It is no secret that many of our favorite cocktail recipes are packed full of sugar! Sadly, many alcoholic beverages taste bitter and unpleasant without added sugar, which is why simple syrup is a feature in many home cocktail bars.
But luckily, there are some simple tricks to make cocktails that taste great, without the high sugar content!
What are the best low-sugar cocktails? The lowest-sugar cocktails include martinis, margaritas, and mojitos. Reduce sugar by substituting basic ingredients (ex. swapping simple syrup for natural stevia sweeteners). Make sure that fruit juices are freshly squeezed and free from added sugars. Steer clear of premixed cocktail flavorings.
Are you looking for some tasty new cocktails that are low in sugar? Keep reading, because we’ve got some great ideas that will suit every taste and situation!
Why Do Cocktails Contain So Much Sugar?
Go to any cocktail bar, and you’ll see a myriad of colorful alcoholic spirits and mixers used to make a dazzling array of delicious cocktails.
These are used to create a flavorsome blend with the perfect balance of alcohol and sugars to please and delight your tastebuds.
But did you know that many cocktails are incredibly high in sugar?
Sugar is commonly added to counteract bitter or acidic flavors, and to balance out the astringency of strong alcoholic spirits.
A good example of this is that summer favorite, the classic fruity Pimm’s cocktail. Just one serving of Pimm’s can contain over four-fifths of your recommended daily sugar intake!
But where does all the sugar in cocktails come from?
Well, the answer is definitely not hidden within the alcohol itself! Most cocktails are made with spirits, such as vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and whiskey. These do not contain added sugars, as you will realize if you’ve tried drinking them neat!
For example, vodka contains zero sugar and zero carbs. There are some calories in vodka, but this comes from the alcohol itself — a 1.5-ounce shot of vodka contains as little as 85 calories, depending on the strength of the alcohol.
The sugars in cocktails normally come from the vast array of mixers and flavorings used to blend these delicious beverages.
Here are some of the main culprits for bumping up the sugar content of cocktails:
- Simple Syrup. This sickly-sweet syrup is almost pure sugar! It is used to balance the levels of sweetness in cocktails.
- Mixers. Most mixers, such as soda, tonic, lemonade, and cola, are packed full of sugar.
- Fruit Juices. The sugars in fruit juices can be natural sugars, from the fruits themselves, or added sugar used in concentrated fruit juice.
- Hidden Sweeteners. Many cocktail recipes use other forms of sugar, such as honey or agave syrup.
But is all this sugar really such a bad thing?
Health experts now advise us to limit our intake of added sugars to 12 teaspoons per day or less. One can of cola contains nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar, which is over three-quarters of your recommended daily sugar intake!
But if we can eliminate these added sugars, our cocktails become a much healthier choice. Of course, alcohol should be consumed responsibly and in moderation, no matter how low in calories your drink is!
If you’re looking for low-sugar cocktail options in a bar, these are often labeled as “skinny” cocktails.
How To Reduce Sugar In Cocktails
Luckily, with some simple yet clever swaps and substitutions, we can create cocktails that taste just as delicious, but without the high sugar content.
It all comes down to picking the combination of ingredients carefully to ensure that the cocktail is still just as tasty, even without the added sugars.
An easy switch to make is to use freshly squeezed fruit juices, which normally do not have any added sugar. These fruit juices still contain natural sugars, but these are a far healthier choice.
Steer clear from fruit juices made from concentrate, which are normally packed full of added sugars.
Switching your mixers around can also help to reduce the sugar content of your cocktails. Some mixers are sugar-free, such as sparkling water and seltzers.
Many mixers are also available in diet versions, which are much lower in sugar. These are commonly sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, which many people prefer to avoid.
However, natural sweeteners such as stevia can be a great alternative.
Some sugary ingredients, like simple syrup, are impossible to avoid. However, you can reduce the amount you use, and your tastebuds will become accustomed to the new low-sugar version of your favorite cocktail.
After a while, you’ll likely find the full-sugar option far too sickly and sweet!
Alternatively, it is possible to make sugar-free simple syrup using stevia, a natural sweetener. This is a great way to add intense sweetness to your drinks without boosting the sugar content!
The Best Low Sugar Cocktails
Are you ready to get mixing up your favorite cocktail recipes? Here are some classic favorites as well as a few interesting blends that are all low in sugar to tantalize your tastebuds!
1. Dirty Martini
The famous “Dirty Martini” cocktail is one of the lowest sugar options you could choose. With no added sugars, one of these cocktails contains just 1.3% of your recommended added sugar intake.
So, if you wanted to (but please don’t!) you could drink over 20 dirty martinis and still be within your daily sugar allowance!
But what exactly is a dirty martini? A basic classic martini consists of a blend of gin and vermouth, normally five parts gin to one part vermouth. A vodka martini contains vodka instead of gin.
The “dirty” part of this cocktail comes from the addition of a splash of olive juice or brine from a jar of olives. This gives a delicious salty, olive flavor that blends perfectly with the mix of strong spirits.
The drink is typically garnished with one or two olives on a cocktail stick for even more flavor. Be aware that this is a strong cocktail, and should only be drunk in moderation!
The margarita is another classic cocktail that tends to be low in added sugars. If you’ve ever tried a margarita, you’ll know that it is teeth-curlingly tart and sour, but the flavor is so delicious that you keep going back for more!
A classic margarita consists of a mix of tequila, triple sec, and freshly squeezed lime juice.
It is normally served in a margarita glass, which looks very much like the glasses used to serve shrimp cocktails! The rim of the glass is traditionally rubbed with a wedge of lime and then dipped in salt.
