13 Low-Alcohol Cocktails that Deliver a Healthy Buzz
Take It Down a Notch
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 cocktails like these come in! Also called session, shim, or suppressor cocktails, these low-alcohol drinks 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!) "You can enjoy these low-alcohol blends with friends and still feel good enough to go to the gym the next morning," says Dan Oskey, a co-founder of Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis, which makes all-natural craft spirits and liqueurs.
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. Cheers to that!
Strawberry Thyme Lillet Spritzer
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.
At Botanica in Los Angeles, co-owner Heather Sperling and her team create delicious cleansing cocktails with fresh fruits and vegetables. This low-alcohol drink—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.
This fruit-infused, low-alcohol 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.
Tall Coconut Cocktail
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. (Related: Surprising Things You Didn't Know About Coconut Water.)
Dill & Snap Pea Shim
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 low-alcohol drink.
This low-alcohol drink is named First Wind after the port wine used inside—siroco is also a type of hot and humid southern wind. (Related: Your Guide to Drinking Alcohol On the Keto Diet)
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.
Red Wine Berry Spritzer
Peach and Basil Aperitif
This Peach and Basil Aperitif will be the hit of any party and is perfect when 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 in one low-alcohol drink, you'll want to sip all night long.
The Ribadeo is the low-alcohol drink that's sure to transport you back to the Gatsby era. When the juniper berries, vermouth, and white port all come together, your tastebuds will be singing. Oh, and don't forget the decorative rosemary sprig. (Related: The Foolproof Formula for Creating Your Own Cocktails)
Think of the Low-Fashioned like the fruity, less overwhelming cousin of the Old Fashioned. And thanks to the apple brandy, the low-alcohol drink tastes like autumn in a cup. Cider donuts, anyone?