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Healthier Cocktails: 20 Easy Ways to Make your Cocktails Healthier for the Summer


Summer is coming! It’s time to start getting a little smarter about the cocktails you are enjoying if you want to keep your beach bod (or if you simply want to keep from passing out from heat exhaustion while drinking under the sun.) Even if you aren’t necessarily concerned about a beach body, there are some simple fixes to your cocktails that will at least keep the hangovers to a minimum – which is always a plus.

Please keep in mind that these are not medically-proven tips recommended by a doctor to help you lose weight while drinking. If you really want to stay healthy, you probably shouldn’t be drinking at all.

Here are our 20 tips to keep your cocktails ‘healthy’. Enjoy!

1. Use seltzer instead of club soda.

There is a difference here folks! Seltzer is simply water that has been carbonated. Its origin is an actual town called Selters in Germany which is famous for its natural springs. Club soda, on the other hand, contains some ingredients that supposedly enhance the flavor (although if you don’t know, you probably can’t taste the difference). These ingredients are things that you would have seen on the bottle like potassium bicarbonate and potassium sulfate which are salty minerals. Some also contain preservatives.

2. Cut the sodas and colas

Say goodbye to Rum & Coke or Gin & Tonics. Cola contains unnecessary artificial sugars that you don’t need, like high fructose corn syrup. Tonic Water contains the bitter quinine, which adds calories. Fun fact: Quinine used to be used to treat malaria! If you absolutely have to drink cola, at least stick to diet. While the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas aren’t much better, you can at least cut away the hangovers!


3. Light Rum over Dark Rum

If you wish to decrease the severity of your hangover, choose light rum over dark rum. Dark liquors contain congeners, which according to the Oxford University Press, actually increase a hangover. Congeners are what make up the color and flavor of liquors.


4. Make your own juice

Fruit juice itself contains a lot of sugar. Fruit cocktail contains even more because it is artificially sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. For example, Cranberry juice is very tart, so they sweeten it with other fruits juices like apple juice. A cranberry juice cocktail however, is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Any type of juice that you buy from the store is even worse because it is packed with preservatives. So, if you wish to go all natural, the healthier option is juicing your own juice. This way you avoid the artificial sweeteners.


5. Speaking of fruit juice – choose antioxidant rich ones

Focus on drinks with antioxidant-rich fruit juices like cranberry, lemon, or pomegranate. Each is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. Dr. Oz tells us that these help fight off free oyxgen radicals in your body which can lead to various illnesses, stress and aging. 


6. Make it a spritzer!

Recently the long-standing belief that red wine is good for you was called into question. Health benefits of antioxidants in the red wine was somewhat proven to not be all it was hyped up to be. However, if you have to have wine, watering it down means you are drinking less, which is better for you overall. White wine with seltzer is a great summer drink that goes down easy in the hot summer sun.


7. Say goodbye to Pre-Made Drink Mixers

At American Bartenders School, we talk about the easy ways to make your own Bloody Marys, Margaritas or even how to make your own Sour Mix. Pre-made mixers are packed with sugar and artificial sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup. The sweeteners make you think your drink tastes ‘better’ when really it is just going to lead you to a stomach ache or hang over! If you really have no way around it, and you have to use a pre-mixed drink – go with something like Skinny Girl – which is at least low in calories.


8. Try Detoxing with booze

Wait, what? You aren’t exactly detoxing here, you are simply drinking a lot of healthy ingredients with a little bit of alcohol. The Hotel Americano right here in Chelsea, NYC serves something called the Detox Bellini. This is a combination of wheatgrass, celery juice, green chartreuse, apple juice, orange juice and a few drops of chlorophyll. Then it is topped off with champagne. This is packed with vitamins and minerals, and gives a boost to the immune and circulatory systems.


9. Make your own bitters

Concocting your own bitters to go into a cocktail like a Manhattan or Sazerac is all the rage. You can learn more about making your own bitters at Food and Wine. By creating your own, you not only have control of the taste, intensity of flavors, but you also will not have to worry about artificial flavors or sweeteners that some companies add to their bitters to make them more appealing.


10. SAY NO to heavy cream drinks

Sorry Lebowski, but your days of drinking White Russians are over. Drinks with high cream content like a White Russian or Mud Slide have high fat and calorie contents. 


11. Less Alcohol in your Cocktail

This one is pretty easy to follow and pretty self explanatory. But, if the drink calls for 2oz of Rum, just add 1oz and double up on ice or juice. This is the same principal as the wine spritzer – you will be drinking less alcohol while still enjoying a ‘drink’. Less alcohol=healthier.


12. Stay away from Cocktails with Multiple types of Alcohol

Taking this one step further, you should avoid the drinks with multiple types of alcohol. This will only get you drunker!  So, no more Long Island Iced Tea!


13. Stay away from Caffeine in drinks

Caffeine hasn’t been proved to dehydrate you as once thought, but it can cause insomnia and nasty headaches – combine that with a hangover and that’s a nasty soup. Redbull and other energy drinks have all sorts of interesting effects on the body, none of which are really that great, so we recommend staying away from those as well if you want to stay healthier!


14. Use natural sweetener like agave.

Agave is considered healthier because it has a lower glycemic index than sugar. Use this as a sweetener instead of processed white sugars. They are great in margaritas!


15. OR Make your own simple syrup

If you are totally averse to agave nectar for whatever reason, and you really want to use simple syrup, don’t both buying it – just make your own. Use honey- which is rich in antioxidants. Greatist tells us to use  ½ tablespoon honey mixed with ¾ tablespoon warm water.


16. Use liquor with high CPA score.

Greatist put together a liquor score called CPA that combines alcohol by volume (ABV), calories per serving, and calories from alcohol. The higher score means it is better for you. You can check out the full list here. But the breakdown goes like this:

  • Drink Makers Mark instead of Jim Beam
  • Drink Gordon’s instead of Seagrams or Tanqueray
  • Drink Barcardi instead of Captain Morgan
  • Drink Jose Cuervo instead of Patron


17. Don’t drink alcohol in the hot sun

This is kind of a no-brainer, and it’s crazy how quickly we forget after one or two beers in the sun. Do not drink excessively under the hot sun. This is a one way ticket to an ugly night, let alone extreme dehydration. You also increase the risk of getting sunburn.
18. Don’t drink right before bed – no more nightcaps

Men’s Health tells us that there are a great deal of negatives to going to bed drunk. You miss out on the much needed REM sleep, so you wake up restless and overtired, which will NOT help keeping healthy.

19. Don’t drink before a workout

Being healthy means working out. Alcohol can negate the effects of a workout even before you hit the weight bench. One study showed that alcohol stops the repair of muscles after they break down, so even if you are at the room getting your lift on, you won’t gain anything from it. Come on bro!

Alcohol from the night before has also been shown to linger in the bloodstream, so lay off even if you are going to get a good night’s sleep.

20. OR After!

Although there was a rumor going around that beer is a great workout recovery drink, Greatist has also somewhat debunked this one as well. There are way more negative effects than positive here for your health in post workout recovery boozing.

According to them, “Alcohol causes oxygen to leave the bloodstream more quickly,which inhibits the transport of digestive enzymes and essential nutrients through the body. This slows muscle growth and repair and impairs the metabolism of carbs for energy.”