Healthy Cocktail Hacks and Recipes

Life is all about balance—meaning if you need to skip a workout to catch up with friends over happy hour, that’s totally fine. But before you indulge in any super sweet, sugary drinks, ask yourself: is there a healthier version of this I can enjoy?

Chances are, you can swap out some of the traditional, unhealthy ingredients of your favorite boozy drink for ingredients that are a little less gluttonous. Instead of meeting at the bar for happy hour, try making these healthier cocktails recommended by three people who know the ropes: Tracy Lockwood, celebrity registered dietitian, bartender at Dirty Habit in San Francisco, Raul Ayala and mixologist, Heather Storm:

How to make a healthy piña colada

To make a healthy piña colada, Lockwood recommends losing the store-bought mixes to make your colada hydrating, and refreshing with coconut water instead.

Recipe: To make a healthy version of this vacation classic, mix white rum, pineapple juice and coconut water together in a blender with ice. If you really want to feel like you’re on vacation, “all you need is a tiny paper umbrella and some sun,” says Lockwood.

How to make healthy Sangria

Ever find yourself attempting to pick out fruit with one of those cocktail straws every time you order a glass (or a pitcher) of sangria? Ayala says to add even more of that goodness: “Pack all your fruity cocktails with nutritious produce. This naturally adds flavor and sweetness,” he explains.

Recipe: For a white wine version, combine dry white wine, club soda, a splash of honey syrup and then fill to the brim with fruit. His go-to suggestions are strawberry, basil and lime wheels. 

How to make a healthy margarita 

You already go green with your smoothie and your lunch, so why not extend the health factor to your marg? The key here, Ayala says is to make your own juices, instead of buying them. “Use freshly-squeezed juice whenever possible to avoid added sugar, colors and preservatives,” he says. And make sure you wait until the last second to put everything together, he says: “Squeezing fruit close to party time preserves more nutrients.”

Recipe: For this one, combine your tequila, lime juice and a splash of orange liqueur, like Cointreau. Skip the salt to stay healthy, but add some lime on the side for taste.

How to make healthy zen tea

For those days when you want to relax and reduce stress, but just aren’t in the mood for a glass of wine, try this zen tea. This tea “combines the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of green tea with the stress reduction and calming natures of the lavender,” says Storm. “Because tea is the base, this cocktail is naturally low in calories, and coconut sugar doesn’t spike one’s blood sugar, so you won’t have to worry about riding the sugar roller coaster.”

Recipe: Brew three ounces of green tea for two minutes and remove the tea bag. Then, add two stalks of fresh lavender or one teaspoon of dried lavender to the tea and let it steep for eight minutes. Stir in two teaspoons of coconut sugar and ¾ ounces of lemon juice and then pour one ounce of vodka or bourbon. Add ice to your glass and garnish it with a lavender flower. Sit back, sip and relax!

How to make a healthy spring cooler

If you’re looking for a light and refreshing summer drink, look no further. This spring cooler from Black LAB is light and delicate and has plenty of hydration promoting nutrients. “The high water content of both the honeydew and cucumber keeps the calories low, and the recipe contains no added sugar,” says Storm. “Honeydew is high in potassium, helping to regulate sodium and electrolytes, while cucumber contains a lot of essential B vitamins keep anxiety and stress at bay.”

Recipe: Muddle five mint leaves, ½ ounce of cucumber juice (or some sliced cucumbers), and one ounce of honeydew juice (or three chunks of honeydew). Add ½ ounce of fresh lime juice, whatever clear liquor you prefer and a dash of Stevia. Shake the mix well with ice and then strain it over fresh ice in a glass. Garnish your class with fresh mint and melon and enjoy.

How to make a healthy tequila drink

If you’re a tequila drinker, you’re in luck. “Tequila is naturally low in calories and sugar,” says Lockwood. “Tequila has agavins, a type of sugar, which has little to no influence on our blood sugar levels.” With this pineapple tequila drink, you’ll be sure to enjoy the fruity flavor without overloading your drink in mountains of sugar from the juice.

Recipe: To make this tequila drink, combine 1.5 ounces of blanco or silver tequila, 1.5 ounces of pineapple juice and three ounces of flavorless seltzer water over a handful of ice.

How to make a healthy champagne party

Champagne is arguably the most fun alcoholic beverage to drink, no matter if you’re celebrating something or just enjoy some bubbly. In addition to being a fun drink, it’s also a healthy option. “Not only does Champagne clock in as the lowest caloric alcoholic beverage, but the bitters in this drink may help reduce heartburn, nausea and can lessen bloating as well,” says Lockwood.

Recipe: In a large glass, mix a cup of crushed ice, four ounces of Champagne (any kind will do), 1.5 ounces of muddled frozen berries and four dashes of Peychauds Aromatic Cocktail Bitters, garnished with orange zest on top.

How to make a healthy mimosa

Bottomless mimosas make every brunch outing much more enjoyable, but depending on what you’re mixing your champagne with, you may not be making the healthiest choice. Consider DIY-ing your next bottomless brunch and opt for serving blood orange mimosas.

“Recently blood oranges have been making bold chasers for drinks due to their vibrant color and rich taste,” says Lockwood. “Blood oranges come in a variety of colors, ranging from a deep purple to crimson and are overflowing with antioxidants and anthocyanins that can reduce inflammation and help boost immunity.”

Recipe: To make a blood orange mimosa, mix four ounces of champagne or prosecco with one ounce of freshly squeezed blood orange juice.

Chelsea Dowling works in consumer public relations in Chicago. She loves coffee, friends, Golden Doodles and chips and salsa (in no particular order). Her ideal day starts with a walk along Lake Michigan and ends with either a HIIT class or homemade Old Fashioned.