What are the best sugar-free simple cocktails?
May 5, 2014 9:01 AM   Subscribe

What are the best simple cocktails that don't include sugar or syrups or carbs?

I'd like to have more drinks in my can-drink mental list, and more that I can keep the ingredients on hand for in my home, that adhere to my low-carb diet. I would really love some two-ingredient drink recipes, three ingredients if it's something great. (Go figure, I love cooking elaborately but I don't love mixing complicated drinks.)

My go-to's for now are rum and diet cola, or whiskey and diet ginger ale. I've tried mixing a variety of spirits into a variety of sugar-free sodas and seltzers and they're mostly terrible. I tend to like rum and whiskey/bourbon the most, but I will try pretty much anything in the search for the elusive Great Drink. Perhaps vodka would be a better mixer because of its more neutral flavor.

I especially would love something summery and light that I can drink on my porch.

What else can I try?
posted by rachaelfaith to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
For me, vodka goes really well with those Crystal Light drink mixes - especially the sugar-free peach iced tea. Sugar-free lemonade works well too.
posted by jbickers at 9:05 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a big fan of vodka tonics made with sugar-free tonic water. Add a squeeze of lime (after taking out a second mortgage, given what's happened to lime prices) and you're ready to go.
posted by DrGail at 9:08 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seltzer and a very small ammount of fruit juice, plus either gin or vodka, is delicious on a warm evening.

Whiskey and soda is a classic, and can me made more interesting with a couple dashes of bitters.

In general, you're probably going to have better luck with using small amounts of non-diet sweet ingredients.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:10 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gin and ginger ale is my go-to drink in basically all contexts and it's especially pleasant on the porch in the summer. If you're good with diet ginger ale, I'd go with that. Seriously, I never used to like gin until I started drinking these (sometimes with grenadine) and now I absolutely love it.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:13 AM on May 5, 2014

Gin and diet tonic; Gin martini; white wine spritzers made with dry white wine; Atomic cocktails though the sherry will add just under half a carb in the one teaspoon called for.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:16 AM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Just generally, anything that calls for simple syrup, you can get/make sugar-free simple syrup. It's not to my taste, but that could open up more stuff for you.
posted by Sequence at 9:17 AM on May 5, 2014

Well I'm a big soda fan—a tall rye and soda is my go-to summer drink. Incredibly refreshing.

Diet tonic is pretty okay—I like tequila tonics myself.

For drinks that use sour mix, use fresh-squeezed lemon juice and sweetener. A Lynchburg lemonade, minus the triple sec and with diet lemon/lime soda, sounds good.

Go beyond a twist of lemon or lime for your drinks, too—add a couple berries or some herb sprigs.

And finally—do you have La Croix, or any other non-sweetened flavored bubbly waters? I think they make great mixers, for vodka especially. The grapefruit one is great.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:20 AM on May 5, 2014

Take a thumb-sized portion of fresh ginger root, peeled and sliced.

Bring a pot of water to boil.

Add sliced ginger and boil for a minute or two then remove from heat and put the lid on it and let it steep at least ten minutes - the longer the stronger the flavor.

(I keep this ginger water in my fridge in a mason jar to add to anything that needs a ginger flavor)

Fill small glass with enough ice to cool the ginger water if it is still hot.

Add ginger water.

Add whiskey (bitters are optional).
posted by zyxwvut at 9:20 AM on May 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

Look to flavored herbal teas. Like, this one mixes well with bourbon and rye, either hot or cold, and because it's got cloves and other spices that taste sweet it adds that sweetness without adding sugar (or weird diet-thing aftertaste, if that's an issue). Red zinger tea is tart and fruity and would go great with vodka or gin (or bourbon or rye!).
posted by rtha at 9:28 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you like whisk[e]y and rum, try getting some decent stuff and drinking it neat (or with rocks, or with soda or water.) The ingredient list doesn't get much simpler, every bar will have it, and there's no extraneous sugar or artificial sweeteners.

A couple others I enjoy that do take a little more prep:

- An unsweetened variation on a bourbon Presbyterian: grate fresh ginger, put in a shaker with ice and lemon juice and bourbon, shake it up and strain through a fine mesh strainer into an iced tumbler, add club soda to fill. (I'm intrigued by zyxwvut's ginger water idea and might try making these with that too.)

- If you have a juicer, one of my favorite summer drinks is juiced cucumber and a few mint leaves with lime juice, club soda and gin.
posted by contraption at 9:31 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I find that stevia (which is made from a plant) and the other sugar substitutes that tend towards a bitter flavor work well for making sugar-free lemonade, so that might be a lead. I also make dark chocolate with the same thing, though that obviously wouldn't fit in the "summery and light" category.
posted by XMLicious at 9:38 AM on May 5, 2014

Summery and light? I'd go with a classic Pimm's Cup, or champagne with St. Germain (or bitters, or creme de cassis).
posted by sevensnowflakes at 9:56 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I like flavored vodka (Absolut Citron, for example) with soda, and a twist of lime. Light and summery.
posted by radioamy at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a big fan of making my own fruit-infused vodkas. I use large mason jars and fill them with fresh fruit (raspberry is a fail-proof option) and vodka and let them sit for several weeks. I keep the jars in a cupboard and give them a little shake about once a week or so. I mix them with soda water and they make a bright, lovely, and delicious virtually carb-free cocktail. I've used citrus rind, all types of berries, and various fruits. You can also make your own gin this way. The infused vodkas keep for years in their jars as long as the fruit remains submerged under the vodka. I rarely bother to remove the fruit unless I'm re-bottling to give as a gift.
posted by quince at 10:44 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Gin and diet tonic with lime is quite nice and you could also try gin and cranberry lime seltzer.
posted by plinth at 10:51 AM on May 5, 2014

Stoli orange and club soda, with a slice of orange.

