Healthy Homemade Alternatives to 7 High-Calorie Happy Hour Cocktails

There is nothing better than kicking back with a cool cocktail on a warm summer evening (or any evening for that matter.) But a sugary sweet drink can quickly derail any diet. The sad truth is that many popular alcoholic drinks have alarmingly high calorie contents. Curious about which ones to be weary of? Each of these 7 popular alcoholic drinks are packed with unwanted sugar, carbs, and calories. Luckily, there are healthy homemade alternatives to each that you can sip guilt-free.

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1. Margaritas

A typical margarita is oozing with sugar and calories. “Most bars use a pre-made commercial sour mix in drinks like margaritas,” mixologist Chris Milligan says to Livestrong. “These contain a lot of sugar. A margarita will typically run upwards of 400 calories per drink, tasty though they may be.” Additionally, Fitness writes that a frozen margarita can actually contain as many as 500 to 700 calories in just one glass — and that’s only for one drink. Two margaritas can quickly eat up about half of your daily total caloric needs.

Luckily, there’s a way to make this summertime staple a little more diet-friendly. Aim for margaritas that are as basic as possible. The more mixed a drink is, the more calories are in it. Look for margaritas that only contain tequila on the rocks with a twist of lime. Fitness recommends rotating it with club soda to ensure you’re staying hydrated.

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2. Long Island Iced Tea

Delicious? Yes. Good for you? Absolutely not. This delectable drink can contain up to 780 calories and 44 grams of carbs, according to Forbes. Think of it like this: one of these potent beverages is the equivalent to what you’re consuming for dinner. On a typical day, it’s most certainly more than what you’d eat in calories for breakfast and lunch. Now, imagine if you have two of these cocktails.

One of the worst things about a Long Island Iced Tea is its sugar content, according to Gizmodo“Sugar has many deleterious health consequences, from tooth decay, to compromising one’s overall immune system, to being a primary contributor to the obesity epidemic in the United States. In fact, sugar is the single largest source of calories for Americans mostly in the form of high fructose corn syrup,” Maren Robinson, certified nutritional consultant, tells Gizmodo.

But never fear! There’s a way to reduce its calorie content. According to Drinks Mixer, this version has 80 percent fewer calories.


  • 1 part vodka
  • 1 part tequila
  • 1 part rum
  • 1 part gin
  • 1 part triple sec
  • 1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 parts 7-Up Diet soda
  • 2 parts Diet Coke

Directions: Take a long piece of lemon rind and twist it hard to release the oils in an empty glass, rub it around the inside of the glass, and throw it in the bottom. Mix ingredients together over ice in a glass. Pour into a shaker and give one brisk shake. Pour back into the glass and make sure there is a touch of fizz at the top.

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3. Pina Colada

This delicious, frothy, dream-in-a-glass is unfortunately a nightmare for your waistline. Her Campus writes that there are 644 calories in just 6 ounces of this cocktail, which is a combination of light rum, coconut milk, and pineapples. Look at it this way: you’ll consume more calories polishing off a Pina Colada than you would by eating a Big Mac, Forbes writes. So, what do you do if you’re craving a coconutty concoction? Well, create a better version, of course!

For a low-calorie version, which only contains 229 calories, follow Web MD‘s recipe. The difference? It gets rid of the sugary, coconut milk. Measure one shot of coconut rum. Then add fresh strawberries, a splash of agave syrup, and blend with ice. You’ll get a tall, 12-ounce tropical cocktail that you don’t need to feel guilty about sipping.

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4. Mai Tai

Light rum, dark rum, crème de almond, triple sec, sweet and sour mix, and pineapple juice create a fun, sugary, and high-calorie cocktail: the Mai Tai. The fruity beverage makes you feel as though you’re vacationing on an exotic island and is a go-to drink for many. But there’s a reason it tastes so good. There are tons of flavors packed into each glass, resulting in a calorie overload. For a 9-ounce glass, you can anticipate consuming about 620 calories, according to Her Campus.

There is always a way to improve a calorie-riddled drink. Fit Bandits has created a recipe that only has 127 calories per serving. Take 2 to 3 pieces of pineapple, 1 ounce each of light rum, orange juice, and lemon juice, in addition to 2 tablespoons of almond syrup. Muddle the pineapple, lemon juice, and almond syrup in a mixing glass with ice, add the rum and orange juice, shake well, and chill. Strain over ice, and enjoy!

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5. Frozen Daiquiri 

Your refreshing daiquiri contains about 614 calories in a 10-ounce glass. This sweet cocktail is sure to hit the spot on a hot summer day, but it’s also wreaking havoc on your waistline. The Times-Picayune writes that a 20-ounce daiquiri can easily pack in 1,100 calories, with a 32-ounce cocktail containing nearly 1,800 calories.

However, Web MD has created a daiquiri recipe you can feel good about. By using fresh or frozen berries, you can quickly reduce this beverage’s calorie content. Start with 1 cup of no-sugar-added berries, either fresh or frozen. You get delicious berry flavor for only 50 calories, compared with 255 calories in berries frozen with syrup. Add rum, ice, and then sweeten it with 1 teaspoon of stevia, a sugar substitute. Blend, and you’ve got yourself a drink that only has 145 calories.

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6. White Russian

The creamier the drink, the more likely it is to be packed with calories — as is the case for this tasty beverage. A combination of vodka, coffee liqueur, and heavy cream, a White Russian  packs 425 calories and 26 grams of carbohydrates, according to Forbes. This cocktail is a potent combination of sugar and fat. If you’re going to indulge, try to sip this drink in place of dessert.

If you can’t imagine foregoing your after-dinner drink or slice of pie, try creating‘s sugar-free version. The main problem with a White Russian is the coffee liqueur. A jigger, which is 1.5 ounces, contains almost as much sugar as an 8-ounce glass of cola. This recipe replaces the liqueur with a sugar-free Kahlua-flavored syrup instead. Place 1.5 ounces of vodka, 1.5 ounces of heavy cream, and 1.5 ounces of Da Vinci’s Sugar-Free Kahlua-Flavored Syrup into a glass, stir, and add ice. Your White Russian now has 250 calories and 1 gram of carbs.


7. Sangria

Just because there’s fruit floating at the top of your glass doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Sangria has a lot of sweeteners in it, resulting in a glass full of  unwanted calories. Livestrong estimates that an 8-ounce glass of sangria can be between 260 and 285 calories.

“Don’t be fooled. Although I love the benefits of red and white wine, sangria often has additional fruit juice, simple syrup, and table sugar mixed in, making this cocktail very caloric,” registered dietitian Keri Glassman tells Fitness

As always, there are healthier alternatives. Glassman recommends asking your bartender to skip the sweeteners when he’s mixing up a pitcher of sangria. If you’re preparing your own sangria, you can do even better. Mix a bottle of white wine, 1 cup fresh raspberries, 1 cup fresh blackberries, and 1 cup sliced white peaches. Livestrong suggests drinking white Zinfandel and adding a bit of sugar for a 4-ounce serving that contains 94 calories. For an extremely low-calorie sangria, mix a diet lemon drink and artificial sweetener, along with white wine, club soda, and lemon and lime juice. A 4-ounce glass only contains 40 calories.

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