14 Slimmed-Down Sips

Ten delicious cocktails that clock in at a diet-friendly 216 calories or fewer, plus tips on making four of your favorite drinks healthier.

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Spicy Grapefruit Margarita

Instead of sugar, The Red Cat’s Conway relies on spicy pepper to mask the bitter taste of tequila, so a little of this drink goes a long way. It also contains 46 fewer calories than a typical frozen margarita.


Calories: 122


½ pepper (a habanero if you dare, but a jalapeño or Thai chile would work, too), cut into quarter-inch slices

2 cups tequila

½ ounce low-calorie triple sec

2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice

Lime wedge, for garnish


Drop the pepper slices into the tequila; leave overnight. Strain, and pour 1½ ounces of the mixture over ice. Stir in the triple sec and juice.

Eric Hood

Prosecco Sparkler

Diluting the sparkling Italian wine Prosecco with calorie-free soda water takes nothing away from this cocktail, thanks to the herbaceous and citrusy notes in the sugar syrup. This drink, created by New York City nutritionist Marissa Lippert, RD, author of The Cheater’s Diet, comes in at 33 fewer calories than a six-ounce glass of Prosecco.


Calories: 87


1 cup sugar
½ cup mint leaves, loosely packed
¾ teaspoon dried lavender
3 strips lemon peel, removed with a vegetable peeler
4 ounces Prosecco, chilled
Club soda, chilled
Lemon twist and mint sprig, for garnish


Make simple syrup: In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water, the sugar, mint, lavender and lemon peel to a simmer until all the sugar is dissolved. Allow the syrup to cool, then strain through a sieve, discarding the solids. You can refrigerate the syrup for up to two weeks and use in other drinks or desserts. For this drink: Place Prosecco in a wineglass. Add 1½ teaspoons simple syrup. Top off with club soda.

Levi Brown

Desert Highway

This drink, by Anderson of Frasca Food and Wine, stars hibiscus tea, which has been linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.


Calories: 216


2 ounces cold hibiscus tea (see below)

5 raspberries, plus more for garnish

¼ teaspoon black peppercorns

1½ ounces freshly squeezed lime juice

1½ ounces platatequila (silver tequila)

1 ounce light agave syrup


To make the tea: Add either 1 heaping tablespoon dried hibiscus tea leaves or 2 hibiscus tea bags to 16 ounces cold water; steep for 20 minutes. To make the drink: In a cocktail shaker, muddle the raspberries and peppercorns. Add the tea, lime juice, tequila and agave syrup. Shake and strain. Pour over ice in a highball glass.

Levi Brown

Kachumber Kooler

For this cocktail, Floyd Cardoz of North End Grill in New York City uses cucumbers, reputed to reduce water retention, a useful counter to the puffy faces some of us get after drinking.


Calories: 148


3 ¼-inch slices English cucumber

3 ¼-inch slices slender green chile (for added heat and spice, don’t remove the seeds)

4 sprigs fresh cilantro

1¾ ounces Plymouth Gin

½ ounce fresh lime juice

½ ounce simple syrup (dissolve
1 cup sugar in 1 cup water)

Slice of cucumber, mild green pepper cut lengthwise and  cilantro sprig, for garnish


In a cocktail shaker, combine the cucumber, chile and cilantro; muddle well. Add ice, the gin, lime juice and syrup, then shake vigorously until shaker is frosted on the outside. Strain mixture into an ice-filled rocks glass.

Levi Brown

Weekend With Sophie

Grapefruit has long been thought to help burn excess fat in the body; although that’s probably a myth, the fruit does have tons of flavonoids (an antioxidant), as does this drink, from Allison Anderson, bar manager of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado.


Calories: 149


1½ ounces grapefruit juice

1 ounce Cocchi Americano (an aperitif)

½ ounce honey syrup (made with ½ teaspoon each honey and water)

1½  ounces botanical-style gin (for instance, Hendrick’s)

Grapefruit twist or mint sprig, for garnish

Combine all ingredients except twist; shake, and serve in a chilled martini glass.