Hendricks's gin with a bit of muddled cucumber and mint and a squeeze of lemon.
posted by Diablevert at 10:58 AM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: We call a drink made with tequila and sugar-free lemonade a margarita-lita around our place. Pretty refreshing!
posted by Lynsey at 11:11 AM on May 5, 2014

I like these Dry brand sodas quite a lot for mixing — the cucumber and juniper berry flavours are super delicious with gin, and i bet the citrusy ones would be killer with white rum or tequila.
posted by tealsocks at 11:14 AM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Tequila, lime & fresca (can use vodka too)
posted by photoexplorer at 11:17 AM on May 5, 2014

The easiest way to avoid sugar in cocktails is to drink straight spirits. The beauty of a lot of pre-prohibition cocktails is that they managed to make doing so taste delicious and refreshing.

A personal favorite:

1 part brandy
1 part gin
1 part cointreau

Shake with plenty of ice, strain into chilled martini or coupe glass. Garnish with orange twist, lemon twist, or whatever else you like.
posted by narcotizingdysfunction at 11:30 AM on May 5, 2014

Cointreau has 7.5 carbs per ounce! SO SAD.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:03 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

OH! OH! Has anyone said Baja Bob's yet? Almost all the mixers have zero carbs. Margaritas, baby!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:13 PM on May 5, 2014

Nthing the gin and diet tonic with lime. I'm also a fan of the NorCal margarita: club soda, tequila, and fresh lime juice.
posted by culfinglin at 12:15 PM on May 5, 2014

I'll just put in my favorite: the sidecar.

4 parts brandy or cognac
2 parts triple sec
1 to 1.5 parts lemon juice
add ice, shake or stir, strain.

You will have to adjust the proportions to your taste (more triple sec for sweeter, more lemon for tartness), but done well, it is a refreshing citrus summer drink.
Most recipes call for sugaring the rim of the glass, but I find that over-sweetens it.
posted by librosegretti at 12:37 PM on May 5, 2014


I heard about (and made once, but I'd've liked to let it wait longer next time) vodka infused with honey and chili peppers. Seems better probably for shots than cocktails, but might go with tomato juice okay.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:37 PM on May 5, 2014

If you don't mind stevia: Lemon KeVita and vodka, with extra lime juice, on the rocks. Even lower-carb: Mojita KeVita and rum.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:52 PM on May 5, 2014

Dark and stormy: dark rum, with Gosling's Diet Ginger Beer.
Gin and (diet) tonic
posted by aimedwander at 2:38 PM on May 5, 2014

Bloody Mary.
posted by Stewriffic at 2:55 PM on May 5, 2014

I like iced tea with vodka.
posted by RandyWalker at 3:16 PM on May 5, 2014

Best answer: Do you like drinks that are entirely spirituous? Meaning cocktails that are just booze + liqueur + (maybe also bitters). Those are the obvious choice--no carby mixers to worry about! My go-to is a Manhattan (bourbon/rye, sweet vermouth*, bitters). It's super-simple to make, and really highlights whatever brown liquor you choose for it. If you're ordering it at a bar, specify "with a twist" to avoid getting a sugar-syrup-soaked cherry.

For something a little more summery, you could go for a negroni (gin, campari, sweet vermouth*), or even just a campari and soda/sparking water with a twist or wedge of lemon.

You can also just leave the sugar or simple syrup out of any recipe and substitute a drop of liquid sucralose (sold under the brand EZ Sweets), which I love for its ability to add invisible sweetness to things without changing their color, texture, or flavor, or causing any stomach distress.

*Note that sweet vermouth has ~4 net carbs per ounce, but you rarely put more than a quarter ounce in any given cocktail. Note also that the cheap stuff you get on the bottom shelf at the corner liquor store is very bad, and the even slightly more expensive stuff from the slightly froofier liquor store downtown is orders of magnitude better.
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:22 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Negroni (or Boulevardier, if you're a gin-hating heathen)
Campari & soda

posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:25 AM on May 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: In response to rhiannonstone, to be honest, I don't yet have a great idea of what I like or why I like it. I like silly sweet drinks and I also like whisk[e]y on the rocks. I've had a decent number of fancy cocktails but never remember what was in them or tried to replicate the flavors at home.

I'm mainly seeking nearly carb-free drinks, but I am surely down to try lesser-carb drinks and am not opposed to stocking sweet vermouth or other ingredients you'd use in small amounts.

Thanks for all the great suggestions!
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:14 AM on May 6, 2014

As for your porch, I recommend home brewing sassafras tea from sassafras trees that grow on your property/in your city.


Here's a link to how. Don't go overboard, it can be a carcinogen if you consume more than around 30 cups a year.

Tips from experience:

dig up the tree root, wash, and then shave the root and use the root shavings to make the tea. Bring to boil but quickly add a lid and simmer to taste (15-20 minutes). Make it nice and strong and add some gin. It also can be done using the sun like all sun tea.
posted by bbqturtle at 11:52 AM on May 6, 2014

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