lemon, a dash each of hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce, fresh ground pepper to taste, and 1 shot of vodka. Garnish with a lemon wedge and celery stick. Bonus points for adding a cocktail shrimp for some extra protein!
2. Classic Mojito
In the bottom of a glass, muddle 12 fresh mint leaves, the juice of ½ lime, and 1 tablespoon simple syrup. Add a few ice cubes and pour in 1 ½ ounces (one shot) of light rum and ¾ cup seltzer. Garnish with a lime wedge.
3. Fruit Mojito
Prep a classic mojito, but before pouring in the rum and soda, muddle in ¼ cup fresh or thawed frozen fruit like strawberry, blueberry, mango, or kiwi in the bottom of the glass. Top with ice, rum, and seltzer and garnish as desired!
4. Mint Julep
Muddle together 12 fresh mint leaves and 1 tablespoon of simple syrup. Pour in one shot of Kentucky bourbon and 2 shots seltzer water.
In a shaker with ice, mix together: 1 shot of cognac, ½ shot Cointreau (or other orange liqueur), and the juice of 1 lemon. Pour into glass with or without ice and garnish with lemon slice.
6. Cape Codder
Pour 1 shot of vodka and 2 shots cranberry juice (100 percent juice, no sugar added) over ice. Add 2 shots seltzer water, stir, and garnish with a lime wedge.
7. Sea Breeze
Pour 1 shot vodka, 1 shot cranberry juice (100 percent juice, no sugar added), and 1 shot fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice over ice. Add a splash of seltzer and enjoy! (Preferably in a beach chair by the water!)
8. Lime Rickey
Combine ½ a shot of fresh-squeezed lime juice, 1 tablespoon simple syrup, and ⅔ shot bitters. Top with 1 cup seltzer.
In an 8-ounce glass with ice, combine 1 shot of vodka and 2 shots fresh-squeezed orange juice. Fill remainder of glass with seltzer.
10. Tequila Sunrise
In a glass with ice, combine 1 shot of tequila and 2 shots fresh-squeezed orange juice. Top with a splash of cranberry juice (100 percent juice, no sugar added).
11. Pom Cosmo
In a shaker with ice, combine 1 shot pomegranate vodka, 1 shot orange liqueur, and the juice of 1 lime. Shake, strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a slice of lime.
12. Vodka Sunset
Muddle ¼ cup blackberries in the bottom of a glass. Top with ice and add 1 shot fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 1 shot fresh-squeezed lime juice, ½ shot simple syrup, 1 shot of vodka, and a splash of sparkling wine.
13. Light and Stormy
Into a short glass with ice, pour 1 shot of light rum and 2 shots ginger ale.
14. Legend of Jack Sparrow
In an 8-ounce glass with ice, combine 1 shot coconut rum and the juice of 1 lime. Fill the rest of the glass with ginger ale (about ¾ cup). Garnish with a slice of lime.
15. Berry Lemonade
In the bottom of an 8-ounce glass, muddle the juice of 1 lemon, ¼ cup frozen blueberries or strawberries, and ½ shot simple syrup. Pour in 1 shot of vodka and top with seltzer (about ¾ cup).
16. Minty Iced Tea
In a heatproof mug, combine 6 fresh mint leaves, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 black tea bag, and 1 cup boiling water. Cover and let sit for 2 minutes. Then, place mug in fridge or freezer until chilled. Remove tea bag and mint, and pour liquid into a glass with ice. Add 1 shot of vodka and garnish with a lemon wedge.
17. Fizzy Lemonade
In a shaker with ice, mix together 1 shot of tequila, ½ shot simple syrup, and the juice of 1 lemon. Transfer to an 8-ounce glass and fill rest of glass with seltzer (about ¾ cup).
18. On the Rocks
Drink it straight! Water down 1 shot of any favorite liquor by pouring over ice cubes for sipping!
19. Tom Collins
In a shaker with ice, combine 1 shot of gin and the juice of 1 small lemon. Strain into an 8-ounce glass and top with seltzer water (about ¾ cup).
