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Low-cal cocktailing

Swimsuit season. Yes, it’s here. No, this won’t be a post about how to embrace your #mombod. I’m not ashamed of my bumps and dimples, but I’m doing my best to smooth them out before I have to don a bikini. So this time of year, I look for ways to enjoy the things I like (wine!) while cutting a few calories here and there and perhaps see the scale sink back down to my summer weight.

  • Wine spritzers. Learn to love them. My mother-in-law introduced me to this fizzy concoction, and I love it on a hot summer day. A typical 5-ounce glass of red wine has approximately 125 spritzercalories, which is totally worth it on a cold winter night when my bikini is hidden far in the back of the closet. But in the summer, I need to shave some calories off my drinks, and I don’t really want to drink a room-temp red wine anyway. So bring on the spritzers. White wine has slightly fewer calories than red (so say Wikipedia, CalorieKing, and the USDA), so pour a few ounces of wine over ice and top it off with club soda (zero calories!) and a squeeze of lemon. A refreshing summer drink for only 120-125 calories, and you’re getting some much-needed H2O with every drink.
  • Sangria. Yes, I know the scoop of white sugar most recipes call for sends you running for the hills, but all that added sugar isn’t necessary. Sangria recipes are overflowing on Pinterest this time of year, and you’ll find that most are a combination of wine, a little brandy or other spirit, sugar, fruit, and juice. You can significantly slim this down by using flavored club soda instead of juice, substituting the refined sugar with a dollop of agave nectar, and loading the pitcher up with lots of fruit. Here’s a tip: muddle the fruit a little to release the flavor into the liquid and you won’t even miss the sugar or juice.
  • Sorbet! … vodka, that is. Smirnoff has no lack of flavored vodkas, but during the hot summer months, I love their sorbet flavors (raspberry-pomegranate, mango-passionfruit, pineapple-coconut, strawberry, white peach, and lemon) mixed with some club soda. True, flavored vodka isn’t that terribly high-calorie to begin with (approximately 90 calories per shot), but it’s 95 degrees outside, and I’m going to be sipping cocktails on my patio all day long. I appreciate the lower alcohol content in the sorbet variety that allows me to enjoy more than one drink without feeling like a lush, and save a few calories (12) in the process. Typical flavored vodka is 70 proof, and the sorbet varieties are 60 proof. Yes, you can banish your guilt and pour another round. For you purists out there, try plain vodka, club soda, and a squeeze of lime.
  • Flavored liquors. Like the sorbet vodka, you can save calories by using flavored liquors in your cocktails. Take the classic cosmo, for example. It’s made with vodka, triple sec (sugar!), cranberry juice, and lime juice, toppling the calorie count at 150-200 calories. You can cut out the triple sec and juice and replace them with cranberry-flavored vodka and club soda. You’ll have a lighter cocktail weighing in around 75 calories.
  • Micheladas. Huh? What? Yeah, that’s what I said when I first heard about this drink from my uncle who took a page from Jimmy Buffet and moved onto his sailboat and parked it in Mexico for a few micheladayears after retirement. After all that time near the equator, this man knows his cocktails, and I will forever be indebted to him for introducing me to the michelada. It’s pronounced MITCH-el-ada (at least to this gringa), and it’s basically a beer-based bloody mary, and it’s delicious! What makes it swimsuit-compatible is that it takes forever to drink and is hydrating thanks to the clam juice. Yes, you heard that right. Micheladas start with half a beer poured over ice (Coronas are great in this drink), add some clam juice, tomato juice, various spices and hot sauces (it’s up to you to experiment to find your favorites), and a squeeze of lime to finish it off. Then as you drink it, you continue to add the rest of the beer, so it should be mostly beer and remnants of spices at the end. The clam juice will keep you hydrated, and the beer is consumed so slowly that you’re likely to drink fewer than if you were just sipping suds all day long. The calories in this drink can get as out of hand as the ingredient list, depending on your preferences, so keep track of what you put in it (some recipes call for soy sauce!) to get an idea of how many calories you’re consuming. This gets bonus points for being a great hangover cure too!


I’m always trying to clean up my diet and be more conscious of what I’m consuming. I’ve already cut out soda and haven’t touched a frappuccino in years. Ice cream is a lactose-laden time bomb, and candy doesn’t last long once my husband and two daughters discover it. So I have one dietary vice left, and I think I’ve cleaned it up pretty well. I’ll keep my cocktails low-cal as long as I can still enjoy them!

I’d love to hear your suggestions for shaving calories from your favorite drinks.



About Bethany Drysdale

Bethany Drysdale
Bethany Drysdale is mom to two little princesses, and is on a mission to stock her wine rack with great-tasting wines that won't break the bank. Swim lessons and new sneakers trump the wine budget in her house, but she won't sacrifice great taste and neither should you! Read more from Bethany at Mama's Wine Rack. Bethany is a former journalist and current public relations professional who decided in 2010 to pair her love for writing with her love for wine, and Mama's Wine Rack was born. She lives in Dayton, Nev., with her daughters Emma and Abbi, husband Sean, and dog Rusty. There is a cat or two calling her doorstep home, and possibly a goldfish in her future. Follow Bethany's quest to fill her wine rack at http://MamasWineRack.com.


  1. Thank you Bethany! I’m dieting but I really don’t want to cut out alcohol all together (summer is coming and the kids are out of school!) I heard that clear liquor like vodka is less “weight gaining” than wine, so I just mix the Skinny Girl flavored vodka (Cucumber is good) with sparkling water. (I like the Smirnoff sorbet vodkas, too.) If I use lots of water, it takes me longer to drink and I drink less, so that’s a dieting bonus there. In my search for low-cal drinks, I compiled a Pinterest Board “Dieters Who Drink”, for anyone who’s on Pinterest. https://www.pinterest.com/shelleybarkley/dieters-who-drink/

  2. Megan Fikes

    I LOVE Micheladas! Great tips! A refreshing cocktail is a must have on hot summer days!

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