Summer Cocktails: How to Enjoy the Party Without Looking Like a Flotation Device

By Stephanie S. Saunders

Why do we spend all year working hard to look good on the beach, only to sabotage ourselves with high-calorie summer cocktails? Mostly because it's fun and social, and the alcohol makes us feel a little less self-conscious about being scantily clad.

Thanks to the dozens of different diet crazes out there, we're all abundantly aware of carbs, protein, and fat, and we all have different opinions on which is the most evil. But we shouldn't forget that alcohol has calories too—7 per gram, more than carbs or protein and almost as much as fat. So what does this mean for you? It means that it's a challenge to burn off alcohol, especially when it's mixed with yummy, sugary ingredients.

The most obvious solution is abstinence, but what fun would that be? Since we can't remove the alcohol from these popular summer drink recipes without calling them "mocktails," let's find other ways to remove the excess calories instead. Here are six summer cocktail recipes, tailored to make them more waist-friendly.

  1. Margarita. Your biggest caloric enemy in the margarita is the prepackaged margarita mix. There are "light" versions available, but their taste is less than extraordinary. Here's another option that'll cut your calories in half without sacrificing flavor.

    • Juice of 1-1/2 limes
    • 3 oz. water
    • 1/2 tsp. stevia (or other no-cal sugar substitute)
    • 2 oz. tequila
    • 1.5 oz. triple sec
    • Ice
    • Salt (to taste)
    Mix lime juice, water, and stevia together until stevia is dissolved. Add tequila and triple sec, then either pour over ice or put in blender with ice. Add salt to taste. Sip while looking amazing in your swimsuit, pretending you're on a beach in Mexico.

    Calories before: 435
    Calories now: 180
  2.  

    Cosmopolitan. The sneaky trickster here is regular cranberry juice cocktail, which should be called "sugar with cranberry flavoring." This light version uses only one type of alcohol, which drastically cuts your calorie count.



    • 3 oz. low-calorie cranberry juice drink
    • 1 oz. raspberry vodka
    • Squeeze of lime
    • Lime twist, as garnish

    Pour ingredients over ice and shake. Strain ice cubes and pour into martini glass. Look stylish and thin at the same time.

    Calories before: 413
    Calories now: 98
  3. Tipsy Arnold Palmer. Sweetened bottled versions of lemonade and iced tea can be pretty loaded with sugar. However, if you brew your own iced tea and squeeze your own lemons, then add a bit of sugar substitute and 2 ounces of vodka, you can make a really tasty cocktail that doesn't have so many calories. Or the light Minute Maid® version and some diet iced tea will work for the domestically challenged.
                                                                                  
    • Juice of one lemon and 3 oz. water (or 3 oz. diet lemonade)
    • 2 teabags steeped in 3 oz. boiling water and cooled (or 3 oz. diet iced tea)
    • 1/2 tsp. stevia (or other no-cal sugar substitute)
    • 2 oz. vodka
    • Sprig of mint (optional)
    • Ice
    Mix lime juice, water, and stevia together until stevia is dissolved. Add tequila and triple sec, then either pour over ice or put in blender with ice. Add salt to taste. Sip while looking amazing in your swimsuit, pretending you're on a beach in Mexico.

    Calories before: 156
    Calories now: 71
  4. Strawberry daiquiri. Nothing says "vacation!" like a drink that a little umbrella will stand up in. Yet again, sugar is the culprit we're trying to cut out. Try this version for a vacation flashback that'll be reminiscent of the good times (not of ordering seconds on dessert).

    • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
    • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
    • 1.5 oz. light rum
    • Stevia or other sweetener (to taste, depending on sweetness of strawberries)
    • Ice

    Throw it all in a blender and let the good times begin. Please don't have so many you try to drink the umbrella.

    Calories before: 299
    Calories now: 118
  5. Piña colada. Made correctly, a piña colada is the taste of summer. If not made correctly, it tastes like suntan lotion in a glass. This recipe replaces sugar and cream with fruit and skim milk.

    • 1 8-oz. can chunk pineapple (with juice)
    • 1/2 tsp. stevia (or other artificial sweetener)
    • 1 tsp. coconut extract
    • 1 cup nonfat (skim) milk
    • 1 cup ice cubes

    Place ingredients in blender and blend well, then garnish with a small plastic monkey, and (mentally, at least) escape to the Caribbean.

    Calories before: 297
    Calories now: 146
  6. White wine/light beer/champagne. These all seem like fairly obvious "light" drink choices and don't require recipes, but they're worth mentioning. White wine has about 100 calories in a 4-ounce serving, and it's delightfully refreshing on a summer day, especially if you add some club soda to make it into a spritzer. Beer comes in very light versions now, some of which have fewer than 70 calories. And not only is champagne fantastic with brunch, but it also only has around 100 calories per serving. With any of these, just be sure to measure your amounts so you don't end up overdoing it (and/or ending up with a splitting headache afterwards).
  7.  

    And there you have it. A handle on your summer cocktails, without adding to your love handles. Now put on your swimsuit and let the rest of the summer be the party it was meant to be!





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