20. Grapefruit Margarita
Combine 1 shot of tequila, the juice of 1 lime and ½ a grapefruit, and ¾ shot of orange liqueur. Pour over ice.
21. Light White Russian
Combine 2 shots brewed coffee (or espresso!) chilled and ¾ cup skim milk. Add 1 shot of vodka and a few ice cubes and stir.
22. Rosemary-Cucumber Lemonade
Stir together juice from 3 lemons and 1 teaspoon honey. Add 1 shot rosemary-infused vodka and ¾ cup seltzer. Garnish with a cucumber spear and lemon wedge.
23. Gin and Seltzer
Instead of a G&T, combine 1 shot of gin with 2 shots of seltzer water and garnish with a lime wedge (or a few!).
24. Gin Gimlet
In a glass with ice, combine 1 shot of gin, the juice of 2 small limes, and 1 shot simple syrup. Garnish with a lime wedge.
25. Vodka Soda
It almost goes without saying, but spice up 1 shot of vodka and 2 shots of seltzer with a lemon or lime wedge (or both). Works with any other liquor, too!
26. Drunken Arnold Palmer
Combine 1 black tea bag, ¾ cup hot water, the juice of 1 lemon, and 1 teaspoon honey. Chill. Add 1 shot vodka and garnish with a lemon wedge.
27. Pear Martini
Muddle half a very ripe peeled pear in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Add ice, ½ shots fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and 1 shot pear vodka. (Regular vodka works, too.) Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a slice of fresh pear.
28. Sex on the Beach
In a glass with ice, mix 1 shot peach-flavored vodka, 2 shots cranberry juice, and 1 ½ shots fresh-squeezed orange juice. Add a dash of seltzer and enjoy!
29. Cinnamon Sour
In a cocktail shaker, combine: 1 shot mango vodka, 1 shot simple syrup, and 1 shot fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Pour over ice and garnish with a mango slice and cinnamon stick.
30. Grapefruit and Vodka
For a zesty cocktail, combine the juice of ½ a grapefruit and 1 shot of vodka topped with ½ cup seltzer.
31. Sour Apple Spritzer
Pour 1 shot sour apple vodka and ½ cup seltzer over ice and garnish with a green apple slice and a cinnamon stick.
32. Tropical Rum Punch
Stir together ½ cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, ½ cup pineapple juice (100 percent juice only!), and 1 shot light rum. Pour over ice and put on some shades.
33. Gin and Juice
Pour over ice: ½ cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice, 1 shot of gin, and ½ cup seltzer.
34. Refreshing Gin Cup
Mix together 1 shot of gin, ½ cup ginger ale, and 2 shots seltzer water. Garnish with a cucumber spear and lemon slice.
35. Gingered Pear and Brandy Cocktail
Create a ginger-infused simple syrup by mixing together 1 shot warm simple syrup and ¾ tablespoon chopped and peeled fresh ginger. Let stand 15 minutes, then strain. Mix together ginger syrup, 1 shot of cognac, and ½ cup pear juice or nectar and pour over ice.
Shots and Shooters
36. Redheaded Slut Lite
In a shaker with ice, combine ⅓ shot schnapps, ⅓ shot Jagermeister, ⅔ shot cranberry juice, and ⅔ shot water.
In a shaker with ice, combine ⅓ shot. vodka, ⅓ shot fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon honey.
38. Fuzzy Navel
In a shaker with ice, combine ⅓ shot peach Schnapps, ⅔ shot fresh-squeezed orange juice, ⅔ shot fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and ⅔ shot water.
39. Scooby Snacks
In a shaker with ice, combine ⅓ shot coconut rum, ⅓ shot banana rum, ⅓ shot pineapple juice, and 1 tablespoon light whipped cream. Strain into a short glass.
40. Peppermint Patty
Muddle 6 fresh mint leaves with ⅔ shot vodka. Add a splash of water and 1 teaspoon light chocolate syrup. Mix in a shaker with ice. Strain before serving.
