Whether you’re hosting a holiday party this year, attending a work event, or gathering with friends somewhere special, chances are that cheers are on the menu. Cheers…and calories.
Classic cocktails can be incredibly high in calories. Liquor is notoriously high in sugars and carbs, and liqueurs have even more. Triple sec is typically mixed with a variety of other boozes, and a 1.5 oz shot of the stuff adds a whopping 188 calories to what’s already in the cup. So once mixed, some of the best sippers tip 300 to 500 calories per glass. Considering that most bartenders expect guests to consume 2 to 3 drinks in a single evening, it’s not uncommon to drink over 900 calories in a single night.
Thankfully, we’ve got the 411 on low-calorie cocktails—and they look as beautiful as the high-calorie stuff. These four simple, three-ingredient cocktails are designed to look incredible on any holiday table.
The secret here is that each of these cocktails is created with pure liquor, which generally rings in at a fairly low calorie count. For instance, 1.5 oz of gin contains 112 calories, while the same amount of vodka, a pure liquor, contains 98 calories, according to the USDA Food Composition Databases.
To make a low-calorie cocktail—we set our bar at under 150 calories—the secret is simple: Omit as much sugar as possible, use pure liquor, and steer clear of liqueurs. To bulk the drink up without them, use sparkling water. Light and bubbly, it makes a great topper for cocktails, giving you a little more to sip, so you can have a drink in hand all evening and keep your cocktail consumption on the DL.
The list of cocktails below offer a variety of holiday-themed drinks, and most can be prepared ahead or are easy enough to prepare as guests arrive. Each features a different liquor, so you can select the perfect mixer for your menu.
We’ve included a mocktail option with each recipe—that way, you can serve the kiddies and make sure non-drinkers get to raise their glasses in celebration right along with the rest of the crew. Cheers!
Please note: All calorie counts are approximate and are dependent on the ingredients used and specific liquors or wines selected. To calculate the calories, we used the SayMmm Nutrition Calculator.
Sparkling Cranberry Gimlet, 120 Calories
A gimlet is a simple-yet-classic combo of gin and lime. Here, we add seasonal cranberry, which pairs nicely with the gin and lends great color to any tablescape.
We love the look of this cocktail when served in a squat round glass or a rocks glass. If you want, run a bit of lime around the rim and dip it in sparkling sugar to add a “frosted” look to your glass.
Serve this cocktail alongside any holiday classic. It tastes great with turkey and serves as a nice early-evening cocktail to get the party started.
Sparkling Cranberry Gimlet
Amount Served: 1 glass
- 2 oz cranberry juice cocktail
- 1 ½ oz gin
- ⅔ cup lime sparkling water
Fill a rocks glass halfway with ice. Top with cranberry juice, gin, and sparkling water.
Ideas for garnish: Fresh cranberries or cranberries on a skewer. A slice of lime and sprig of mint also look beautiful in this simple sipper.
Make it a mocktail: Omit the gin and add juice from 1 freshly squeezed lime. This version has even less calories!
Boozy Orchard Cider, 150 Calories
What holiday meal can’t be completed with a hot toddy in hand? Skip the dessert and serve up this low-cal cocktail instead. A fun adult take on hot cider, this drink is a delightful way to round out a low-key evening around the fireside.
Serve this cocktail in a small mug or heat-safe glass. You can add a variety of garnishes, from cranberries to anise stars, or you can keep it simple and ladle into mugs with a cinnamon stick for sipping.
This spiked cider is ideal at the end of a meal or paired with casual, comfort food like honey-baked ham or biscuits and gravy.
Boozy Orchard Cider
Amount Served: 1 glass
½ cup light apple juice, heated until hot
2 cinnamon sticks
1 ½ oz bourbon
In a small pan, heat together apple juice and cinnamon sticks. Once steaming, pour into heat-safe glasses or small mugs. Add a shot of bourbon.
Ideas for garnish: Anise stars, orange or apple slices, and fresh cranberries make this warm toddy as pretty as it is tasty.
Make it a mocktail: Omit the bourbon and add 2 tablespoons of fireball or cinnamon candies, instead. For a sugar-free version, simply heat apple juice with cinnamon sticks, anise stars, and slices of fresh garlic for a deliciously flavored drink.
Pear Fizz Sangria, 93 Calories
What would winter be without sangria? Sure, this isn’t traditionally a winter drink, but we’ve given it a holiday makeover, and we couldn’t love it more. White wine infused with pears (from here, you can serve guests small half-cups of sangria or) topped with sparkling water to add a little extra to sip from tall glasses.
Wine glasses, stemless wine glasses, and even mojito glasses make this drink look good. Want to rim the glasses? Try a thin rim of agave and apple pie spice for a beautiful crown atop the cups.
Ideal with turkey, ham, and everything in between. The flavors here are elegant enough to serve to important guests, and they’re mellow enough to pull out for casual friend visits.
Pear Fizz Sangria
Amount Served: 4 glasses
- 2 pears (bosc, red or green), sliced
- 2 cups sweet white wine
- 4 cups sparkling water or pear-flavored sparkling water
Place sliced pears and wine in a large glass pitcher. Refrigerate 2-6 hours or overnight.
Just before serving, top with sparkling water. Stir lightly to mix.
Ideas for garnish: Serve a few slices of pear in each glass. Garnish with fresh cranberries and sprigs of rosemary for stunning seasonal flair.
Make it a mocktail: Replace the wine with white grape juice.
Pumpkin Pie Martini, 104 Calories
Enjoy yourself twice! With this pumpkin pie themed martini, you’ll get pumpkin pie for dinner…and pumpkin pie for dessert. Win-win!
Though it’s not your grandma’s martini, this one looks great in a true martini glass.
Not too sweet, this cocktail is tasty with any meal where pumpkin pie is on the dessert menu. It’s a classic for Thanksgiving!
Pumpkin Pie Martini
Amount Served: 1 glass
- crushed ice
- 2 Tbsp. pumpkin pie puree (or 1 Tbsp. pumpkin puree + 1 Tbsp. maple syrup + 1/4 tsp cinnamon)
- 1.5 oz vodka (or vanilla vodka)
In a cocktail shaker, add ice, pumpkin pie puree, orange juice, and vodka. Shake well. Strain into a martini glass.
If using pumpkin puree, add 1 tablespoon maple syrup and a pinch of pumpkin pie spice to the cocktail shaker.
Ideas for garnish: Rim your martini glass with a bit of honey and crushed graham crackers or coconut sugar and cinnamon.
Make it a mocktail: Swap apple cider for the vodka, shake in a cocktail shaker, and enjoy.
Cheers to a Happy Holiday!
Whether you opt for cocktails or mocktails this year, any one of these four sippers is sure to make your holiday tablescape sparkle. Enjoy!