Raising the Bar

Cheers! These festive cocktail ideas will help you break out of the old vodka-and-diet-soda combo and still stay on Plan.
Woman holding drink in hand with man

For many, no holiday party is complete without a cocktail or two, but alcoholic drinks can take a heavy toll on your PointsPlus™ allowance, as well as your resolve. Though you may budget and plan for a few PointsPlus values for your cocktails, the cruel irony of alcohol is that it can cloud your judgment to the point that two drinks become four, and all of a sudden that basket of wings is looking really, really good.

Fortunately, there are a few cocktail trends, as well as lite beers and increasingly popular (slightly) lower-alcohol wines, that can help you make smart decisions when you belly up to the bar.

Beers such as Miller Brands’ MGD 64 (the “64” is the number of calories in each bottle) and Beck’s Premier Light (also 64 calories per bottle) give you a real drink to hold, for very few PointsPlus values. The alcohol by volume — “ABV” on any bottle or can of alcohol — is 3% and 2.3% respectively, which is low for a beer, meaning that a couple of these shouldn’t mess with your judgment when the appetizers show up.

If wine is your tipple of choice, an upswing in the availability and quality of lighter white wines (lower in alcohol content), such as some Rieslings and Gewürztraminers, means you can enjoy a sip without the heavy feeling that some of the higher-alcohol wines give you. Stretch your white wine even further by mixing it with club soda and a slice of lemon for a spritzer. (These normally taste better with lighter wines — skip the Chardonnay.)

Making friends with the mixologist
As for cocktails, look for ones that use fresh fruit and even vegetables; mixologists (as bartenders in higher-end establishments often prefer to be called) take pride in their unique creations and might even be persuaded to mix something a la carte for you, using the veritable fruit salad they have stashed behind the bar.

Tea is popping up in mixed drinks increasingly — and we’re not just talking about the Long Island iced variety. Try brewing your own tea-tini, with fine jasmine, chai (ditch the milk) or green tea, mixed with vodka and a little sugar or sweetener to taste.

Herbs and spices such as ginger are also a popular addition to cocktails, and some bars make their own ginger beers and cordials. While these drinks are often quite heavy on the sugar (a bartender should be able to tell you how it’s made), the robust, warm flavor and the digestive properties of ginger can make for a cocktail that’s easier on the tummy.

There are also some lighter spirits that can give you a great cocktail without the calorie-whack of more traditional drinks. Ty-Ku has several cocktail recipes that come in under 100 calories, but still taste indulgent — some recipes are below.

The experts talk trends
Jay Jones, master mixologist and head bartender at Vancouver club, Voya, shares some other trends you're likely to see at cocktail parties this time of year. "Spicy, wintery flavors shine through,” he says. “You'll find a lot of Cognacs, bourbons and whiskeys used. A proper winter drink is assertive and has a depth and intensity to the natural flavors."

Bartenders and mixologists around the country are seeing a resurgence of the classic cocktails from the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s. During that time, even during the days of the Speakeasy, the drinks had very basic, but intense flavors. Bartenders didn't have access to fancy ingredients, and hadn't come up with complex infusions or molecular mixology yet. It was all about the flavors in the alcohol. Classic cocktails like the Sazerac, widely regarded as America's first ever mixed drink, are becoming popular again.

Also look for drinks like a Tom and Jerry or a Sidecar, both of which offer spicy, satisfying flavors that aren’t exactly calorie-free, but a winter treat worth budgeting for. Enjoy the recipes below, and to the holidays, we say cheers!

Tom and Jerry

Makes 4 servings

The eggs make this more of a meal in a glass, but it’s a perfect winter drink. The eggs in this recipe are raw; for safety, look for pasteurized eggs in the refrigerator section of your supermarket.


  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 oz lukewarm brandy
  • 6 oz lukewarm rum
  • Hot water, milk or coffee
  • Grated nutmeg


  1. Beat egg whites until they’re a stiff froth.
  2. Separately, beat egg yolks until light in color and then gradually beat in sugar, allspice, cinnamon and cloves.
  3. Fold yolk mixture into whites and pour two tablespoons of this mixture into each of four 8 oz mugs.
  4. Add 3/4 oz brandy and 1.5 oz dark rum to each mug.
  5. Fill mugs with very hot water, milk, or coffee.
  6. Stir well and sprinkle the top with grated nutmeg.


Makes 1 serving


  • 1 oz five-star brandy
  • 1 oz triple sec
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon


  1. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass over ice


Makes 1 serving


  • 1.5 oz Ty-Ku Liqueur
  • 1/4 oz citrus vodka
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Splash of lime juice
  • Splash of club soda


  1. Shake over ice and serve chilled.

Skinny Señorita

Makes 1 serving


  • 1.5 oz Ty-Ku liqueur
  • 1/4 oz tequila
  • 2 squeezes of lime
  • Splash of club soda


  1. Shake over ice and serve chilled.
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