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Drinks on Us: Low-Calorie Cocktails

Yes, you can enjoy a couple of cocktails and still have a bikini body. Try these low-calorie cocktail recipes for a healthier happy hour.

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Pina Colada Cooler
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
Bryan McCay
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Pina Colada Cooler

When FITNESS learned that Americans drink about 20 percent of their total calories on average, we immediately thought of one sinister culprit that tends to lurk near social gatherings: the cocktail. We tapped the experts -- top mixologists and dietitians - and with a few tweaks to basic drink recipes and some creative interpretations of high-calorie favorites, we believe we've found a few recipes that'll let you imbibe on occasion and maintain a trim waistline. Read on for drink recipes that go down easy.

Pina Colada Cooler
Registered dietitian Carolyn O'Neil can't understand why a pina colada was ever paired with a bathing suit. "It is one of the most caloric drinks you can imagine consuming," she tells us. An 8-ounce pina colada can pack in 640 calories -- over 100 calories more than a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. O'Neill slimmed down this dangerously delicious drink for us -- phew! -- and the results are just as refreshing as the original.

1 1/2 ounces coconut-flavored rum
3 ounces pineapple juice
4 ounces sparkling water
1 tablespoon of Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut Lite (found in the drink mixers section of many supermarkets)

Pour ingredients over ice and stir.

Calories: 165

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Blueberry Lemon Breeze

Using agave nectar in place of simple syrup "adds the perfect sweetness to a drink along with complexity of flavor," says Stephanie Ruhe, bar manager at Atlanta hot spot Neo. We love agave for its low glycemic index (meaning it won't send your blood sugar soaring) and because there's a light version that cuts calories. In this drink, which on Neo's menu is titled "Demise of Ms. Beauregarde" after the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character, fresh berries and lemon juice blend harmoniously with the flavors in the gin. But what makes this cocktail so special, says Ruhe, is the champagne that's poured on top!

10 blueberries
3/4 ounce light agave nectar, such as Wholesome Sweeteners, available at Whole Foods or other natural foods stores
1 1/2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce lemon juice
Splash of champagne (about 1 ounce)

In a shaker, muddle* together blueberries and agave. Add the gin and lemon juice, then shake vigorously for 20 seconds. Strain contents of shaker into a martini glass and then top with champagne. Garnish with 3 blueberries on a cocktail stick.

Calories: 205

*A muddler is a bartending tool used to grind ingredients. Purchase online at ($9.99) or make do with the end of a wooden spoon.

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Mimosa Lite

Brunchtime cocktails don't have to break the calorie bank, says Andrea Giancoli, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. At a recent Sunday gathering, she mixed up a less-indulgent mimosa without tossing out any of this bubbly beverage's taste. Her secret: low-calorie fruit juices, such as Minute Maid Light, which contain half the calories of regular juice.

2 ounces Minute Maid Light Orange Tangerine Juice
4 ounces champagne
Juice of 1/2 medium-size orange, or 1 to 2 ounces

Add several ice cubes to a tall glass. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the glass. Pour in orange tangerine juice, followed by champagne. Stir. Garnish with fresh orange rinds, curled.

Calories: 120

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Blended Raspberry Cocktail

Let ice be your ally this summer. By blending drinks with fruity flavors you ultimately consume fewer calories, says Giancoli. Another sip tip: Using tall glasses (10 ounces and above) means you'll refill -- and fill up on calories -- less often.

1/2 cup ice or several ice cubes
8 ounces Minute Maid Light Raspberry Passion
1 1/2 ounces vodka

Combine ingredients in a blender. Garnish with several fresh raspberries.

Calories: 115

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Strawberry-Citrus Vodka Cocktail

If you're planning on having more than one drink, a calorie-saving strategy is to alternate between cocktails and "mocktails," says O'Neil. Refreshing, summery flavors like citrus, berry, and mint can stand on their own, so the non-alcoholic version of the following drink by Neo's Ruhe is just as delicious. Swap in a low-calorie soda for the vodka (try Fresca) and you're drinking a virtually calorie-free beverage.

2 strawberries
1 sprig of mint
3/4 ounce light agave nectar, such as Wholesome Sweeteners
1 3/4 ounces citrus vodka
3/4 ounce lemon juice

In a shaker, muddle together mint and strawberries, then add the remaining ingredients. Shake vigorously with ice for 20 seconds. Pour entire contents of shaker into a tall glass. (Include all of the mint and strawberry pulp.)

