6 Healthy Cocktail Recipes That Will Rock Your World
(One for each of my favorite poisons…)
If we are going to be boosting our knowledge of nutrition to be making better choices when out drinking and partying, we should probably learn more about what we are drinking too.
Since most of us are busy working and then hitting happy hour, I have saved you the time and energy it takes to read up on these wonderful spirits that make our lives more fun (or make others appear to have personalities where there are none).
I believe that you should know about the foods you eat before you put them in your mouth and liquor is no different.
Actually before putting anything or anyone in your mouth you should probably be sure you know what you’re doing, just as a rule of thumb.
Gin is one of those special and complicated spirits. Not as complicated as your last relationship, but it is not a spirit for the faint of heart (or stomach).
What makes gin, gin?
Gin can be made from any neutral spirit, but is a gin because of its addition of botanicals, or in less fancy terms, herbs and spices. It is called gin because traditionally most of its flavor comes from juniper berries. Herbal flavors in spirits can often make a new drinker cringe.
You may want to consider letting gin’s flavor grow on you because, gin was originally created for medicinal use to treat kidney, stomach, and other ailments.
So are there any health benefits to consuming gin?
Gin can help to fight off illness due to the positive effects of juniper berries. It has also shown to be effective in helping joint pain.
If you are feeling like you ate too much and you’re about to loosen the top button on your pants, you may want to have some gin. Gin causes the secretion of more stomach acid and other digestive enzymes. It’s role in digestion may also have some bearing in appetite stimulation.
Gin is known for being a leader in the pack among alcohol-based diuretics. When fighting a UTI or a kidney-related ailment, gin should be your liquor of choice (if you HAVE to have a drink). The high urine volume, when you break that infamous “seal,” helps to flush out bacteria.
This is, however, a double-edged sword…
One of the main culprits for that terrible hangover keeping you in bed in the morning is dehydration. Personally a night of gin has been the culprit of every hangover I consider to be in my top 5 worst hangovers of my lifetime (yes I’m counting, and I know you will never forget some of those nasty mornings that lead to an entire day in bed).
If you’re going to drink gin, consider it a spirit for a more laid back evening of just one or two drinks. And while I have had some of the most amazing craft cocktails that utilized gin, those mixed drinks will leave you hurting the next day.
A gin and tonic is a classic for a reason. When it comes to gin, less is more.
And if you have run out of alcohol at the party, and all that is left is gin…
DO NOT START TAKING SHOTS OF GIN.
Dear god! Take my word when I say not to shoot straight gin. When I have to tell friends it was a shots of gin kind of night, they know we should just not talk about it…
Health(ier) Gin Cocktail Recipe
So if you are new to the gin world, I suggest starting simple with a gin and soda.
Shocked I didn’t suggest tonic?
Tonic is full of sugar! Measuring in at nearly 22g of sugar per serving, tonic will surely contribute to a throbbing head the next day.
Here is my favorite health(ier) gin cocktail to make at home:
- 1.5 oz gin (I prefer Hendricks for this one, but you can use whatever you prefer)
- Juice of half a lime
- 2 slices cucumber
- 4 mint leaves
- Soda water
- In a shaker, muddle together the cucumber and mint.
- Then add lime juice and gin.
- Shake vigorously with ice and pour over ice in a collins glass.
- Top with soda and garnish with mint and lime wheel.
This drink is low-calorie (with minimal sugar). This recipe can easily be multiplied to be made into an amazing pitcher drink to be served at a party!
Your choice cocktail most Tuesdays, tequila has been a crowd favorite shooter for many decades.
With its reputation for being the scapegoat for why all the girls got naked at that party last night, what’s not to like?
What makes tequila, tequila?
Tequila is only allowed to be called tequila if it has been made with 100% blue agave and was distilled in the Jalisco region of Mexico (but admittedly the cheap stuff can still be called tequila as long as 51% of it is derived from agave). There are many types, varied by age, to be consumed in different ways…But we could talk tequila for pages if I start into that discussion…
Before you start mixing yourself up a margarita and using it as an excuse as to why you are suddenly naked, let’s get to the benefits of tequilas.
So are there any health benefits to tequila?
In recent years, the nutrition community has become fascinated with the agave plant. Since tequila is made with agave, it was a natural step to research the effectS of tequila on the body. Recent studies suggest that tequila may help in weight loss (or at least work in the direction of not gaining it).