Photo courtesy of Otokimus / Shutterstock.com

Otokimus / Shutterstock.com

Spiked Lemon Tea

This drink was concocted by Trace Conway, bartender at New York City’s The Red Cat restaurant. With some no-cal ingredients and slimmed-down vodka, it contains 60 fewer calories than a five-ounce Long Island iced tea.


Calories: 107


2 sprigs fresh mint

1 packet Splenda

2 ounces Voli Lyte (reduced-calorie vodka)

2½ ounces brewed and chilled tea (we used Darjeeling, but you can use your favorite)

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Muddle the mint and Splenda, then add the vodka, tea and lemon juice. Pour over ice in a tumbler.

hugo chang

Bikini Martini

Two ounces of Voli Lyte vodka has 96 calories (versus 128 for standard vodka), slimming down this martini, by mixologist Katie Mulholland of David Burke Kitchen in New York City.


Calories: 173


10 blueberries

5 mint leaves

2 ounces Voli Lyte vodka

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 tablespoon agave syrup

Club soda


In a cocktail shaker, muddle the blueberries and mint. Add ice, the vodka, lime juice and agave syrup; shake well. Strain into a glass. Top off with club soda.


Photo courtesy of Wollertz / Shutterstock.com

Wollertz / Shutterstock.com

The Neil Diamond

One of this drink’s liqueurs is made from antioxidant-packed açaí, and the other from ginger, which has anti-inflammatory properties. The cocktail was created by Mary Edes, beverage director and general manager at Coppa in Boston.


Calories: 211


1 ounce Veev açaí liqueur

1 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

1 ounce grapefruit juice

1 teaspoon blueberry preserves

2 mint leaves

Mint sprig, for garnish


Combine all ingredients except the mint sprig in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously; serve on the rocks in a short glass.


Photo courtesy of KSM photography / Shutterstock.com

KSM photography / Shutterstock.com

What's Up, Doc?

Dietary sources seem to work better than supplements at fending off some effects of aging. The carrot juice in this drink, by Kevin Diedrich, bar manager at Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen in San Francisco, is a lively way to add to your anti-aging arsenal.


Calories: 132


1 ounce Royal Combier

2 ounces carrot juice

1 ounce ginger beer

½ ounce lemon juice

2 dashes angostura bitters

Lemon wheel, for garnish


Combine all ingredients except the lemon wheel; shake, and pour over ice in a rocks glass.

Marco Stix

Nouveau Bloody Mary

This refreshing drink was cocreated by Naren Young, bar manager, and Linden Pride, general manager, of Saxon + Parole in New York City.


Calories: 135


1½ ounces Absolut vodka, infused with garlic (see below)

5 ounces V8 juice (or make your own with tomatoes, carrots and celery)

½ teaspoon tomato paste

½ ounce lemon juice

4 dashes Worcestershire sauce

3 dashes green Tabasco

2 dashes red Tabasco

 Good pinch of salt and celery salt

Grind of black pepper

½ teaspoon horseradish


To make the infused vodka: Steep 1 garlic clove in 2 cups vodka overnight. Strain, and pour 1½ ounces of the mixture into a cocktail shaker. Add remaining ingredients; shake very well. Pour into an ice-filled highball glass. 


White Russian

Cut fat and preserve flavor by replacing the cream with sweetened almond milk (3 grams of fat per ¾-cup serving) and a dash of vanilla extract.


Photo courtesy of Palmer Kane LLC/Shutterstock.com



A cup of OJ equals about 110 calories and 22 grams of sugar. The juice of one lemon, by contrast, yields roughly 12 calories and is so intense in flavor, you don’t need very much to make an impact. Dilute the juice with water to fill the glass, then add some stevia to make up for the lost sweetness.


Photo courtesy of Palmer Kane LLC/Shutterstock.com


Piña Colada

Coconut milk contains about 360 calories (and 32 grams of saturated fat!) per cup. Make the switch to coconut water (45 calories per cup) and save the caloric equivalent of a slice of pizza.


Photo courtesy of ENVY/Shutterstock.com


Jack and Coke

In lieu of Coca-Cola, add seltzer water or lightly sweetened iced tea to Jack Daniel’s whiskey.


Next: More Low-Cal Cocktails You'll Love


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Photo courtesy of Denis Kichatof/Shutterstock.com


Originally published in the April 2012 issue

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