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August 2, 2006 11:33 AM   Subscribe

What's a fairly tasty, "healthy" alcoholic cocktail you can order at a bar? I'm interested in something without the high fructose corn syrup of "well juices" or filled with cream, but with <= 20% alcoholic content and cheap?
posted by lpctstr; to Food & Drink (37 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Bloody Mary's seem healthy, what with the tomato juice and celery. But I may be fooling myself--I am quite naive in the morning.
posted by LarryC at 11:37 AM on August 2, 2006

Not a cocktail per se, but dry wines only have 65-70 calories per 100ml. And wine does have numerous alleged health benefits.
posted by j-dawg at 11:44 AM on August 2, 2006

It depends on where you are, as there are all sorts of cocktails that are fairly "healthy," because they use high quality ingredients. But you're not gonna find a mango lime Caipirinha at your local dive.

How do you feel about fruit schnapps?
posted by klangklangston at 11:44 AM on August 2, 2006

A Dry Rob Roy, on the rocks, with a splash of soda makes a cool, summery cocktail, with no bar mix overtones at all.

A Campari and soda is another summer favorite of mine.
posted by paulsc at 11:45 AM on August 2, 2006

Patron, or other tequila over fresh-squeezed lime juice. Learned that on the green!
posted by neilkod at 11:47 AM on August 2, 2006

Gin and diet tonic, twist of lime?

Whiskey and diet coke?

Highballs tend to be cheap (liquor plus mixer).

What do you mean by tasty? Do you want something to mask the taste of the alcohol? As far as lo-cal mixers go, I cant think of many past diet tonic water and other diet sodas, but maybe others have better suggestions.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 11:47 AM on August 2, 2006

I would second LarryC's "bloody mary" suggestion except that I've rarely known them to be cheap.

In the summer I'm a fan of Southern Comfort/peach schnaaps with a little soda water and an orange slice. Because the liquor is well-standard I don't usually pay more than $2-3 for this drink and it's light and refreshing without the HFCS of cola or juices.
posted by mezzanayne at 11:48 AM on August 2, 2006

Lebanese Martini. Vodka and Pomegranite juice.

On consideration, perhaps you'll just want to order it by the ingredients, and append "up" if you don't like the name. That's just the way I learned it.
posted by StrangeTikiGod at 11:50 AM on August 2, 2006

A Greyhound is just vodka and grapefruit juice, and bars usually have the white grapfruit juice in little cans that's unsweetened.
posted by hermitosis at 11:50 AM on August 2, 2006

Screwdrivers (vodka and orange juice).
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:55 AM on August 2, 2006

Possibly the ultimate low-calorie drink is the wine spritzer: white wine plus soda water. When I went to bartending school, we were instructed to always add extra fruit garnish to a wine spritzer, because the patron was clearly on a miserable diet and not allowed to have any fun, so we may as well give them something to eat.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:18 PM on August 2, 2006

My favorite: Vodka, soda water, and a piece of lemon or lime. I've also found it to be pretty much hangover-proof, as well.
posted by deadmessenger at 12:24 PM on August 2, 2006

ice tea & whiskey.
posted by octavia at 12:27 PM on August 2, 2006

For those who despise Gin and Tonic, may I suggest a Gin and Ginger Ale (diet if necessary), also with lemon or lime or both!

It doesn't have any of the lime peel taste of gin and tonic, and the flavour really balances the alcohol taste.
posted by utsutsu at 12:27 PM on August 2, 2006

I second the idea of a screwdriver. Staves off scurvey.

Also, red beer is an interesting alternative at some bars. Beer + tomato juice. It's better than it sounds.

Whatever you order, ask if they use fresh juice or from a concentrate. The concentrated juices ususally contain high-fructose corn syrup. While tasty, this particular type of sugar can only be metabolized by your liver, so you're giving it double-duty with the liquor.

This causes your body to store it as fat, negating any positive effects of using healthy juice. Just so's ya know.
posted by mattoly at 12:29 PM on August 2, 2006

Gin and juice.
posted by MetaMonkey at 12:47 PM on August 2, 2006

Grocer's apostrophe, LarryC! THWAP!

Vodka or gin and lime juice is good.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:45 PM on August 2, 2006

Also vodka and cranberry. That means 100% cranberry juice (sour), not cranberry cocktail.