Calories: 259

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Mojito Makeover

In general, the Mojito is already a better choice when it comes to calories, but the talented folks at the trendy Chapel Hill restaurant Jujube show us how to serve up this Cuban drink with one smart substitution -- Splenda syrup instead of simple syrup. Make your own by dissolving 2 packets of Splenda into an ounce of water or purchase Da Vinci's Sugar Free Sweetener Syrup (available on, and keep the bottle on hand for iced teas, coffees, and more.

2 ounces light rum
1 ounce Splenda syrup, Da Vinci's Sugar Free Sweetener Syrup
1 ounce lime juice
7 mint leaves
Splash of club soda

In a shaker, muddle mint leaves and a lime wedge. Add ice and other ingredients and shake. Pour into tall glass and top with soda.

Calories: 140

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Skinny Wasaberita

Another high-calorie monster, the margarita was long overdue for a makeover. Ruhe whittles down the calories in this happy hour classic by leaving out the Cointreau (saving 95 calories per ounce) and adding a powerful punch of wasabi powder. Her clever spin on this go-to is unexpected and guilt-free.

1 teaspoon wasabi powder
3/4 ounce lime juice
1 ounce light agave nectar, such as Wholesome Sweeteners
1 3/4 ounces Tequila blanco

Salt rim of a margarita glass. In a shaker add all of the ingredients with ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds and then strain over fresh ice into glass.

Calories: 224

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Choco-lite Cocktail

Some dieters think they save calories by ordering a dessert and a cocktail in one, but has anyone ever lost weight drinking liquefied hot fudge sundaes? Skip the 500 calories found in the average chocolate martini (made with creme de cacao and half and half) -- this lightened-up treat has been pared down in a couple of smart places. Before you pour, line the rim of the glass with syrup for a bit of sweetness with every sip.

1 ounce Godiva chocolate liqueur
1 ounce vodka
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 teaspoon Hershey's Syrup Lite (for lining rim of glass)

In a shaker, combine chocolate liqueur, vodka, and milk with crushed ice. Shake to mix. Pour into glass.

Calories: 227

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Grapefruit Basil Martini

Low-calorie recipes are often celebrated for what they manage to cut out, but here's a beverage that throws a few added benefits your way. Neo's mixologists pair basil, an unpredictable herbal twist, with grapefruit, which delivers a dose of vitamins and antioxidants. Now that's something to toast to.

2 basil leaves
1 ounce grapefruit juice
1 ounce Da Vinci's Sugar Free Sweetener Syrup
1 3/4 ounces gin
Splash of sparkling wine

In a shaker, muddle basil and syrup. Add syrup and gin and shake hard with ice for 20 seconds. Strain ingredients into a martini glass and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Calories: 161

Originally published on, July 2009.

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11/14/2012 04:07:19 PM Report Abuse
MixMasterNick wrote:

The math on this recipe is wrong. 1.5 oz coconut rum = 153cal. 3 oz pineapple = 45cal. 1 tbsp. lite coconut cream = 55cal. Pina Colada Cooler + 253 calories

12/28/2011 10:26:37 AM Report Abuse
heatherbakerr20 wrote:

I found some voli spirits at my local Sams. They make awesome recipes for low calorie cocktails!

11/2/2011 04:41:29 PM Report Abuse
acornnutbaker wrote:

these are so great! for my after work cocktail I try to make it even healthier by using my favorite light vodka, Voli Vodka! They have some great recipes on their website: my favorite is the Lyte Martini- classic and you can feel great about drinking it!

11/2/2011 04:34:27 PM Report Abuse
tjrunner85 wrote:

@ckaren67: I might be late now too, but... they're selling Voli at Sam's Club now! And they just recently added it to Weight Watchers' list of things you can drink, so excited!

10/25/2011 10:17:24 PM Report Abuse
ckaren67 wrote:

I know this is a little late but did anyone see the clip on the Today Show of Kathie Lee and Hoda drinking that new electrolyte low calorie vodka called Voli? I went to their website after and some of cocktails look yummy but I can't find it in my area, do you know where it is available?

1/20/2011 07:16:21 PM Report Abuse
montieth127 wrote:

Glad to see the substitutions being used in this article. Another great page I found on this topic is:

9/23/2010 04:36:06 PM Report Abuse
anonymous wrote:

I'll give it a try.

12/31/2009 09:05:54 PM Report Abuse
kim_adams86 wrote:

Great substitutions! It is hard to give up a cocktail when dieting.

12/31/2009 07:55:20 PM Report Abuse

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