Cocktails are alcoholic drinks. They consist of a one or more types of spirits mixed with other ingredients. They are sometimes called mixed drinks. Beer and wine are other forms of alcoholic beverages.
Cocktails contain extra calories that you may not have been counting if you are trying to lose weight. Cutting back on how much you drink and choosing lower-calorie options may help to avoid undesired weight gain and improve your overall health.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a standard drink as containing roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol. This amount can be found in:
- 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
- 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol
Alcoholic Beverage Options
For beer and wine, try choosing lower-calorie options, such as:
- 12 ounces (oz), or 355 mL, light beer: 105 calories
- 12 oz (355 mL) Guinness Draught beer: 125 calories
- 2 oz (59 mL) Sherry wine: 75 calories
- 2 oz (59 mL) port wine: 90 calories
- 4 oz (118 mL) Champagne: 85 calories
- 3 oz (88 mL) dry vermouth: 105 calories
- 5 oz (148 mL) red wine: 125 calories
- 5 oz (148 mL) white wine: 120 calories
Limit higher-calorie options, such as:
- 12 oz (355 mL) regular beer: 145 calories
- 12 oz (355 mL) craft beer: 170 calories or more
- 3.5 oz (104 mL) sweet wine: 165 calories
- 3 oz (88 mL) sweet vermouth: 140 calories
Keep in mind that "craft" beers often contain more calories than commercial beers. This is because they may have more carbohydrates and extra ingredients that add up to a richer flavor -- and more calories.
To get an idea of how many calories are in a can or bottle of beer, read the label and pay attention to:
- Fluid oz (serving size)
- Alcohol by Volume (ABV)
- Calories (if listed)
Choose beers that have fewer calories per serving and pay attention to how many servings are in the bottle or can.
Beers that have a higher ABV number will have more calories.
Many restaurants and bars serve beer in a pint, which contains more beer and calories than a 12-ounce (355 mL) glass. (For example, a pint of Guinness contains 210 calories.) So order a half pint or smaller pours instead.
Distilled spirits and liqueurs are often mixed with other juices and mixes to make cocktails. They are the base of the drink.
One "shot" (1.5 oz, or 44 mL) of:
- 80-proof gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, or tequila each contain 100 calories
- Brandy or cognac contain 100 calories
- Liqueurs contain 165 calories
Adding other liquids and mixers to your drinks can add up in terms of calories. Pay attention as some cocktails tend to be made in small glasses, and some are made in larger glasses. The calorie differences in the following common mixed drinks as they are typically served.
- 9 oz (266 mL) Pina Colada: 490 calories
- 4 oz (118 mL) Margarita: 170 calories
- 3.5 oz (104 mL) Manhattan: 165 calories
- 3.5 oz (104 mL) Whiskey sour: 160 calories
- 2.75 oz (81 mL) Cosmopolitan: 145 calories
- 6 oz (177 mL) Mojito: 145 calories
- 2.25 oz (67 mL) Martini (extra dry): 140 calories
- 2.25 oz (67 mL) Martini (traditional): 125 calories
- 2 oz (59 mL) Daquiri: 110 calories
Many drink makers are making fresh, mixed drinks with low-sugar sweeteners, herbs, whole fruits, and vegetables mixers. If you enjoy mixed drinks, think about how you can use fresh, low-calorie mixers for taste. Almost anything can be put in your blender and added to a distilled spirit.
Tips for Watching Your Calories
Here are some tips for watching your calories:
- Use diet tonic, no-sugar added juices, and low-sugar sweeteners, such as agave, to reduce sugar content, or use a calorie-free mixer such as club soda or seltzer. Lemonade and lightly sweetened iced tea, for example, have fewer calories than regular fruit drinks. Diet options have even lower amounts of sugar.
- Avoid sugary, powdered drink mixes. Use herbs or fruit or vegetables to add flavor.
- Have a plan for ordering low-calorie cocktails at restaurants.
- Make half drinks, or mini-drinks, in small glassware.
- If you drink, have only 1 or 2 drinks per day. Women should have no more than one drink a day. Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day. Pace yourself by alternating alcoholic beverages with water
Look for nutrition facts labels on bottles and cans of alcohol. A new ruling now allows the alcoholic beverage industry to place nutritional labels on its products.
When to Call the Doctor
Talk with your doctor if you are having trouble controlling your drinking.
Low-calorie spirits; Low-calorie mixed drinks; Low-calorie alcohol; Low-calorie alcoholic beverages; Weight loss - low-calorie cocktails; Obesity - low-calorie cocktails
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Rethink your drink. www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/drinks.html. Updated September 23, 2015. Accessed July 13, 2018.
Hingson R, Rehm J. Measuring the burden: alcohol's evolving impact. Alcohol Res. 2013;35(2):122-127. PMID: 24881320 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24881320.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. What is a standard drink? www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/what-standard-drink. Accessed July 13, 2018.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Rethinking drinking: Alcohol and your health. rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov. Accessed July 13, 2018.
Review Date 4/23/2018
Updated by: Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.