The start of spring heralds the arrival of flowers, bunnies, and warm weather. Sadly, it also heralds panic over the love handles, muffin tops and assorted padding packed on during the long dark winter. Swimsuit season is just over the horizon, after all. Diets are quickly implemented and long dormant gym memberships are dusted-off. But are people willing to give up the sauce to lose weight? Not a chance.
Instead, non-tea totalers looking to trim the fat turn to light beers and cocktails – drinks with a reputation for being easy on the waistline but still packing the desired punch for a night out. Bacardi rum and diet cola has long been a combination known for offering the right combo of low calories and few carbs, with vodka and tonic right behind it. Recently, however, liquor companies have been looking for ways to take advantage of these bikini-clad lushes and new low-cal liquors have been trickling on to liquor store shelves to entice dieting drinkers. Plus, existing brands have been letting everyone know just how little impact their bottles have on their customers' “bottom lines.”
What's interesting about these efforts, of course, is that alcohol has a fixed amount of calories – 150 per ounce of pure alcohol. Obviously, drinking 100 percent alcohol tends to have detrimental effects, but to reduce the amount of calories in a drink, one generally has to water down the ingredients. This often leads to over-consumption in pursuit of the desired effect. Regardless, here are a couple new bottles that promise to deliver a bikini-worthy buzz.
Voli Lyte Vodka – Voli bills itself as the first low-calorie vodka and touts the fact that it has, on average, 40 percent less calories than many leading brands. But, it accomplishes this miracle of modern mixology by reducing the alcohol content in its bottles dramatically. Most vodkas fall between 40-50 percent alcohol. Voli, however, reduces this figure to 30 percent. That's still more than twice a typical bottle of wine, but it does impact the average mixed drink. Voli is well-balanced and extremely clean tasting, but lacks the warmth of a typical vodka and comes across as strangely clinical. But since a n ounce of standard vodka weighs in at 70 calories, Voli does shave a few precious points off every cocktail. In the end, it's not a bad addition to the training table as long as you don't try to make up for the reduced alcohol with extra servings.
Skinnygirl Margaritas – The brainchild of reality star and chef Bethenny Frankel, Skinnygirl Margaritas are “...the margarita you can trust,” at least according to the brand's web site. Oddly enough, the ingredients in the Skinnygirl closely mirror the ingredients in a traditional margarita – tequila, lime juice and orange liqueur. And it tastes similar too, with a healthy lime tang and a solid lug of warmth-laden tequila. The flavors are muted, but well-balanced. However, the need for Skinnygirl is only clear when one examines the typical restaurant margarita that’s typically made with sour mix or a commercial blend loaded with sugar and tipping the scales at 400 or more calories for just a few ounces. Skinnygirl, at only 12.7 percent alcohol by volume, is only 100 calories for a 4-ounce serving. But with a little more effort and just a few more calories it'd be easy to whip up a batch of full strength margaritas.
Of course, bars do tend to frown on customers bringing in flasks of their own liquor to adhere to strict diets. Bartenders, after all, are fans of making money, and when every customer orders a diet cola, with room in the glass for more, they might get suspicious. With that in mind we've provided a couple recipes to mix behind the bar at home without fear of adding cellulite to that svelte figure.
The Martini – The perfect martini is also the perfect drink when prepping for Speedo season. The martini only contains about 160 calories for a 2.5 ounce pour. So as long as you're not pouring into a fishbowl, as some bars are known to do, if you switch to this, your gut may soon be a thing of the past. Granted, with 2.5 ounces of 80-100 proof alcohol, your sobriety may be as well. Plus, the martini is still an excellent sign of smooth sophistication. If it was good enough for the Rat Pack, it's definitely good enough for you.
• Dry Vermouth
• 2 oz. gin (Bulldog's punchy herbal notes work wonders here)
Pour about a half ounce of dry vermouth in a shaker full of ice glass and stir gentl to coat the ice cubes. Strain the vermouth out and then add the gin and stir again. Whatever you do, don't shake it! That'll aerate the cocktail, adding air bubbles and spoiling the clear crystalline purity of the liquor. Plus, the ice will melt, adding too much water to the mix and throwing the balance completely off. Strain into a tall cocktail glass and skip the olive to save calories.
The Mojito – A little bit of a splurge compared to the martini at around 200 calories, the mojito is a great highball to drink while dreaming of warm summer beaches. This Cuban cocktail is lightly sweet with a hefty dose of citrus and heavily perfumed with mint, packing a lot of satisfaction into just six to eight ounces. Plus, with the muddled mint floating around in the glass it's easy to feel like you got a dose of leafy greens while you were at it.
• 2-3 oz. silver rum (a Cuban-style rum that's easy on the sweetness like DonQ Cristal is a perfect fit)
• Juice of 1 Lime (approx. 1 oz)
• 2 tsp Sugar
• 2-4 Mint sprigs
• Soda water
Add the mint to a highball glass with a splash of soda water and the sugar. Muddle (crush) the mint with a muddler or the back of a spoon and fill the glass with ice. Add the rum, top off with soda and give it a few hearty stirs. Then sit back and revel in the fact that no matter what, you probably look better than Castro whilst sipping on your drink.