If you're watching your weight, a couple of cocktails can use up more than their share of your calorie allowance for the day. Here's how to de-calorize your favorite alcoholic drink.

There are two ways to cut back on the overall amount of cocktails you consume in an evening. The first is to change your drinking behavior; the other is to change what you drink. Both can help reduce the amount of excess calories you consume from drinking too much.

  • Alternate cocktails with a glass of water or seltzer. Float a slice of orange, lemon, or lime in the glass. This will not only help you drink less alcohol and consume fewer calories, but also help you stay hydrated.

  • Pack your glass with calorie-free ice cubes, then pour your drink. If you're out having a drink, order it on the rocks with extra ice.

  • Make it last by pacing yourself with each drink. Ditch the straw and take small sips.

  • Stick to the recommended limits of one or two drinks for women and two or three drinks for men. When you overdrink, you're not only drinking up all those excess calories, you're also more inclined to eat a heavier breakfast the next day to help cope with a hangover.

Many popular drinks are mixed with juices, syrups, sodas, and sweeteners that help pile on extra calories, but alcohol itself sometimes contributes as much or more calories to a cocktail than the mixer. A standard-size jigger holds 1.5 ounces, which is almost 100 calories of 80-proof vodka, gin, rum, or whiskey. Higher-proof alcohol is even more caloric. So, especially if you're planning to have more than one drink, first consider cutting back a bit on the booze. Then, when it comes to some of the more popular cocktails, try these switch-offs to lower the calorie counts even more:

  • Switch from gin or vodka-and-tonic to gin or vodka-and-soda, and add a squeeze of lime. One cup (8 ounces) of tonic water contains about 80 calories; club soda and seltzer contain none.

  • While you don't want to ruin the flavor of Sex on the Beach, you can knock off at least 100 calories by alternating with Safe Sex on the Beach, made with orange or pineapple juice mixed with cranberry juice but without the alcohol.

  • Cut calories and fat from creamy drinks like White Russians by using low-fat milk instead of cream or half-and-half.

  • Instead of a full glass of wine, enjoy a wine spritzer made with half wine and half seltzer or club soda.

  • Make a Long Island Iced Tea with actual tea, instead of the more popular coke or, in some recipes, maple syrup. Use unsweetened, lemon-flavored tea, decaf if you like, and serve in a tall, ice-packed glass. Since this drink is traditionally made with ½- to 1-ounce each of five different types of alcohol, halving those amounts and increasing the proportion of tea will go a long way toward cutting calories and bringing the alcohol content down to near-normal cocktail levels.

Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, reviewed this article.




USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Alcoholic Beverage, distilled Web. Last modified 7 Dec 2011; accessed 5 Aug 2013.