Don't let a happy hour wreck your healthy diet. These drinks taste just as good as their stronger counterparts.
Take It Down a Notch
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There are serious perks to swapping your regular drink for one with lower alcohol-by-volume (ABV). Alcohol can derail your fitness goals: Drinking too much can lead to muscle cramps, poor sleep, and extra calories—both from the alcohol and those drunk munchies, according to Sara Haas, R.D.N. and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
But that doesn't mean you have to skip happy hour—that's where drinks like these come in! Also called session, shim, or suppressor cocktails, these low-alcohol sips often include ingredients like port, sherry, vermouth, and liqueurs that are traditionally lower in alcohol than spirits, says Andy Seymour of Liquid Productions. (You could also give these beertails a try too!)
A strong stirred drink can have a total ABV of 22 to 25 percent by the time you add in other ingredients, says Seymour. Other drinks with strong spirits will come in anywhere from 16 to 18, and low-ABV cocktails have even less (for example, the First Wind cocktail below has about seven percent ABV).
"While there isn't a specific demarcation point, the idea is to keep the alcohol low so you can enjoy the cocktail over a longer period or try multiple drinks," says Seymour—meaning, you can drink a little more without the hangover or the health concern. We'll cheers to that!
Strawberry Thyme Lillet Spritzer
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These Strawberry Thyme Lillet Spritzers look almost too pretty to drink—ha. All they have inside each glass is a little white wine, some bubbly, and a bit of fresh fruit and herbs, so you can sip until your heart's content without worrying about your diet.
Photo: What's Gaby Cooking
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At Botanica in Los Angeles, co-owner Heather Sperling and her team create delicious cleansing cocktails with fresh fruits and vegetables. This one—The Arugula—is like the cooler cousin of your typical morning green juice. Lemon juice and homemade Demerara syrup (a type of sugar) pair deliciously with your spirit pick—vodka or gin.
Photo: Danny Kim
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This fruit-infused drink (also courtesy of Botanica) is a mix of berries, grapefruit, and orange juice. Pick your produce: strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries will all work in The Shandy.
Photo: Danny Kim
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In a nutshell, the Botanica Spritz is what the Caribbean tastes like. For a lighter (and almost nonalcoholic) option, you can replace the wine with sparkling water.
Photo: Danny Kim
Tall Coconut Cocktail
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This Tall Coconut Cocktail has just two tablespoons of vodka (that's less than one shot of liquor) plus agave, blueberries, and coconut water for a tropical yet good-for-you treat. (Check out these Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Coconut Water.)
Photo: Supper In the Suburbs
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Dill & Snap Pea Shim
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If you only drink sake with sushi, you're seriously missing out. This Dill and Snap Pea Shim uses sake and St. Germain (a French elderflower liqueur that tastes like honey) to craft a refreshingly sweet and just-alcoholic-enough cocktail.
Photo: Holly and Flora
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This cocktail is named First Wind after the port wine used inside—siroco is also a type of hot and humid southern wind.
2 oz Fonseca Siroco
3/4 oz fresh cucumber juice
1/4 oz agave nectar
1 1/2 oz tonic water
1. Muddle cilantro leaves with agave nectar. Add cucumber juice and Fronseca Siroco and shake.
2. Strain in a Collins glass over ice. Top with tonic and garnish with a fresh stalk of cucumber.
Recipe courtesy of Andy Seymour of Liquid Productions.
Photo: Max Flatow Photography
Red Wine Berry Spritzer
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If you're looking for the ultimate healthy low-cal cocktail, this is it. This Red Wine Berry Spritzer is made of just red wine, carbonated water, some raspberries, and mint leaves. (Did you know that 2 Glasses of Wine Before Bed Could Help You Lose Weight? Drink up!)
Photo: Jennifer Meyering
Peach and Basil Aperitif
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This Peach and Basil Aperitif will be the hit of any party, and is perfect sipped before a meal. It's made with Cocchi Americano (an Italian aperitif wine infused with herbs and spices), vermouth, pineapple gum syrup, and umeboshi vinegar (also known as ume plum vinegar). With this many flavors, but not too much alcohol, you'll want to sip these all night.
Photo: Craft and Cocktails