Most of our favorite cocktail recipes are loaded with sugar! Without sugar, many alcoholic beverages taste bitter and unpleasant, which is why simple syrup is found in many home cocktail bars. Luckily, there are a few simple tricks to make cocktails that taste great without being too sweet!
What are the best low-sugar cocktails? The lowest-sugar cocktails include martinis, margaritas, and mojitos. Reduce sugar by substituting basic ingredients (e.g. replacing simple syrup with stevia sweeteners). Ensure that fruit juices are freshly squeezed and sugar-free. Avoid premixed cocktail flavorings. Trying to find some tasty low-sugar cocktails? Keep reading, because we’ve got some great ideas!
Why Do Cocktails Contain So Much Sugar?
In any cocktail bar, you’ll find colorful alcoholic spirits and mixers used to create an array of tasty drinks. To create a flavorful blend, sugars and alcohol are perfectly balanced to satisfy your taste buds. But did you know that many cocktails are incredibly high in sugar?
Adding sugar to drinks balances out the astringency of strong spirits and counteracts bitter or acidic flavors. The classic fruity Pimm’s cocktail, a summer favorite, can contain over four-fifths of your recommended daily sugar intake in just one serving! But where does all the sugar in cocktails come from?
Most cocktails are made with spirits, such as vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and whiskey, which do not contain any added sugars. An ounce of vodka contains about 85 calories, depending on the strength of the vodka. Vodka contains no sugar or carbohydrates.
In cocktails, sugar is typically derived from the mixers and flavorings used in their preparation.
Cocktails are commonly spiked with sugar by the following ingredients:
Almost pure sugar, simple syrup is used to balance the sweetness of cocktails.
There is a lot of sugar in mixers, including soda, tonic, lemonade, and cola.
There are two types of sugars in fruit juices: natural sugars from the fruit itself or added sugar from concentrated fruit juices.
Some cocktail recipes use other forms of sugar, such as honey or agave syrup.
But is all this sugar really such a bad thing?
A can of cola contains nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar, which is more than three-quarters of your recommended daily sugar intake. Alcohol should always be consumed responsibly and in moderation, no matter how low in calories your drink is.
“Skinny” cocktails are often referred to as low-sugar cocktail options in bars.
How To Reduce Sugar In Cocktails
By making a few simple yet clever swaps and substitutions, we can create cocktails without the high sugar content. Even without sugar, it’s all about choosing the right combination of ingredients for the cocktail. Freshly squeezed fruit juices have no added sugar, and still contain natural sugars, but these are a much healthier alternative. Fruit juices from concentrate are usually loaded with added sugar, so stay away from them.
It is also possible to reduce the sugar content of your cocktails by switching mixers. Some mixers have no sugar, such as sparkling water and seltzer water. The diet versions of mixers are usually sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, which many people prefer to avoid. Nevertheless, natural sweeteners such as stevia can be a great alternative.
It is impossible to avoid sugary ingredients, like simple syrup. However, you can reduce the amount you use and your taste buds will become used to the new low-sugar version. The full-sugar option will likely become too sweet and sickly after a while! Alternatively, you can add intense sweetness to your drinks without adding more sugar by using stevia, a natural sweetener.
The Best Low Sugar Cocktails
Getting ready to mix up your favorite cocktail recipes? Here are some classic favorites and some interesting blends that are all low in sugar!
1. Dirty Martini
With no added sugars, the “Dirty Martini” cocktail contains just 1.3% of your recommended sugar intake. You could drink over 20 dirty martinis and still stay within your daily sugar allowance if you wanted (but don’t!). A dirty martini is made by blending gin and vermouth, normally five parts gin to one part vermouth. A vodka martini has vodka instead of gin.
A splash of olive juice or olive brine gives this cocktail its “dirty” taste, giving it a delicious salty, olive flavor that blends well with strong spirits. It is typically garnished with one or two olives on a cocktail stick for even more flavor. This is a strong cocktail, so be sure to drink it in moderation.
If you’ve ever tried a margarita, you know that it’s teeth-curlingly tart and sour, but it’s so delicious that you keep coming back for more! Traditionally, margaritas are made with tequila, triple sec, and lime juice. Traditionally, the rim of the glass is rubbed with lime wedges and then salted, making it look very similar to the glasses used to serve shrimp cocktails! Every sip of a margarita tastes like a little bit of tequila slammer! It gives you the perfect blend of tequila, lime juice, and salt that mixes together in your mouth.
