If you’re anything like me, you’re full of loud and frequent inner monologues about how this year, this year, you’re going to really focus on putting only healthy things in your mouth. And none of the unhealthy things. Okay, less of the unhealthy things. You know what “things” — all the things you’re giving up in order to be a better, healthier, more glorious version of yourself. Sugar. Carbs. Alcohol.
But let’s not be too hasty.
While you’re probably not going to come across many reputable nutrition experts that condone drinking as a healthy lifestyle choice, isn’t there a compromise? I’m saying it is possible to build a pretty, healthy drink. (I’m not a nutrition expert. Not even close. So take my opinion with a grain of salt. Or several grains… stuck to the rim of a margarita glass, maybe?) Splashing in a little booze from time to time doesn’t have to derail all your restorative efforts.
It’s all about balance, right?
So how can we build a healthier cocktail?
Let’s start by acknowledging that “healthy” is in the eye of the beholder. For some, healthy might mean low sugar. For others, low calorie. But I think we can all agree that healthy often boils down to using as many fresh ingredients as possible, and taking a hard pass on the processed, sugar-laden mixes and liqueurs.
You can even get clever and hide superfood ingredients in your beverage, ingredients that you might not immediately think are cocktail-friendly (like kale, beets, or even turmeric) that can be layered under stronger flavors for an extra dose of liquid vitality.
Think about those fancy cold-pressed juice blends where the flavor of the green stuff is hidden behind the sweet flavors of more palatable fruits and veggies. Yeah. Let’s do that (and then also add a bit of booze because we probably deserve it).
2 oz. pure pomegranate juice
1.5 oz. freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1 oz. gin
5 drops lavender bitters
2 oz. chilled dry sparkling wine (or for a lower alcohol-by-volume version, substitute seltzer water)
1 pink grapefruit wedge and fresh lavender for garnish
To make one cocktail:
- Prep a glass by rubbing your garnish lavender sprig (gently — just enough to release the fragrance, but not enough to destroy your pretty garnish) around the inside of the glass, and drop a large ice cube into the glass.
- In a shaker over ice, combine the pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice, gin, and bitters, and shake until chilled.
- Strain into your prepared glass. Top with bubbly and garnish with the grapefruit wedge and fresh lavender.
See? Fresh and tasty with no added sugar. It can be done!
But if you’ve decided that your definition of healthy means no alcohol, you can still have a little happy hour in your life. It’s no small feat to find a truly decent mocktail — one that isn’t just juice and sugary mixers slapped artlessly together to make up for their obvious boozelessness — but it’s possible.
Let’s elevate the mocktail by using fresh, wholesome ingredients and one of my new favorite finds: non-alcoholic spirits. Here’s a tasty little mocktail that I like to call the Fresh Start Fizz.
3 oz. coconut water
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. agave syrup
2 oz. chilled naturally flavored coconut seltzer
sliced limes for garnish
To make one cocktail:
- Fill a Collins glass with crushed ice.
- In a shaker over ice, combine the Seedlip, coconut water, lime juice, and agave. Shake until chilled.
- Strain into prepared glass and top with seltzer. Garnish with lime slices.
At its most simple, a great mixed drink relies on a balanced taste profile of alcohol, sweet, and sour. So if you’re thinking of making your own drink, remember: The trick to a mostly-good-for-you cocktail is to let the booze be the unhealthiest part of the drink. And not to overdo it.
Layer your drink using fresh juices (which can provide both the sweet and the sour flavor profiles), and increase the drink’s complexity by adding spices, herbs, and bitters. If you need something sweeter, reach for honey or another unrefined, natural sweetener.
Whether or not your health goals for 2018 include or exclude alcohol, try to remember that it’s not just about the drinks and calories. Resolutions are about finding little moments to relax and be thankful that you have those kinds of little moments. Spend time with the people you love, in the places you love. Or, in my case, around a bunch of ridiculous chickens.
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Kate Richards is the founder behind the cocktail blog Drinking with Chickens. She spends a lot of time in the garden, digging and cultivating plants for her magical, homegrown cocktails. She also has chickens, naturally, because many cocktail drinks require egg whites. Follow her journey on Instagram or Facebook.