Our Favourite Low Alcohol Cocktails

Photo: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

People like to get sloshed no matter the weather, and while we're not in a position to judge, there are always options for people who want to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while staying safe, happy and healthy. Obviously, being a moderate, responsible adult who drinks lots of water is the best way to combat this phenomenon, but choosing gentler, 'light' or low alcohol cocktails can also help.

How low on alcohol? That’s up to you. You can get specific, calculating alcohol by volumes (ABVs) with this classic dilution equation, or you can approach it ingredients-wise. For example: a martini — which is made entirely of alcoholic ingredients — is a bad beverage for hanging out in the hot sun, but an Aperol spritz is a good one. Conversely, in winter, a martini is just fine.

Aperol is fairly low in ethanol to begin with, but it’s also diluted with soda water. It’s not a sports beverage by any means, but it will wreck you less than an all-booze, stirred, served-in-a-coupe situation. Here are some of my favourite “sessionable” beverages, listed in no particular order.

Shandies

These low-key beer cocktails are great because they are cheap, require absolutely no barware, and can be made with any sort of sour beverage you fancy. They work best with cheap, almost flavourless, super fizzy beer, so leave your Belgians in the fridge. Just fill a glass with ice, fill it halfway with beer, and top it off with lemonade, limeade, grapefruit soda (extra fizzy!), or even a little kombucha.

Spritzes and Spritzers

Though the Aperol spritz is the most well-known, you can actually make a spritz out of any amaro using a formula of three parts bubbly, two parts liqueur, and roughly one part soda water. Cynar, Campari, Suze and Avèze all make great, bracingly bitter spritzes, but sweeter options like Crème Yvette and Lillet can work too, especially if you use a dry sparkling wine.

Spritzers are a slightly different beast, the main difference being that they omit the liqueur. Combine wine (usually white) with something carbonated (usually soda water) and, bam, you got a spritzer. Choosing the wine is your biggest stumbling block in creating the perfect spritz. You want something with enough flavour to stand up all that soda water, and you want to avoid wine whose charms are more nuanced. (I would also avoid using anything pricey, but I don’t know your wine budget.)

Riesling and Gewürztraminer are my personal favourites, as even cheap, slightly too sweet bottles are made drinkable with a little dilution. Ratio-wise, I like to do three parts wine to one part soda, but you can do half and half if you need that extra hydration, or somehow end up dealing with a really syrupy wine. If you want to get fancy, you can add bitters.

Also, don’t be afraid to swap out plain, boring seltzer for a fizzy drink, or try a wine other than white. A bit of Coke goes surprising well with a bold red. (It’s called a “kalimotxo.” Spanish teens drink it! Don’t you want to be cool like a Spanish teen?)

Sodas and Tonics

And then we have the “something and soft drink” or “something and tonic” family of beverages. These are a little stronger, but they are still much more dilute than a martini. The format is simple — add about 30mL or 45mL of a spirit you don’t mind the taste of, then top with soda water, and maybe squeeze in a wedge of citrus.

If you want to get tonic involved, make sure it’s a good one (see our guide on that here), and keep in mind that you can always dilute the tonic with plain soda water if you just want a hint of sugar.

Beyond gin, don’t be afraid of low alcohol offerings, like aperitif wines and liqueurs.


Comments

Be the first to comment on this story!

Trending Stories Right Now