Santé! A Guide to Slimmer Cocktails

Try these three drinks that are health tonics in their own right (ok, maybe not health tonics… but certainly healthier tonics)
Published March 7, 2016

An afternoon on a girlfriend’s sunny patio, a night out with friends at a speakeasy, perhaps a romantic evening with your partner. What do these events have in common? Likely a cocktail (or two).

We all know by now that just because something's in a glass doesn’t mean that it doesn’t count towards your SmartPointsTM budget. Plus, if you’ve ever spent time figuring out the values for your favourite cocktails, then you're well aware that a night of drinks can wreak havoc on your healthy eating plans. Mixed drinks and alcohol are full of empty calories, and are best avoided when you want to lose weight. But if enjoying a stiff drink from time to time is something you'd rather not completely give up, rest assured, there are some solutions. 

The next time you're planning on enjoying a drink try incorporating these clever tips into your drink preparations. You'll lower the SmartPoints values but keep all the flavour. Or better yet, try one of our three recipes below; all these cocktails are health tonics in their own right (ok, maybe not health tonics… but they are certainly healthier tonics).

Instead of fruit juice and simple syrup, use fresh fruit
If you use plain fruit juice or a traditional mix, you’re going to add up the SmartPoints very quickly. If you want to boost flavour without the added values look no further than fresh fruit and fresh herbs. Virtually any fruit can be muddled into the bottom of a glass for flavour (and accompanying fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants). Plus, fresh fruit naturally provides much-needed hydration. "If you're avoiding sugar in your cocktails, muddling fresh fruit in the glass can help add balance to your refreshing libation. This is superior to just adding juice because you gain the benefit of the fibre the berries or oranges offer," says Robin Goodfellow, bar manager and partner at Bar Raval.

Try this: Spicy Greyhound

Switch out grapefruit juice in a traditional greyhound for fresh slices of grapefruit (or other citrus). Add a shake of plain Angostura bitters and a drop of liquid stevia for a little more complexity. When out at a restaurant or bar, this is the easiest drink to order. Most bars have plenty of sliced oranges, lemons and limes sliced and ready to go.

What to do:

  1. Mix 1½ oz vodka with plenty of ice, a shake of bitters and several slices of fresh grapefruit and top with soda.

Other variations
If you’re feeling daring, add a little grated fresh ginger or fresh tarragon leaves to taste.

Instead of tonic, try soda
In Spain and Portugal, gin drinks are all the rage when the weather heats up. These drinks, typically served in goblet-style wine glasses, use plenty of fresh fruit topped with gin and tonic water. But a gin and tonic will cost you 6 SmartPoints, (and more if it’s served in a large goblet!) Why not make a soda-based drink with plenty of fresh fruit and cucumber?

Try this: Cucumber Collins

Hendricks gin, infused with cucumber and rose, is perfect for this drink, although any plain gin will do. And don’t forget herbs, which add another level of flavour. “When garnishing with fresh herbs, make sure to smack or hit the leaves to activate the oils. You get much more aroma," Goodfellow adds.

What to do:

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, peel long strips of cucumber. Arrange them within the glass.
  2. Fill glass with ice and add 1½ oz of gin, and fresh mint. Top with soda water, add a squeeze of lime to taste.

Other variations
Cucumbers belong to the melon family. Although this drink recipe calls for cucumber and mint, feel free to add slices of any other melon you love, especially as the weather heats up.This drink is equally delicious when made using fresh, muddled raspberries and a splash of rosewater or iced green or black tea.

Instead of pop, try kombucha
​Kombucha, a type of fermented, fizzy tea, is lower in SmartPoints than soft drinks. Kombucha was believed to have been discovered 2000 years ago in Asia. Called the “immortal elixir,” kombucha has a rich anecdotal history of providing health benefits, like detoxification. The fermentation process leaves kombucha rich in probiotics and enzymes, and the drink is quite low in SmartPoints (just 1-3 SmartPoints, per 250ml serving!)

Try this: Kombucha Mule

This is based on the classic Moscow Mule cocktail. The only difference is that this version uses ginger kombucha instead of traditional ginger beer.  “It's a perfect balance of tart, fizzy, and sweet, and is clean to the palette and light. I couldn’t think of a better cocktail!” says Gary LeBlanc, a health coach and former beverage executive.

What to do:

  1. Mix 1½ oz vodka with 3/4 cup ginger kombucha.
  2. Add a squeeze of lime to taste.

Other variations
Use any flavour of kombucha that you like – the sky is the limit!  

Virgin cocktails
Who says you need to mix alcohol into these drinks? Each of these recipes works beautifully when mixed with just plain water. A dash or two of bitters and a few ounces of iced green or black tea can help to add complexity to even the simplest fruit and water refresher. Cheers!