Have you heard of ‘skinny’ cocktails? They’re the lower calorie drinks that are being ordered by a fifth of all regular cocktail drinkers*
What about their alcohol content? Are they really healthier? We’ll give you the skinny on this new drink trend.
Deceptively strong drinks
Here comes ‘the science bit’: Alcoholic drinks are made by fermenting sugar, and the concentration of alcohol can then by increased by distilling. Sometimes sugar is left in the mixture, or added later to change the taste either by the manufacturer or, in this case, by the barman making a cocktail.
Alcohol equals calories, and sugar equals calories – so that’s why cocktails can contain lots of calories.
Also, because of their flavour, it’s not always obvious that cocktails which mix several types of alcohol together with fruit juice or carbonated soft drinks are not just high in calories, but more importantly, alcohol too.
A Long Island Ice Tea for example is made up of five types of liquor, often vodka, rum, gin, triple sec and tequila.
That’s a minimum of five units of alcohol in a single drink, far more than the government’s lower risk unit guidelines (3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 units for women) in one go.
Also, all that sugar means the average ‘Long Island’ can contain around 1,043 calories!
What that does to our bodies?
We cannot store alcohol so we burn it before we process nutrients, protein and fat. All other processes are paused so the rate at which we can absorb nutrients and burn fat slows down. This can cause us to gain weight. Visit for more information about alcohol and weight.
More importantly the health effects of drinking alcohol in excess can range from a disturbed night’s sleep, hangover, alcohol poisoning or more long term health-harms like diabetes or cancer.
As a nation we’re becomingly increasingly health conscious and clued up about the alcohol and calorie content of what we’re drinking. So it’s no surprise that bars have begun to offer lighter alternatives.
Bartenders can keep a cocktail ‘skinny’ in a number of ways such as using fruit like watermelon or strawberries to naturally sweeten the drink instead of sugary purees, or using coconut water as a mixer instead of fruit juice.
‘Skinny’ cocktails do make for a better choice than regular cocktails in that they reduce the sugar we consume.
But while reducing the sugar we drink in alcohol is a step in the right direction we must remember there is more to being healthy than counting calories.
We’re often encouraged to ‘indulge’ in these low calorie cocktails with ‘guilt-free’ drinking. However, they are not necessarily low in alcohol and it’s important to be wary of over-indulging.
It’s recommended that men regularly drink no more than 3-4 units a day or 2-3 units for a women and many cocktails, even ‘skinny’, exceed that amount.
So, while these cocktails may help you cut back on the calories they are not an entirely ‘healthy’ option. Be savvy and pay attention to the alcohol as well as the calories in your drinks this summer.
An easy way to do that is to track your drinks on the go using our free Drinkaware: Track and Calculate Units app.
You can also visit our website which is packed with advice and tips about how to cut back on alcohol.
Make mine a mocktail!
Finally, another way to enjoy a refreshing drink which is lower on calories AND alcohol is to opt for an alcohol-free ‘mocktail’.
Try the sparkling Pom Collins…