Mm, I want one right now..
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:46 PM on August 2, 2006

I'm pretty sure that this doesn't meet the less than 20%abv stipulation, but sidecars are amazing. Best summer drink in existence.
posted by The Michael The at 1:52 PM on August 2, 2006

Pimm's Cup, made with Pimms No 1 (a gin based liqueur) and lots of cool veg, fruits and/or herbs.

I'll just pretend that nobody dissed the gin and tonic in this thread.
posted by maudlin at 2:07 PM on August 2, 2006

From my link: "The classic Pimm's Cup wouldn't qualify as an extreme drink in any sense of the word. Served in a narrow highball glass, this spritzer could me mistaken for a well-tanned Tom Collins were it not for its trademark cucumber garnish. On the tongue, it's simultaneously fresh and light; spicy and tart. A slight, citrusy acidity complements sweetness from lemon-lime soda or lemonade (barkeep's choice) as the cucumber provides clean, vegetal flavors and a satisfying crunch for the salad-deprived.

Because of its high refreshment-to-alcohol ratio, a properly made Pimm's Cup is a marathon drink particularly well suited to late summer in New Orleans. Unlike the near-flammable frozen slushes that currently rule Bourbon Street, afternoon wanderers can lift a few rounds at midday and still be in the mood for "proper cocktails" come happy hour. In England and it's former Caribbean colonies, the Pimm's Cup rules the leisurely brunch scene and even more leisurely cricket scene, where matches often stretch into multiple days. "

posted by maudlin at 2:08 PM on August 2, 2006

Seconding the vodka and soda water with lemon or lime juice - I like them with several pieces of fruit squeezed in, if that's not possible then Rose's lime juice is okay.

Vodka and Fresca is pretty okay.
posted by KAS at 2:29 PM on August 2, 2006

i read about a wonderful hot-weather beverage once, and then went on to use it (*cough* daily *cough*) while stuck on a rock in the middle of the pacific.

bul - pronounced "boool." it's cuban (or so i read).

mix 1 part cold beer, 1 part ginger ale (i suppose you could use diet), and add about 1 tbsp of fresh lime juice. serve over ice.

i've encountered nothing tastier in the heat. the sweetness combined with the citrus combined with the beer-ness...mmm.
posted by garfy3 at 2:37 PM on August 2, 2006 [3 favorites]

3rd (4th?) the vodka soda with a squeeze of lime or lemon - plus vodka comes in kinds of flavors now too. Raspberry vodka with soda and lime is particularly nice.

Diet tonic water is vile, but that doesn't stop me - I need my gin and tonic, dammit.

Pomegranate Margaritas have a lot of anti-oxidants, and depending on how they are made may not be terribly bad for you - I can't stand pomegranate juice straight with vodka; tastes like blood to me.

Wine, particularly red, has many heart-healthy side effects, but not if you drink enough to actually get drunk (and red winde can cause a vicious hangover - particularly if it's American or Australian as there are more sulfites which many people don't tolerate well).
posted by CaptApollo at 2:57 PM on August 2, 2006

A traditional margarita (no salt) would be relatively healthy. Traditional, meaning, fresh lime juice from mulled limes (not canned), tequila, triple sec, etc.
posted by frogan at 2:57 PM on August 2, 2006

Bourbon and grapefruit juice. Much better than it sounds.
posted by theora55 at 4:41 PM on August 2, 2006

Bourbon and milk? (Cf)

The simple answer which is hinted at in a number of the above responses is to find a good bar where the bartender uses real, fresh, unsweetened juices to mix their cocktails. Granted, that's probably not going to mesh well with the "cheap" requirement.

So here's your answer: Find a liquor whose flavor you like (rum, tequila, bourbon, scotch, whatever) on it's own. Then order that and water, or that and soda. Garnish as you see fit. If you don't like the flavor of any liquor, then choose vodka. If you don't like vodka then drink wine.

