The Healthiest Alcoholic Drinks, According to Dietitians

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Thanks to these spritzers and spirits, happy hour just got a little healthier.

Drinking alcohol is never really healthy. However, there are healthier ways to consume it worth noting. Obviously, the healthiest way to drink is to drink in moderation. But the rules about what “moderation” means remain a bit murky for most. And if you’re really going to drink responsibly, your health cannot be dismissed.

We’re still learning about alcohol’s negative effects and dangers all the time. And so, what moderation means might be changing. The “golden suggestion” has long been that women shouldn’t drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day and men shouldn’t drink more than three. In recent years, however, health experts, dietitians, scientists, doctors, and the CDC now believe that women should limit drinking alcohol to one drink or less. But here’s something that might lift your spirits.

While moderation will always be key, it’s not the only health-oriented drinking habit worth adopting. For instance, thanks to some mega healthy mixers, some crafted cocktails can combat a few of alcohol’s negative effects, including hangovers. So if you’re going to drink, consider sipping on one of these healthier choices.

Red Wine 

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For decades, red wine has been widely regarded as one of the healthiest alcohol options, if not the healthiest. For starters, it’s lower in calories than your average mixed drinks, but its natural properties also offer a variety of health benefits, when consumed in moderation.

You’ve likely heard someone say they drink one glass of red wine for their health. And there may be something to that logic. Red wine is rich in antioxidants like resveratrol and proanthocyanidins. In the past, various studies have shown that consuming a moderate amount of red wine may combat heart disease. To get the most out of your vino, dietitians have advised buying varieties made from high-fiber Tempranillo grapes, which have been shown to lower cholesterol. And thanks to the polyphenols, red wine may keep your blood vessels flexible and potentially reduce cancer risk.

With all of that said, new research suggests that no amount of alcohol is really “good” for your heart. That same study did acknowledge that red wine does seem to have health benefits connected to its potent antioxidants but claimed the risks may be greater. “Some research says that alcohol can have health benefits, but overall the risks outweigh them. Dr. Freeman says that the research is mixed and there are too many lingering questions in both cases to make a clear suggestion,” per Prevention.

Tequila On the Rocks 

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Like all alcohol, tequila is technically a depressant. However, some studies have dubbed it the only alcohol “upper.” While the debate continues, evidence suggests tequila does seem to be less of a depressant than other adult beverages.

The uplifting effects are continuously being studied. As noted by Medical News Today, most of its benefits come from what it’s made of: the blue agave plant. Those experts say it’s possible the sugars found in tequila don’t shift blood sugar levels quite as drastically as other types of alcohol.

Pineapple Basil Rum Fizz

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Pineapple is loaded with vitamin C and bromelain. In turn, it’s one of the most skin-friendly fruits on earth. As with all healthier cocktail options, opt for fresh juice so you’ll get nutrient-rich benefits with significantly less sugar than pre-made mixers. And basil is brimming with immunity-boosting benefits.

When making your pineapple basil rum fizz, one fresh pineapple will make up to six servings. Just be sure to concoct the homemade mixer on its own and stir it with one shot of rum for each cocktail.

Vodka Soda 

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Vodka soda is often a staple for those who seek a cocktail low in calories and sugar. By far one of the healthiest options you’ll find in any bar, soda water has hydrating properties, and clear alcohol is always a little better than darker varieties, as it typically has fewer impurities or allergens.

Simple and straightforward, just throw in a splash of citrus for vitamin C, and you’re good to go. Some dietitians say there are additional benefits to this cocktail worth noting. For instance, vodka may be heart-healthy. Some research suggests vodka improves blood circulation and combats blood clots. One health-oriented thing we know for sure is that vodka sodas are gluten-free.

Bloody Mary 

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Bloody Marys have been a longtime hangover cure. That’s mostly because it’s got just about every non-alcoholic ingredient that is good for you. Some dietitians even argue that one Bloody Mary a day could lead to a longer life, but others say to take that claim with a grain of salt.