Agavina, the form of sugar in agave, is not recognized by the body like sucrose and other sugars. Therefore, it does not spike one’s blood sugar and cause the release of insulin. With 371 million people with diabetes worldwide, this is a spirit in need of more investigation!
In addition to the metabolic benefits, tequila may help maintain healthy bones. Those amazing agavins have been shown to aid in the absorption of calcium. A non-digestible carbohydrate called fructans was shown to increase calcium absorption, excretion, and showed promise in increased bone formation. With 8 million women in the United States suffering from osteoporosis, this could be a really good reason to up your tequila drinking game.
When it comes to a tequila hangover, the issue lies with whether it is a true tequila. Cheap tequilas that are not 100% agave often contain other sugar-based alcohols. In addition, cheap tequilas are often artificially dyed (I mean that nasty “gold” stuff) and only taste good enough to be hurled back, avoiding your tongue as much a possible. If you’re drinking the good stuff, it is worthy of being sipped and consequently doesn’t usually lead to an early end to the night (as most shot taking leads to).
If you a drinking 100% agave tequila you will most likely avoid the discomfort the next morning, so maybe do yourself a favor and spend a little more, your body will thank you.
Health(ier) Tequila Cocktail Recipe
So we have all had a round of shots with our friends at a tequila bar once or twice and margaritas are a cocktail staple, but there is more to tequila than those options.
Here is my favorite health(ier) tequila cocktail to make at home (inspired by the classic Paloma):
- 1.5 oz blanco tequila (I like Milagro)
- The juice of a whole grapefruit (If you don’t want to squeeze it yourself, choose a juice with no added sugar)
- The juice of half a lime
- Sparkling water (citrus flavored or plain is fine)
- Sea Salt
- In a shaker, add tequila, grapefruit juice, and lime juice.
- Shake vigorously with ice.
- Prepare a large wine glass by rimming with sea salt.
- Pour over ice in prepared wine glass.
- Top with sparkling water and garnish with a lime wedge.
Having a pool party? This is the perfect cocktail for a fun day in the sun by the pool!
You associate champagne with New Year’s eve, Sunday brunch, and generally feeling classy as fuck. And generally speaking, if you manage to get yourself real champagne and not sparkling wine, you are pretty darn classy (just don’t go adding juice to that good stuff).
I know technically this is a wine and not a liquor, but champagne def belongs on this list (even it’s just for its sheer power to get you wasted).
What makes champagne, champagne?
Like tequila, champagne is defined by where it has been made. A champagne is only a true champagne if it was produced in Champagne, France. Otherwise, it is a sparkling wine (like prosecco, or those 10 Andre bottles you polished off this weekend).
Champagne is typically made of a blend of different grapes, but with 3 varietals being used most commonly. And the carbonation methods vary also, but I won’t bore you with that…
So are there any health benefits to champagne?
Just because the champagne isn’t red doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have some of the same heart-healthy benefits (red wine grapes are most commonly used to make champagne). The polyphenols in these grapes have been shown to remove nitric oxide from the blood, thus improving blood pressure and overall circulation. I go more in-depth on polyphenols in my article on antioxidants.
The good news here is that even the cheap champagne has the heart-healthy polyphenols, so no need to break the bank to get your fix…
I would like to emphasize that these benefits are only relevant in moderate consumption.
Champagne hangovers can really be awful…
The carbonation from champagne causes the alcohol to absorb much faster and consequently get us more buzzed faster than other alcohols. So you may find yourself more dehydrated and your memory of the night may be harder to recall with all that alcohol hitting the brain so much harder and faster…
Health(ier) Champagne Cocktail Recipe
So when concocting a champagne cocktail, the good news is that it is a relatively low-calorie alcoholic beverage to begin with. The average glass of champagne contains only about 80 calories (in comparison to other wines, which average about 125 calories a glass).
I get that if you add juice to champagne, it is basically a mimosa. But I’m not trying to fix something that isn’t broken…
So here is my favorite health(ier) champagne cocktail to make at home:
- 4 oz brut champagne
- 5 ripe raspberries
- ¼ oz lemon juice
- In a shaker, muddle the raspberries in the lemon juice.
- Pour the mixture into a champagne flute and top with champagne.
- Garnish with a raspberry.
Whiskey has definitely struck a cord in the hearts’ of Americans. And we make some damn good whiskey in this country. It’s also the spirit that has been denoted in pop culture as a beverage that sexy and cool women drink…
I love whiskey, just putting it out there…
And people who love whiskey, REALLY FUCKING LOVE THE STUFF.
