Mindful Drinking: Low ABV and Low Sugar Cocktails

Nov. 7, 2018


Carving out a section of a drink menu for health-conscious cocktails is becoming increasingly popular in the alcohol industry.

“When you have a low abv or low sugar selection of cocktails, that really stands out to consumers who are looking to make healthier choices when they go out,” said Mike Henderson, Breakthru Colorado Beverage Development Manager.

Years ago, while running his restaurant group, Henderson noticed this trend starting to build when his customers began ordering vodka sodas and vodka waters all the time in an effort to cut back on calories while still enjoying an alcoholic beverage.

“I was thinking, ‘Well, if they want healthier cocktails, let’s at least start figuring out a way to make really tasty ones,’” Henderson said.

Henderson and his team set out to build a roster of “mindful drinks,” cocktails that cut back on the alcohol, as well as the carbs and sugar.

“We crafted what we liked to call ‘approachable cocktails,’ which were low commitment for someone who maybe wasn’t sure what they wanted when it’s their turn to order,” Henderson said.

Henderson has three different approaches to make a cocktail more approachable for the health-conscious consumer.

1) Reduction

Reduce the volume of the base spirit, sweetener and acid and add ingredients with bolder flavors to add more structure to the cocktail.

Cucumber Collins

1 oz. cucumber vodka
.5 oz. lemon juice
.25 oz. simple syrup
.25 oz. Black Pepper Tincture*
1 dash celery bitters
3 oz. sparkling water

Combine all ingredients except sparkling water in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Strain into a black pepper & sea salt rimmed Collins glass filled with ice and top with sparkling water, then garnish with a cucumber wheel.

*For Black Pepper Tincture: soak 1 Tbsp of whole black peppercorns in 12 oz of London Dry Gin and let sit for 24 hours or until dark brown/black.

2) Substitution

Substitute the base spirit for a liqueur or amaro, reducing the overall abv and need for additional sweeteners. If additional sweeteners are needed, try to stay away from refined sugars and go for more natural ingredients such as honey, maple or agave syrups.

Dreams of Tuscany

2 oz. amaro
1 oz. lemon Juice
.5 oz. honey syrup (1:1 honey-water)
.25 oz. ginger juice
6-8 mint leaves

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Strain into a double old fashioned glass filled with ice and garnish with a generous sprig of mint.

3) Omission

Omit the base spirit altogether and go for cocktails using lower abv, low sugar ingredients such as vermouths, sherry or fortified wines.

Bamboo Cocktail

1.5 oz. amontillado sherry
1.5 oz. blanc vermouth
2 dashes aromatic bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, add ice and stir until sufficiently chilled. Strain into a cocktail coupe and garnish with a lemon zest.

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