Say goodbye to the view of pale faces bobbing out of thick sweaters. Summer is here, and whole bodies are shedding their wooly shells. And while warmer weather means more skin, more skin means the push for that beach bod, shoving all of our favorite BBQ foods, summer beers, and frozen cocktails to the backburner — at least momentarily.
While mocktails and skinny cocktails may have revolutionized the way some think about drinking our calories, for many others, these aren’t fulfilling second choice. (My concept of "skinny" is to drink a spirit neat).
But, with the challenge before us, we set out to prove that low calorie recipes need not be half-assed, branded in a bottle, nor particularly girlie.
"Alcohol in general is not a low-calorie product, whether it be hard alcohol or beer or wine," says Bryan Dayton, beverage director at OAK at Fourteenth in Denver. But, he says, there are ways to cut calories without sacrificing complexity by choosing the right spirits, ingredients, and sugars.
"The natural choice is to go with gin," he says, which has 65 calories for every ounce. "You get a lot of different gins out there that bring a little bit of flavor to the party already." There’s also tequila, which, though made from agave, has roughly 69 calories, vodka with 97 calories, and the big winner, sake, with about 39 calories for every ounce.
Next, choose your mixers wisely. Dayton recommends fresh lemon and lime, muddled cucumber, mint, and sage. Not only do these ingredients have low glycemic indexes, but they also have healthful properties: lemons are high in iron and vitamin C; cucumbers are high in antioxidants; mint eliminates toxins and sooths the digestive tract; and sage is a rich source of potassium, zinc, and magnesium. (Not that we’re suggesting you drink more cocktails for these benefits.)
Think about how you treat a cocktail’s essential binding property — sugar. Often the assumed (read: misinformed) solution is to sub out cane sugars for sweeteners and sugar alternatives. But that’s not healthy either, Dayton reminds us. "You’re actually counteracting what you’re trying to do, because these sugar alternatives are chemicals," he says. Instead, try using natural sugars like agave, honey, or maple syrup, which also come with their own benefits: agave is anti-inflammatory; honey is an anti-bacterial; and Grade B maple syrup is high in anti-oxidants.
Lastly, be wary of pre-made mixes, like Skinnygirl cocktails. "Knowing it’s on the shelf means it can’t have the best ingredients," Dayton says. (Indeed, Whole Foods pulled them from their shelves in September of 2011 for the potentially toxic properties of the preservative sodium benzoate.)
So, whether you choose to make your new favorite low calorie drinks or lower your intake all-together, there’s a larger lesson to be learned here: "It’s about being mindful of what you’re putting into your body," Dayton says. "That alone will have its health benefits."
— Sasha Levine, Lifestyle Mirror
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