7 Lower-Sugar Holiday Cocktails

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Christine Moore on November 30, 2020
  • Diverse group of young friends toasting at holiday or birthday party
    Raise a Glass to These Low-Sugar Alcoholic Drinks
    ‘Tis the season for a tipple (or two), but you better watch out: Christmas cocktails can come wrapped in extra sugar, carbs and calories if you’re not careful. If you’re living with diabetes, holiday parties present extra challenges in managing your glucose and avoiding hypoglycemia. Fortunately, by working with your doctor, practicing moderation, and opting for these lower-sugar cocktails, you can keep your holiday season healthy and bright.
  • Two gin and lime gimlet cocktails on a serving tray
    1. Gimlet
    The good news when it comes to cocktails is hard alcohol doesn’t contain sugar, which gives you a carb-free pass on vodka, rum, tequila, whiskey and gin. (These liquors still have calories from their alcohol content.) A classic gimlet offers elegant simplicity: 2.5 oz. gin, half-ounce fresh lime juice, and a half-ounce of simple syrup, which keeps the drink’s sugar count to 12g total.
  • Moscow mule in copper mug
    2. Moscow Mule
    Served in a bright copper mug, the Moscow Mule is an eye-catching addition to your holiday shindig. Even better: This combination of vodka, lime and ginger beer can be sugar-free if you use diet ginger beer or diet ginger ale. You can also swap out the spirit to bourbon (Kentucky Mule), gin (Gin-Gin Mule), or tequila (Mexican Mule)--all of which have zero sugar.
  • Tequila and grapefruit paloma cocktail
    3. Paloma
    It may be surprising that tequila offers a healthier alcoholic option than some other spirits. Like other hard alcohol, it has no sugar, and it’s lower in calories than other liquors. (One ounce of tequila has 64 calories compared to 96 calories in the same amount of vodka.) But it’s often paired with high-sugar mixers like margarita mix that drive up the carb count. Instead, try a refreshing paloma, mixing one-quarter cup tequila with one-quarter cup grapefruit juice for a total of 5.5g of sugar. Add a splash of lime and top off with soda water for extra (sugar-free) sparkle.
  • Two vodka soda cranberry cocktails with rosemary garnish
    4. Vodka Soda Splash
    Tonic water may sound healthy, but the fact is this “water” contains a whopping 16 grams of sugar per 6 oz. serving. Instead of sipping a traditional vodka tonic, swap in club soda to stay sugar-free. For a touch of sweetness, add a splash of 100% cranberry juice--avoid heavily sweetened juice cocktails--and garnish with lime for a festive blend of holiday colors.
  • Two rum and Coke cocktails on ice
    5. Rum and Diet Soda
    This lightened version of a classic rum and Coke cuts sugar completely. An added bonus: Pouring a 1.5 oz. serving of rum keeps the drink below 100 calories. As with most drinks, the key here is moderation. By holding to the recommended guidelines of one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, you can enjoy this cocktail without breaking your calorie budget.
  • Bloody Mary cocktails with celery stalks
    6. Bloody Mary
    The Sunday brunch staple can seem like a meal in a glass, with some restaurants offering over-the-top garnishes like bacon, shrimp, sausage and even cheeseburger sliders. If you can steer clear of the gimmicks and stick with the classic mix of vodka, tomato juice, Worcester, hot sauce, and spices, you can enjoy a lower-sugar drink with an added boost of nutrients like lycopene, found in tomatoes. For your healthiest option, avoid pre-packaged mixes and make your Mary from scratch.
  • Old fashioned cocktail with bourbon and orange peel
    7. Old Fashioned
    Channel your inner Don Draper with this classic cocktail that also offers a lower-sugar alternative to most mixed drinks. Don’t let your bartender add unnecessary sweeteners like maraschino cherries. The traditional recipe of one sugar cube or simple syrup made with one-half teaspoon sugar, mixed with 2 oz. bourbon and 3 dashes of Angostura bitters, keeps this drink to 4g of sugar max. We’ll toast to that!
Christmas Cocktails | 7 Low-Sugar Alcoholic Drinks
  1. Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020, Appendix 9. Alcohol. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-9/
  2. Diabetes & Alcohol. Diabetes Education Online, Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco. https://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/diabetes-alcohol/
  3. USDA Food Composition Databases. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list
  4. Cocktail Recipes. Liquor.com. https://www.liquor.com/recipes/

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Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 30
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.