If you really want to know if someone is bullshitting you about their love of whiskey, just ask them the difference between a rye and a whiskey (I’ll be getting to the answer shortly). I mean if there is a spirit you should know about, as an American, it’s whiskey. It was made a native spirit of The United States by congress in 1964, setting forth federal standards that define bourbon whiskey.
With whiskey sales in the U.S. bringing in $2 billion in revenue each year, that makes whiskey quite the spirit rockstar.
So what makes whiskey, whiskey?
Whiskey has its origins in other parts of the world, but for the time being we are going to discuss American born whiskey. American whiskey cannot be made without corn, which is unique to this country (America’s relationship with corn is a complicated one, but that’s a discussion for another day).
So to keep the answer simple (when the answer really isn’t that simple), is that something is a bourbon whiskey if 51% of it was made with corn, but non-bourbon whiskey does not have to be (other grains could be utilized). If it is a rye whiskey, then at least 51% is made from rye grain.
There is a lot that goes into categorizing whiskeys, but mostly I just want to guide you enough so you don’t find yourself drinking something nasty that comes in a plastic bottle.
So are there any health benefits to whiskey?
Other than its positive effects on your soul, whiskey has many health benefits.
Ellagic acid is a polyphenol antioxidant that occurs naturally in some plant foods, but also happens to be in whiskey. This antioxidant is converted in the intestine into compounds known to prevent cancer. The compounds have been shown to reduce prostate cancer progression, decrease inflammation in the obese, and help in prevention of blood sugar spikes. Ellagic acid is in higher concentrations in whiskey than in red wine (one of our favorite health(ier) alcoholic beverages) and may show promise in it’s ability to reduce oxidative damage.
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Whiskey can improve heart health through its interaction with cholesterol and its blood thinning properties. Whiskey has been shown to help increase healthy HDL cholesterol, helping to prevent the further development of atherosclerosis. Also on the heart health front, a study found that those who consume moderate amounts of whiskey had a 50% lower chance of heart attack or stroke.
Admittedly the heart-healthy properties of whiskey may have much more to do with the alcohol and less specifically whiskey, but its antioxidant properties are enough to sway me into drinking whiskey.
When it comes to a whiskey hangover, you may be hurting the next day because of the nature of how the drink is served. Most people tend to order whiskey neat, which makes for more booze downed in less time. In a study comparing it to vodka, researchers found that those drinking whiskey were significantly more hungover.
When ordering your neat whiskey, make sure to order a water with your beverage. That 2-finger pour of whiskey is some powerful stuff!
Health(ier) Whiskey Cocktail Recipe
There are so many different whiskeys and their treatments all vary depending on their flavor profile. Some should never be mixed with anything (even adding an ice cube gets some people enraged).
Assuming that you aren’t spending $70 a bottle, there are some very yummy cocktails to be made with whiskey.
Here is my favorite health(ier) whiskey cocktail to make at home:
When I think of whiskey, I think of the delicious flavors of the south.
- 1.5 oz Bourbon Whiskey (my favorite is Bulleit)
- ¼ oz Peach Schnapps
- ¾ oz Lemon juice
- 1 brown sugar cube (or a tsp brown sugar)
- 1 oz peach puree or peach nectar
- 4 dashes of Angostura bitters
- Soda Water
- In a shaker, add sugar cube, bitters, and peach puree to be muddled.
- Add ice, bourbon, schnapps, and lemon juice to shaker.
- Shake vigorously.
- In a rocks glass, pour cocktail over ice and top with soda water and lemon slice for garnish.
Vodka is usually the crowd-pleasing spirit, and for good reason (I will be getting to all these reasons).
It is the tofu of the liquor world…
What I mean is that it is neutral in flavor and tastes good with most mixers.
Vodka is by no means a young spirit, but its popularity throughout the world started in the 20th century. Its popularity grew in the United States and UK in the 60’s and 70’s as young people began to lead a more laidback lifestyle (it’s called the ‘swinging 60’s’ for a reason). It is now a bar staple with many classic cocktails utilizing the versatile spirit.
So what makes vodka, vodka?
