Top: Fruit purée and flavored spirits cut the need for sugar in cocktails. Photo courtesy Pom Wonderful. Bottom: Agave nectar is a superior alternative to simple sugar. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky | THE NIBBLE.
Right after the new year, we were listening to the four principals on a top morning news show discuss what they would give up for a better new year. Not one could give up drinking!
Yet, everyone wanted to eat more healthfully.
An obvious choice is to avoid sweet, sugared cocktails in favor of savory ones: Bloody Mary, Martini, Scotch and Soda and the like. But some people insist on a sweet cocktail.
Mixologist Sam Fuerstman at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. has crafted a few lower-calorie cocktails, including a “no-guilt Gimlet” and a “cheat-free Margarita.”
The recipes are below. Here are general tips for cutting cocktail calories:
Rethink simple syrup, the main cocktail sweetener, which is half sugar, half water (or worse, HFCS in a prepared mix product). Instead, use much-lower-calorie, low-glycemic agave nectar*. If you want a zero-calorie simple syrup, dissolve one part stevia or Splenda in four parts boiling water. It won’t be thick, but it will deliver sweetness.
Use flavor-infused spirits. They contribute flavor without extra calories, and are available in any flavor you could desire.
Avoid cocktails with high-calorie juices (e.g. alas, no Piña Colada).
Use fruit purée or freshly squeezed juice instead of store-bought juice, which may have added sugars. Take a look at Trop 50: nine different juices, including orange juice, with half the sugar and calories.
Use diet mixers instead of sugar-laden ones. Even if you don’t normally buy diet drinks, you can use diet tonic water, ginger ale, cola, cranberry juice, etc. in your drink.
Sip flavored spirits straight. They taste like a mixed drink; but remember that they’re 80 proof. To us, SKYY’s Pineapple Vodka is a low-calorie alternative to a Piña Colada. Make straight spirits more cocktail-like with crushed ice and a fruit garnish.
*Agave nectar, also called agave syrup, has a natural sweetness that’s more elegant than table sugar. It’s never cloying or “sugary.” Its glycemic index is 32, half that of sugar (GI 60-65) and more than 40% less than honey (GI 58) and pure maple syrup (GI 54); it’s diabetes-friendly. A teaspoon of agave has 20 calories; sugar has 16 calories and honey has 22 calories. But since agave is 1.4 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, you don’t need to use as much (we use half as much).
RECIPE: NO-GUILT RASPBERRY VODKA GIMLET
This no-guilt gimlet has a double raspberry twist: raspberry purée plus raspberry-flavored vodka.
Ingredients Per Drink
1 tablespoon homemade raspberry purée
1 ounce fresh lime juice
2 ounces raspberry vodka
Garnish: cucumber wheel, fresh raspberries, lime wedge or lime wheel, lemon curl
1. PURÉE the raspberries in a food processor or blender. Taste; if you need more sweetness, add a bit of Splenda or agave.
2. COMBINE with the other ingredients. You can serve the drink on the rocks, or shake it with ice and strain into a stemmed cocktail glass.