Slim down your cocktails: Sub in summer’s fresh ingredients

WASHINGTON Mai Tais, margaritas and mudslides are delicious going down, but knowing just how many calories are in each cocktail can be hard to swallow.

However, not every drink you mix up needs to have the same nutritional profile as a slice of chocolate cake. Food scientist and registered dietitian Joy Dubost has some tips for slimming down cocktails, and the best part is, the key ingredients are likely already in your kitchen.

Pina Colada and Pineapple on a plate on a wooden table.
Nix the mix Mixers are the primary source for extra calories in cocktails. Dubost says one and a half ounces of a spirit has roughly 100 calories. Adding in sugary sodas, syrups and juices can make that number tick up quickly. Luckily, there are other ways to add flavor, without adding a lot of calories. “If you really start to almost become your own mixologist and begin to look for ways to create your own mixers, using a wide variety of garden ingredients that are fresh and vibrant, you really can craft your own delicious, one-of-a-kind cocktails,” Dubost said.   (Thinkstock)
This Oct. 28, 2013 photo shows an old fashioned cocktail in Concord, N.H. The drink is made with bourbon, orange bitters and Angostora bitters. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Follow the flavor of the spirit One way to amp up the flavor of a spirit is to bring out some of its more natural flavors. “When you’re looking at some of the distilled spirits, they inherently have some natural flavors within them … so get to know your spirit and know what flavor component it brings along with it, and then you can play off that,” Dubost said. For example, adding a touch of vanilla to bourbon or rum will enhance its vanilla notes. If you need a little bit of sweetness, try adding a drop or two of honey.   (AP/Matthew Mead)
A basket of fresh picked strawberries are shown in the berry field at Oakley Farm in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, May 2, 2013. The season is ripe for picking fresh strawberries in some parts of North Carolina, one of the largest strawberry producing states in the country. Owner David Oakley has roughly 26,000 strawberry plants to harvest from his field. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Replace bottle juices with fresh fruit A squeeze of a fresh lemon, lime or orange can instantly brighten up a drink. And muddling fresh strawberries, blueberries or peaches is a great way to add a fruity flavor. If it’s spice you’re after, Dubost says try throwing in a jalapeño. (AP/Gerry Broome)
natural aromatic herbs on wooden board
Herbs and spice make everything nice Fresh herbs such as rosemary, mint, basil and cilantro bring a whole new dimension and a fresh flavor to cocktails, as do spices such as ginger, nutmeg and even cayenne pepper. The best thing is, they are virtually calorie-free.   (Thinkstock)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15:  LaCroix Sparking Water on display during Hilarity for Charity's 5th Annual Los Angeles Variety Show: Seth Rogen's Halloween at Hollywood Palladium on October 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images)
Give it a fizz Adding a bit of carbonation to your spirit-of-choice is another way to take your homemade cocktail to the next level. Both club soda and sparkling water are calorie-free. Some sparkling waters are even naturally flavored, meaning you can add that pop of fruit flavor without adding to your waistline.  (Getty Images)
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Pina Colada and Pineapple on a plate on a wooden table.
This Oct. 28, 2013 photo shows an old fashioned cocktail in Concord, N.H. The drink is made with bourbon, orange bitters and Angostora bitters. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
A basket of fresh picked strawberries are shown in the berry field at Oakley Farm in Chapel Hill, N.C., Thursday, May 2, 2013. The season is ripe for picking fresh strawberries in some parts of North Carolina, one of the largest strawberry producing states in the country. Owner David Oakley has roughly 26,000 strawberry plants to harvest from his field. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
natural aromatic herbs on wooden board
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15:  LaCroix Sparking Water on display during Hilarity for Charity's 5th Annual Los Angeles Variety Show: Seth Rogen's Halloween at Hollywood Palladium on October 15, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images)

Recipe: Wild Blueberry Daiquiri 
By Amy Zavatto, spirits writer and author of “Forager’s Cocktails: Botanical Mixology with Fresh, Natural Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz white rum
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed, any stems picked off
  • 1/2 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 to 2 fresh mint sprigs

Place blueberries in a shaker and muddle thoroughly. Add in the rum and fresh lime juice, and fill halfway with ice. Shake well. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Garnish with a few fresh blueberries and fresh mint sprigs.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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