Nevertheless, these classic cocktails are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Of course, the star of the show is the main ingredient: tomato juice. Tomato juice has high levels of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folic acid, and lycopene, the antioxidant known to improve cardiovascular health and prevent cell damage.

You’ll be getting even more health benefits when you throw in other traditional fixings like Worcestershire. Worcestershire boasts the immunity-boosting combination of vinegar, molasses, sugar, onions, anchovies, salt, garlic, cloves, tamarind extract, and chili pepper extract. Many of those ingredients have vitamin B6 and thiamine, which contribute to a healthy brain. And the anchovies will give you a boost of niacin.

Last but not least, Tabasco sauce contains capsaicin. This spicy compound is famous for giving peppers their kick, but it also aids in digestion, blood flow, and pain relief. To truly get the health benefits, it’s best to make your Bloody Mary from scratch. Many premixed varieties are loaded with triple the sodium dietitians recommend.

Mezcal On the Rocks 

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Mezcal is a smoky, smooth experience for those who like to sip their drink slowly. Similar to tequila, mezcal doesn’t appear to spike blood sugar nearly as much as other alcohols. In turn, it’s one of the healthier options on the drink menu. Some experts even say it’s the best alcohol for you.

According to a medical expert for Forbes, this is because mezcal is the purest execution of 100% agave. “As far as spirits go, mezcal is the best. From the clean-label perspective, mezcal is naturally more trustworthy,” says Dr. Forrelli.

Wine Spritzer 

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This summer and spring, mix wine with sparkling water and have yourself a refreshing spritzer. Spritzers will help you limit your alcohol and calorie consumption while hydrating in the process.

Here’s a guide to making the perfect wine spritzer, compliments of VinePair.

Dry Champagne 

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Sparkling wines and champagne are somewhat healthy too. The trick is choosing a dry variety, which has lower sugar levels. Champagne also contains polyphenol antioxidants. So drinking a little bubbly can be heart-healthy. Most notably, the antioxidants in champagne remove nitric acid from the blood and help to lower blood pressure.

Mulled Wine 

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Mulled wines are more than delightful holiday drinks. These warm and spicy sippers are healthier alcohol options year-round. With the combined power of red wine’s antioxidants and healthy spices and herbs, you’ll treat your system to a variety of benefits. One glass of mulled wine comes packed with anti-inflammatory benefits, heart-healthy properties, and anti-aging benefits. Bottoms up!

Margarita with Lime Juice 

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I’m sure you’ve heard of “Skinny” margaritas by now. Whether you infuse them with jalapeño or salt the rim, what matters most is that you’re using fresh-squeezed lime juice. Mixed drinks are famously high in sugar, so it’s key to stop using bottled mixers and switch to homemade ingredients, high-quality tequila, ice, and maybe a splash of soda water.

Limes are loaded with Vitamin C. Because it comes from the blue agave plant, tequila is gluten-free. It’s also believed to naturally aid digestion.

Hard Kombucha 

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For those seeking an ever-so-slight buzz with benefits, a hard kombucha might be what you’re after. Naturally fermented, hard kombucha has probiotic properties that soothe the gut. It contains a plethora of vitamins and minerals and it’s low in carbs, sugar, and calories.

Low-Calorie Beer 

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Craft beers are all the rage these days. And many are becoming more diet-friendly. In fact, finding beers boasting under 100 calories is easier than ever.

According to the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, beer contains more protein and B vitamins than wine. “The antioxidants and flavonoids in beer are different than those in wine, but they still boast some hefty nutritional benefits along with other ingredients such as B vitamins, phosphorus, folate, and niacin and even high levels of calcium and magnesium.”

Hard Cider 

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Hard cider is jampacked with antioxidants too. And so, its health properties may rival a glass of red wine as well. It also has vitamin C. And let’s not forget, apples are considered a superfood.

