If ever there was a summer to celebrate — this is it. Americans will be soaking up the fun all season long at beaches, backyards, front porches and rooftops. And you just may be looking for some adult beverages to add a little extra sparkle to your soiree. But many of us want our libations a bit less boozy— and less caloric — these days. The good news is that there’s a walk-in fridge worth of lighter options to try this summer.
Alcoholic beverages aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so they’re not required by law to include a Nutrition Facts Panel. But many new brands are providing this information, either on the package or online, to help health-minded consumers make better decisions. And you can always use the ABV listed to help you figure out boozy a drink is. ABV stands for alcohol by volume and all types of alcohol will list that on the packaging. The higher the ABV, the higher the calories. For example, a regular beer will range between 5% and 7%, while a double IPA can clock in at 9.1% ABV. Light beers range from 3.8% ABV to 4.2%.
Let’s look at the better-for-you sips to load into your cooler this summer:
The process of making wine is ancient, but new technology has made it possible to make lower sugar—and therefore lower calorie — wines in recent years. One company that has perfected the process is FitVine. They ferment their wines to dry, instead of leaving residual sugar, which drops the sugar content to less than a gram of sugar per bottle. This proprietary process also lowers the tannins and histamines in the wines, making them more suitable for people who are sensitive to histamine. We like FitVine’s prosecco, which clocks in at just 92 calories per 5-ounce pour and is perfect for toasting to any occasion.
You probably know Cameron Diaz for her roles in classic rom coms, but she also recently launched a wine brand called Avaline with her friend and entrepreneur, Katherine Power. Avaline’s bright and crisp sparkling rose, made with organic grapes, has 1g of sugar and 113 calories per glass.
Seltzers, spritzers and other canned cocktails
The market for canned cocktails has exploded in recent years. The category started with seltzers and has grown to include drinks made with myriad boozy options.
If you’re a fan of Brazilian caipirinhas, dive into a can of Novo Fogo’s sparkling caipirinha cocktails, in original lime, mango and lime, or passion fruit and lime. Each petite 200ml packs a punch with just 128 to 135 calories and 10g of carbs. Serve straight out of the can or over ice.
Another fun canned option is Loverboy’s Spritz, which they call an “aromatic cocktail.” These gluten-free blends of juice and orange wine (wine made from orange peels that’s filtered for a neutral flavor) have a slim 100 calories and 2g of sugar per picnic-friendly can. We like the juicy Peach Mango flavor, but it also comes in Blueberry Lemon and Passionfruit Guava.
If tequila is more your thing, serve up a Volley, made with 100% blue agave tequila, plus sparkling water and real organic fruit juice (mango, lime, ginger or grapefruit) and is a reasonable 5.25% ABV. Each gluten-free, no sugar added can clocks in between 100 to 110 calories, depending on the flavor.
For those of us who scratch their heads at the appeal of hard seltzers like White Claw, there are some fab new wine-based spritzers on the market. Usual combines Brut sparkling wine with Japanese yuzu, a citrus fruit that brings a whole load of tartness and astringency. A sleek silver can contains 7.25% ABV, 71 calories and 2.2g sugar.
Hoxie has fun options for us wine drinkers too. They blend sustainably grown grapes with water, botanicals and fruit to create palate pleasing combinations like Watermelon-Chili and Lemon Ginger Rose. Each 90-calorie, 250ml can of Hoxie has 3g of added sugar, 4g of carbs and is vegan and gluten-free.
A standard, 12-ounce beer usually comes in at about 150 calories, while a craft beer with a higher ABV can be upwards of 250 calories. Light beers are notorious for being light on flavor as well as calories, but some newcomers are definitely tastier than the norm.
If you’re looking for some extra benefits with your light lager, check out Flying Embers’ Active Ales Lion’s Mane Lager. This crisp and slightly fruity 4.2% ABV brew has just 85 calories, plus functional benefits from Lion’s Mane mushrooms. It’s brewed with USDA organic malt and rice syrup and won’t keep you from your early morning run tomorrow.
For a lighter brew that you can pick up at virtually any grocery store, we like Bud Light Lime. It’s brewed with real lime peels and packs a citrusy punch—perfect to wash down guacamole and chips at the beach.
Cider fans should give Original Sin Brighter Times Cider a try. At 6% ABV and 185 calories, you’l get all of that appley flavor in a super crisp, not too sweet package. It’s made with freshly pressed New York apples, plus passion fruit, orange and guava juice, and goes extremely well with anything grilled.
Millennials’ favorite feel-good drink has plenty of spiked — and probiotic-boosted — versions. Regular kombucha ferments tea with yeast and juice, which creates negligible amounts of alcohol. To boost that, hard kombucha goes through a secondary fermentation process with additional sugar and another strain of yeast, converting that sugar into various levels of alcohol (from 3 to 8% ABV).
Boochcraft’s organic hard kombucha clocks in at 7% ABV. We like the tangy Grapefruit-Hibiscus flavor, which has 170 calories and 2g sugar per 12-ounce can. Aqua ViTea’s After Glow is less boozy at only 5% ABV — so you can still get up for that early morning hike. The Ginger Blue flavor combines blueberry and ginger juice with the kombucha base and has 150 calories and 7g of sugar per 12-ounce can.
DIY light cocktails
The typical cocktail you order at a bar is made with syrups and added sugar and can rack up hundreds of calories in just one drink. But you can shake up your own craft cocktail at home with healthier mix-ins. We’ve been playing around with Spare Food Co’s elixirs, which were created by Adam Kaye, the former chef at Blue Hill, and use surplus local ingredients that would normally be wasted. We paired 6 ounces of their probiotic Cucumber and Lime tonic (60 calories) with an ounce of gin (74 calories) and a squeeze of lime for a super refreshing patio sipper.
Another at-home drink you can easily stir up is a michelada. Combine your fave light beer, plus an ounce of mezcal (we like Gem and Bolt or Dona Vega), plus V8 juice for a zesty take on a bloody mary.
Cheers to all your summer celebrations! Keep it fun and remember to stay hydrated and drink responsibly.