A common misconception is that all vodkas are made from potatoes (and some of the really nice ones are). Most are made from various grains, like wheat, corn and rice. Unless you have an issue with gluten, most vodkas above a certain price point do not taste all that different, and quality doesn’t vary too much. We just enjoy being snobby about a spirit that marketers were sure to make us all snobby about…
It is also worth noting that vodka is often the starting point for other spirits like gin. It’s truly the gift of being neutral.
So are there any health benefits of vodka?
Vodka may be more effective in the reduction of stress than other alcohols.
According to one study, red wine was significantly less effective at reducing stress than vodka. So maybe making your post-work drink vodka is a better choice than most.
Got a hot date? Out of gum?
Vodka can also lend a hand in your beauty regimen. If you are suffering from dandruff, acne, or an unsightly cold sore, vodka can be helpful outside of your cocktail glass.
Vodka has the reputation of being a spirit with less dramatic hangovers. If you find yourself hungover after a night of vodka, the culprit is more likely the sugary mixers. Vodka has the least amount of hangover-inducing congeners in comparison to other spirits.
I’m not saying you should be slinging back vodka shots all night, but if you’re gonna sling something, vodka is the safer bet.
Health(ier) Vodka Cocktail Recipe
Vodka opens itself to so many different cocktail options. It really does pair well with most ingredients.
Here is my favorite health(ier) vodka cocktail to make at home, a Salty Dog:
- 1.5 oz Vodka (I’m not picky, but Tito’s is one of my favorites)
- Fresh Grapefruit juice
- Rim a collins glass with salt.
- Over ice, pour together the vodka and grapefruit juice.
Simple and delicious, a salty dog is a great vodka drink sure to please the crowd.
If you’re having a party and want to work with vodka, jello shots are also a good “cocktail” in which vodka is the ideal spirit.
Argggh!!! There is a lot more to rum than the pirates we associate with this fun and sweet spirit.
I admit that rum and I had a very good run in college, but we have since broken up. I really miss my days of Bacardi limon and all of the Captain Morgan shots my best friend and I often pregamed with.
Rum got its start due to a surplus of molasses in the Caribbean. Essentially it was the byproduct of industrial waste. Rum has since then become a respected spirit staple and is found on cocktail lists around the world.
So what makes rum, rum?
Rum is defined by its unique process of fermentation derived from sugarcane or molasses. Rums from different parts of the world have different flavor profiles and their uses in cocktails vary accordingly.
Interesting enough, there is no real regulation of what makes rum (but most agree that it all starts with sugar). Each country has their own standards for their rum products, which gives us an interesting variety of spirits.
So are there any health benefits to rum?
Because most cocktails utilizing rum are often very sugary, the spirit has not gained much of a positive reputation as far as health goes. Rum has the same benefits of other spirits as it pertains to cholesterol improvement and blood circulation (as I mentioned earlier).
While rum is quite good for the soul, our lack of benefits to be touted may be rooted in its origins. With spirits like gin and vodka, their creation was to provide treatment for various ailments. Maybe rum just needs a little more research “TLC…”
While rum was my “safety” liquor in college, leaving me rarely hungover, this is not a common situation. Like I have mentioned, sugar is the enemy when it comes to the next day’s painful start. And with rum being made from sugar, this makes for an interesting problem…
Not all rums are created equal when it comes to a hangover. Dark rums are high in those congeners we discussed earlier. However, the clear liquor rule does apply to white or clear rums. If you must have a rum drink, try and limit sugary mixers and choose a clear, un-aged rum.
Health(ier) Rum Cocktail Recipe
Rum is a spirit that often has a lot of flavor on its own. If you insist on having aged spiced rum, spend the money on the good stuff and drink it with minimal mixer. And if there was ever a spirit that was best suited for blended drinks, it’s rum!
Here is my favorite health(ier) rum cocktail to make at home, inspired by a daiquiri:
(This recipe makes 2 drinks since blending ingredients for 1 is silly)
- 4 oz rum (Bacardi white rum works)
- 1.5 cups frozen strawberries
- Juice of 2 limes
- ½ cup of water
- ¼ cup of orange juice
- To a blender, combine rum, strawberries, lime juice, water, and orange juice.
- Blend until smooth.
- Pour in Collins glass or stemless wine glass (whatever your preference).
- Garnish with an orange slice and strawberry.
Now that you know a little more about the booze in your glass, you can drink smarter, and hopefully feel better about your choices the next morning. If you have a favorite drink you make at home, or some across a unique and amazing cocktail in your bar adventures, take a picture and tweet me or tag me on instagram! I’d love to see what you’re drinking.
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