Basically, if you think about the mixers that most bartenders have available to them, almost everything has sugar in it: fake juices, goddawful sour mix, sodas (except for diet cola), tonic water (most bars won't have diet), etc. If you know they use fresh juices (see above), then that opens up some more options, but even there you are getting natural sugars. If a bartender foregoes all of these options, they are basically left with club soda, water, and a whole lot of liquor. I think you're best bet is to learn to like some of the stronger drinks (martini, sidecar, or just plain bourbon on the rocks) and learn to drink it more slowly so you don't get bombed.
posted by rorycberger at 4:59 PM on August 2, 2006

Go for a G&T. The quinine in the tonic is I always tell people, anyway.

Quinine facts.

Quinine has many uses and applications.
Analgesic, anesthetic, antiarrhythmic, antibacterial, antimalarial, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, astringent, bactericide, cytotoxic, febrifuge, fungicide, insecticide, nervine, stomachic, tonic.

posted by SassHat at 5:30 PM on August 2, 2006

In the 19th century, quinine was the only reasonable drug available for treatment of malaria. British working and living in tropical colonies of the British Empire were dying like flies from malaria, and it turned out that the only thing that could keep them alive was regular doses of quinine as a prophylactic. Problem was that the stuff really tastes foul.

They tried mixing it with carbonated water to make it a bit easier to get down, but it was still rather foul. Then someone had the bright idea of mixing that tonic water with gin -- and the G&T was born, and the British Empire was saved. For a while, at least.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:09 PM on August 2, 2006

I'd second all the G&T's, Margaritas made properly (and loose the salt). A gimlet is good (Gin with lime juice, if you can get fresh lime, I prefer that to Rose's) and I can heartily second a Pimm's cup -the perfect summer drink (when one doesn't want a G&T, that is...)
posted by ob at 6:30 PM on August 2, 2006

Thumbs down to whatever and tonic -- a lot of brands use HFCS. It's basically quinine-flavored soda pop. Here, directly from the label of a bottle of Schweppes: "Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar, citric acid, natural flavors, sodium benzoate, quinine."

I've been told Whole Foods (if you've got one in your area) stocks a tonic made with cane sugar. But then again, you can't order a cocktail at a grocery store.
posted by sonofslim at 7:03 PM on August 2, 2006

Many of the popular bitters formulations are closely guarded, but at least some are known to contain quinine. Bitters and soda drinks are a wonderful way to explore the world of alcoholic tastes, and generally, bitters are more tangy than actually bitter.
posted by paulsc at 7:08 PM on August 2, 2006

Vodka Fire Engines are great. Lemonade, Raspberry Cocktail Cordial and Vodka. Yum. =] You also can't go wrong with Lemon, Lime and Bitters.
posted by cholly at 9:17 PM on August 2, 2006

FWIW I personally abhor tonic. The flavor is nasty, and since I'm not trying to fight off malaria, I see no reason to pollute my delectable Bombay Sapphire with the accursed stuff.

For my money, you can't get better than Sapphire, Soda, and a squeeze of lime. (When I'm at home I make it with Perrier Lime Soda).

My second summer choice would be a mojito.
posted by perelman at 9:28 PM on August 2, 2006

Lemon, Lime, Bitters & Vodka.
posted by polyglot at 10:11 PM on August 2, 2006

I'm a bartender and I heartily endorse the G&Ts and the Pimm's Cup. A properly made mojito, though trendy, is delicious in the summer. For a low-alcohol quaff, consider a champagne cocktail, and tell the bartender you'll add your own sugar. Or maybe a Kir Royale. Kinda girly.

I make what I consider to be a superior pomegranate martini. I use Stoli Oranj vodka, a splash of Hpnotiq liquer, a splash of OJ, and finish with pomegranate juice. Shake over cracked ice and strain into martini glass rubbed with an ornage peel.

Or have a shandy -- lager and lemonade.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:47 PM on August 2, 2006

I doubt anyone is reading this anymore, but since people were dissing tonic...

I'm an archaeologist. We were doing a high desert survey in Egypt for paleolithic sites this past winter, and we ran out of water. Our daily tractor delivery from the dig house didn't have any because the power had gone down and the pump wasn't working. This left 30-odd people stranded in the desert with... cans of tonic water. Picture us filling Nalgene bottles and Camelbacks from cans of tonic. Every time I took a step, got more thirsty, and contemplated that to rehydrate I'd have to swill yet more tonic, my will to live dipped a little bit more. I've never hated life more than that day.
posted by The Michael The at 7:12 AM on August 3, 2006

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