Even if you’re not into apples, hard cider can be made from all kinds of fruit. Here’s some food for thoughts on hard ciders’ surprising health benefits, compliments of The Daily Meal.

Paloma with Grapefruit Juice 

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Palomas are another healthier cocktail you can easily make at home. And while this tequila-based cocktail is trending right now, palomas have been considered immune-boosting and hip since the 1800s. Start by mixing tequila, lime juice, and a grapefruit-flavored soda (such as Fresca). Pour it over ice and add a lime wedge. Cheers!

Matcha Mojito

matcha cocktail or tea or latte with ice and mint isolated on black background
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Matcha is considered one of the healthiest teas on earth. For one thing, its leaves contain the highest amount of chlorophyll of any green tea. On its own, drinking matcha daily may improve your overall health. And even a matcha mojito has some health benefits, it seems.

Due to matcha’s potent antioxidants, this green tea-based cocktail may give your immune system a boost, and it’s easy to make. Just add one shot of gin or rum into your matcha mojito mocktail and see what the hype is all about.

Aperol Spritz

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Historically, aperitifs are herbal bitters added to pre-dinner cocktails to aid one’s appetite. But unlike most digestives, aperitifs have little sugar. To aid your digestion at cocktail hour or brunch, try an Aperol Spritz. If you’re not into Aperol, any bitters will do. All you need is a bitter liqueur, sparkling wine, and fizzy water to make this one.

Specialty Cocktails Made with Fresh-Pressed Juice 

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It goes without saying, fruits and vegetables are good for us. Luckily, cocktails made with fresh-pressed juices are in the middle of a renaissance. You’ve likely noticed they’ve been popping up on drink menus more and more as of late. They’re one of the easiest, healthiest options to make at home.

Look for an option boasting a superfruit, like pomegranate, mango, papaya, grapefruit, or pretty much any berry you can get your hands on.

Fresh-Made Hot Toddy 

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Alcohol can never be called “healthy,” but many dietitians say that if you’re going to drink whiskey, make sure it’s high-quality stuff. If you want to make your whiskey as healthy as possible, try a hot-toddy. All you need is fresh lemon, fresh ginger, and organic honey.

All three will give you a detoxifying boost. And you need to detoxify your system when drinking alcohol even more than usual.

Sangria

Traditional summer drink sangria in red, pink and white.
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As discussed, red wine is widely regarded as the healthiest alcohol on earth. While it has similar risk factors to other alcohols, its health benefits have been studied longer than many other options. Sometimes, you need something a little more refreshing than a glass of pinot noir, especially in the heat of summer. If you’re a wine enthusiast, why not grab your favorite bottle of vino and make a pitcher of sangria?

If you’re having people over, make a white and red option. Try a blackberry sangria with your red and a peach puree with your white wine. The more fruit you involve, the healthier your sangria will become. I like to mix in a little bit of everything: oranges, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, apples, peaches, and whatever else I can find. As long as you’re combining fruit and wine, you’re sipping something healthier than your average, fruitless cocktail.

The Bottom Line

No matter what you’re drinking, there’s one rule all bartenders and dietitians tend to stand by: the simpler the ingredients, the better for your health. Alcohol is a carcinogen. And so, drinking it always comes with well-documented health risks and toxins. With this in mind, you’re better off not adding things that will only do more damage or make you feel worse in the morning. Keep it simple.

Opt for natural ingredients to make your adult beverage as healthy as possible. Avoid syrups, sweetened mixers, sodium-rich mixers, sodas, tonic water, and low-quality alcohol. Dietitians suggest aiming for two-ingredient drinks, high-quality clear alcohols, fine wine, and hydrating, healthy conscious mixers. Throw in healthy herbs and spices like mint, basil, or cinnamon for more flavor and flair. And remember — all things in moderation.

Cheers to your health!

Read More: The Rise of the Mocktail: Unique Drink Options for Your Next Party

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