The joy of a margarita is that every sip tastes like a little tequila slammer! It gives you the perfect blend of tequila, lime juice, and salt that mix together in your mouth for a true taste sensation.
The sugar content in a margarita comes from the triple sec and the lime juice. Triple sec is an orange-flavored liqueur that is very high in sugar, but it is possible to make sugar-free triple sec at home.
Alternatively, you can halve the amount of triple sec in your margarita to keep the added sugar content to a minimum.
When it comes to the lime juice in your margarita, freshly squeezing it yourself is a far better option than buying premade margarita mixes. These are often very high in added sugars and will not taste as zingy and fresh!
A mojito is a traditional Cuban punch cocktail made from a blend of white rum, lime juice, mint, and soda water. The classic version is normally sweetened with sugar cane juice rather than processed sugars.
This unusual combination gives a great mix of citrus and mint, which is intense and refreshing on a hot summer’s day.
The joy of a mojito is that it tastes great even if it is not very sweet! This means you can cut down or omit the added sugar syrup altogether, and you’ll still have a great-tasting cocktail.
You can also switch the soda water for a diet or sugar-free version, or use sparking water instead. If you find the cocktail is not sweet enough for you, liquid stevia is a great natural sweetener to try.
Steer clear of premixed mojito cocktails — these are normally packed full of added sugars and artificial sweeteners.
4. Bloody Mary
The classic Bloody Mary cocktail should not contain any added sugars, apart from those naturally occurring in the tomato juice. Make sure to buy fresh tomato juice for this cocktail, which should be free from added sugars or sweeteners.
As with all the cocktails on our list, steer clear of premade Bloody Mary mixes, as they are often packed full of added sugars.
A good Bloody Mary made with fresh ingredients does not need any extra sugar, as it should be punchy, sharp, and full of intense flavor.
But what exactly is in a Bloody Mary cocktail? The traditional recipe combines vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, and celery salt. A dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco, is added, along with a few drops of Worcestershire sauce.
Depending on how hot you like it, your Bloody Mary can be seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and a small dollop of horseradish sauce. This cocktail is served in a tall glass over ice, garnished with a stick of celery.
The Cosmopolitan is one of those cocktails that can be as sugar-laden as you want to make it! When it comes to the ingredients of a Cosmopolitan, the key culprits in terms of sugar are cranberry juice and triple sec.
To keep the sugar content of a Cosmopolitan to a minimum, switch the cranberry juice to an unsweetened or diet version. You can add a dash of natural sweetener to compensate for the reduced sugar levels.
Triple sec is a sugar-packed liqueur that gives an intense orange flavor to this classic cocktail. This can be replaced with a dash of orange extract, which gives a similar taste without the high sugar content.
6. Strawberry Daiquiri
With its intense strawberry sweetness, this summery version of the classic daiquiri might not seem an obvious choice in a list of low-sugar cocktails!
But the natural sweetness of strawberries is ideal for reducing the amount of added sugar needed to turn this rum-based cocktail into something absolutely divine.
The best method to use is to purchase whole ripe strawberries and blend them into a pulp. This is mixed with rum and lime juice to create a smooth, fruity cocktail.
If it is not sweet enough for your tastes, a splash of stevia-based simple syrup can be used in place of sugar.
7. Sex On The Beach
Sex On The Beach is one of the original and best long cocktails served in a tall glass (preferably on a beach!). This delicious cocktail tastes like a refreshing splash of summer and can be made with very little added sugar.
Sex On The Beach is based on vodka and flavored with a variety of fruity juices and syrups. The original version contains cranberry juice, so opt for a freshly squeezed version with no added sugars.
You will often find that Sex On The Beach also contains peach syrup, which is packed full of added sugars. Switch this to freshly squeezed peach juice or a dash of peach essence for a low-sugar version of this delicious summery cocktail.
8. Whiskey Sour
Well, you can tell by the name that this cocktail is not going to be packed full of sugar! But what exactly is a whiskey sour, and how do you make one?
The first two ingredients are virtually sugar-free — it is the choice of sweetener that can affect the overall sugar levels.
Simple syrup is a high-sugar sweetener, but switching this to a sugar-free version can ensure that your whiskey sour is a great low-carb drink with an amazing flavor.
9. Tequila Sunrise
Tequila Sunrise is a tall, fruity cocktail that tastes like a ray of sunshine!
Served in a tall glass, this drink consists of tequila mixed with orange juice. Grenadine syrup is added to create layers of orange and red color that resemble a breathtaking early summer sunrise.
To make a low-sugar Tequila Sunrise, use freshly pressed orange juice. This will contain natural sugars, but no added sugars. Next, switch the sugar-laden grenadine syrup for a few drops of intensely flavored pomegranate essence.
Pomegranate is the base flavoring in grenadine, so this simple swap will drastically reduce the sugar content of this famous cocktail!
Sangria was never supposed to be a sweet drink! So if you’ve had enough of the super-sickly premixed versions of this classic Iberian cocktail, why not make your own low-sugar version instead?
Sangria is made by mixing red wine with chopped fruits such as apples, peaches, nectarines, and pears — these infuse the wine with naturally sweet and aromatic flavors.
Other common ingredients in sangria include sparking water, orange juice, and brandy.
11. White Wine Spritzer
Sadly, the white wine spritzer is another drink that has become overly sweet in recent years! A good white wine spritzer should be crisp and refreshing, not sweet and overpowering.
The best way to make a white wine spritzer as sugar-free as possible is to pay careful attention to the mixer you are using.
This is a good example of where sparkling water can be used to great effect without loading the drink full of sugar.
A dash of vanilla essence can help to mellow out the sharp flavor of the wine, creating a smooth, flavorsome cocktail.