Triple sec is an orange-flavored liqueur that contains a high amount of sugar, but it is possible to make sugar-free triple sec at home. You can also reduce the sugar content of your margarita by halving the amount of triple sec. If you want a zingy and fresh tasting margarita, squeezing your own lime juice is a better option than buying premade margarita mixes that are often laden with added sugars.
Mojitos are Cuban punch cocktails made with white rum, lime juice, mint, soda water, and sugar cane juice rather than processed sugar. Citrus and mint combine in this unusual combination that is intense and refreshing on a hot summer’s day. A mojito tastes great even if it doesn’t have a lot of sugar, so you can reduce the amount of added sugar syrup or omit it altogether.
A sugar-free or diet soda water can also be substituted, or you can use sparking water instead. If you find the cocktail a bit too sweet, try liquid stevia instead. Premixed mojito cocktails normally contain added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
4. Bloody Mary
For the classic Bloody Mary cocktail, no added sugars should be added other than those that occur naturally in tomato juice. Make sure to use fresh tomato juice for this cocktail, which should not contain added sugars or sweeteners. Avoid premade Bloody Mary mixes as they are often loaded with added sugar, as with all the cocktails on our list. Bloody Marys made with fresh ingredients don’t need extra sugar, since they should be punchy, sharp, and full of flavor.
The traditional Bloody Mary cocktail includes vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, and celery salt. A dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco, and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce are also included. In addition to freshly ground black pepper, a small amount of horseradish sauce can be added to your Bloody Mary, which is served in a tall glass over ice and garnished with celery sticks.
Cocktails like the Cosmopolitan can be as sugar-laden as you want them to be! Cranberry juice and triple sec are the main sugar culprits in a Cosmopolitan. If you wish to keep the sugar content of a Cosmopolitan as low as possible, switch to unsweetened or diet cranberry juice. You can then add a dash of natural sweetener to compensate. You can replace triple sec with orange extract to achieve a similar taste without the sugar content by adding a dash of orange extract to the cocktail.
6. Strawberry Daiquiri
This summery version of the classic daiquiri might not seem like an obvious choice for a low-sugar list! The natural sweetness of strawberries reduces the amount of sugar needed to make this rum-based cocktail so delicious. Blend whole ripe strawberries into a pulp, then mix with rum and lime juice to create a smooth, fruity cocktail. Sugar can be substituted with stevia-based simple syrup if it is not sweet enough.
7. Sex On The Beach
A long cocktail served in a tall glass (preferably on the beach!) is one of the originals and best long drinks. It tastes like a refreshing splash of summer and has very little added sugar. There is an original version of Sex On The Beach that contains cranberry juice, so opt for the freshly squeezed version without added sugar. For a low-sugar version of Sex On The Beach, substitute freshly squeezed peach juice or peach essence for the peach syrup.
8. Whiskey Sour
There’s no sugar in this cocktail, as you can tell by the name! But what exactly is a whiskey sour, and how do you make one? There are many regional variations of the whiskey sour, but the main ingredients are always bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar.
The first two ingredients are virtually sugar-free – it is the choice of sweetener that impacts the overall sugar content. By substituting sugar-free simple syrup for simple syrup, you can ensure that your whiskey sour is a delicious low-carb drink.
9. Tequila Sunrise
This tall, fruity cocktail tastes like a ray of sunshine! An early summer sunrise is reflected in the layers of orange and red color of this drink that is served in a tall glass. The drink is made from tequila, orange juice, and grenadine syrup.
With a low-sugar Tequila Sunrise, use freshly squeezed orange juice instead of sugar-laden grenadine syrup. Next, add pomegranate essence instead of the sugar-laden syrup. This simple swap will drastically reduce the sugar content of this famous cocktail, as pomegranate is the base flavoring!
When you’re fed up with super-sickly premixed versions of this classic Iberian cocktail, why not make your own low-sugar version? Apples, peaches, nectarines, and pears are mixed with red wine to create sangria, which is naturally sweet and aromatic. Sparkling water, orange juice, and brandy are also common ingredients in sangria.
11. White Wine Spritzer
In recent years, white wine spritzers have become overly sweet. A good white wine spritzer should be crisp and refreshing, not sweet and heavy. Pay careful attention to the mixer you are using when making a white wine spritzer sugar-free. It’s a good example of how sparkling water can be used without overloading it with sugar. By adding vanilla essence to the cocktail, the sharp flavor of the wine can be mellowed out.