Cheers! Summer Cocktails to Try (& Some Calorie Warnings)

One of the best ways to celebrate a summer day is with drinks at the pool, barbecue, picnic or just the back patio after a long day. But cocktails can come with a hefty calorie count, especially if you like your drinks strong. Here are some tips and recipes.

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Toast July 4th (or any summer day) with a cool cocktail. But don't go overboard! Cocktails can come with some hefty calorie counts, especially if you like your drinks strong. Before you fill your glass, remember these helpful hints so you don't wind up drowning in sugar or, worse, with a nasty hangover the next day.

The Liquor

Some cocktails contain as much as 500 calories each — that's about 1/4 of your calorie needs for the day -- and most folks don’t just stop at one. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, men should limit their alcohol to two drinks and women to one drink per day (and that doesn't mean you can drink the whole week's worth on a Saturday night, either).

If you find yourself reaching for refills, calories can add up quickly at 100-calories per 1.5 ounces of vodka, whiskey or gin (or a 5-ounce glass of wine). Measuring out single servings of 1 to 2 ounces of liquor or a glass of wine is a handy way to help keep track of your calorie intake.

The Mixers

Those pre-made, sugar-laden mixtures are too sweet for me, and they're really calorie-filled (empty calories at that). Instead, mix your cocktails with 100% natural juices such as pomegranate, lime, lemon, orange or grapefruit. Regular sodas also add plenty of calories from sugar — just use a splash, go for the diet version, or use seltzer (which has no calories or chemicals).

There are ways to keep your drink sweet without consuming cups worth of sugar, too. Try a little bit of sweeteners such as agave nectar or brown rice syrup. Or make your own simple syrup by dissolving 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water in a saucepan over a low flame.

The Extras

The most delicious summer cocktails are made with fresh fruit (take advantage of the seasonal produce!). Place sliced peaches, lemons, oranges, limes or pineapple into the glass or pitcher. Fresh herbs such as mint or basil or thinly sliced ginger add fresh flavor to your drinks, too, and negligible calories.

Bottom Line

Opt for mixed drinks that are about 200 calories each, and keep the drinks simple — not too many ingredients or add-ins. Watch how much you pour, too: 1 to 2 ounces for hard alcohol and 5-ounce servings for wine.

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