41. Pina Colada
Blend together ½ cup ice, ½ cup coconut milk, ¼ cup fresh pineapple chunks, and 1 shot white rum.
42. Frozen Lemonade
Combine 1 shot simple syrup, 1 shot of vodka, juice from 1 lemon, and ¾ cup of ice. Blend until smooth
43. Frozen Mudslide
Mix together 1 packet diet hot cocoa mix with 1 shot warm simple syrup and ¼ cup hot water. Blend the cocoa mixture, ¼ cup vanilla soy milk, 1 shot vanilla-infused vodka, 1 teaspoon chocolate syrup, and ½ cup ice.
44. Melon-Mint Granita
Puree 1 cup watermelon and 5 fresh mint leaves until liquefied. Freeze in an ice cube tray. Once solidified, blend with 1 shot white rum until it reaches the consistency of a slushie.
45. Strawberry-Lime Daiquiri
Combine 1 shot simple syrup, 1 shot white rum, 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice, a small handful of frozen strawberries, and ½ cup of ice. Blend.
Blend 1 shot simple syrup, the juice from ½ lemon and 1 lime, 1 shot of tequila, and ½ cup of ice. Garnish with a slice of lime, but skip the salt.
47. Blueberry-Lime Margarita
Mix together the standard margarita but substitute ¼ cup ice for ¼ cup frozen blueberries.
48. Melon Kiwi-tini
Puree ¼ a honeydew melon and 1 kiwi (peeled), the juice from 1 lime, simple syrup (mix 1 shot honey with 2 tablespoons warm water), and ½ cup sake. Blend with ½ cup ice.
Into a Champagne flute, pour 2 shots fresh-squeezed orange juice, 2 shots sparkling wine, and ¼ cup seltzer.
50. White Sangria
In a wine glass, combine two strawberries (halved), ½ a fresh peach (diced), ½ a pear (diced), 2 shots white wine, and ¼ cup seltzer.
51. Red Sangria
Toss ½ an apple (sliced), ½ an orange (sliced), and 4 grapes into a glass. Add ½ cup fruity red wine and ¼ cup seltzer.
52. Pomegranate Fizz
Into a champagne flute, pour: ½ cup pomegranate juice, the juice from 1 lime, and 2 shots sparkling wine. Garnish with a lime wedge.
53. Pear Sparkler
Puree ½ a pear until liquefied and add to a champagne flute. Pour in 2 shots sparkling wine and add three slices of pear.
54. Sparkling Apricot Punch
In a glass, combine ½ cup diced apricots and ½ cup apricot juice (100 percent juice, please!). Add ½ cup sparkling wine and ¼ cup seltzer and stir to combine.
55. Mint Hot Chocolate
Heat 1 cup skim milk and stir in 1 packet light hot cocoa mix. Add 1 shot tequila and ⅓ shot peppermint schnapps. Top with foamed milk, and enjoy!
56. Irish Coffee
In a mug, combine 1 shot of whiskey, 1 teaspoon raw sugar, and ¾ cup hot coffee. Pour 1 tablespoon skim milk on top and don't stir!
57. Mojito Tea
In a mug, combine 5 fresh mint leaves, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 black tea bag, and 1 cup boiling water. Cover and let stand 2 minutes. Remove tea bag and add 1shot of light rum and juice from ½ a lime. Remove mint leaves and enjoy!
58. Bitter Tea
Brew a cup of fruity black tea and stir in ½ shot bitters and 1 ½ shots pomegranate juice.
59. Mulled Wine
Over low heat, simmer ¾ cup fruity red wine, a pinch of orange zest, 2 whole cloves, 1 black peppercorn, 1 cinnamon stick, and a pinch of sugar. Heat for about 10 minutes, then strain and enjoy!
60. Hot Toddy
In a mug, combine 1 shot bourbon, 1 tablespoon honey, and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Pour in ¼ cup boiling water and stir to dissolve honey.