5 Slim-Down Summer Sippers

Lower calories while raising a glass: warm-weather cocktails to remedy beer bloat

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas Published on 12.08.2011 16:35:58 (updated on 12.08.2011) Reading time: 5 minutes

As I prepare to pour myself into a wedding dress, I´ve been inclined to scale back another kind of pouring: that of golden, God-sent beer. And it´s tough, because it´s summer; everyone´s going to the beer garden, nothing tastes so good with grilled food as beer, and nothing quenches my thirst like beer. And, well, nothing gives me a belly like beer. For those who´re looking to lighten up or simply seek an alternative to Czech-beer bloat, these refreshing drinks are slimming summer options. (No worries, beer is here, too.)

The drinks below are for mixing at home, but keep these tips in mind when ordering cocktails while out and about. Obviously, the less sweet the drink, the better for your waistline; and try to avoid frozen drinks all together. Get creative with garnish; a twist of lemon, lime, or orange peel enhances aroma and flavor as do add-ins like salsa, fruit-vinegar infusions, and fresh herbs. When choosing mixers, watch out for high-calorie tonic water; better Prague bars should stock the diet variety. At home, treat yourself to stylish or unique drinking vessels to enhance the pleasure of the experience!

The Prague Mule
Lower the calorie count by paying attention to mixers. Low-calorie soda with spirits over ice is always a healthy bet with vodka, gin, tequila and rum running about 65 calories per ounce. This cocktail, a variation on the Moscow Mule–a shot of vodka, ginger beer, and a squeeze of lime–uses Becherovka. No longer just a staid Sunday-lunch digestive, the herbal spirit was recently released for mass distribution in the U.S. where it´s tearing up the food-blog circuit as right-now ingredient.

1-2 oz. Becherovka (30-60 mL)
4 oz. of diet ginger ale (120 mL; get it at Marks & Spencer)
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice (20 mL)

Combine all the ingredients in an ice-filled highball glass and stir gently. Garnish with a lime wedge. You can also make a Becherovka Beton by substituting light tonic water for the ginger ale and a lemon wedge or peel for lime juice.

Chelada with Maggi

Tomato-infused drinks such as Bloody Marys are a healthy choice (just be sure to use tomato juice, not Bloody Mary mix, which can be heavy on cornstarch). Who knew that Maggi, beefy soup bolsterer of Czech grannies, was also a secret ingredient of the cooling Chelada beer cocktail? While the thought of pouring beer over ice may feel like sacrilege to Czechs, in Mexico this savory cocktail beats the heat and is said to cure a hangover.

1 oz. fresh lime juice (30 mL)
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
4 dashes Tabasco
4 dashes Maggi
1-3 oz. tomato juice (30-90 mL)
Pilsner, to taste

Rub the rim of a 10-oz collins glass with a lime, then salt the rim. Add crushed ice, lime juice, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and Maggi. Top off with beer.

Elderberry “Černý Bez” Fizz
Using a swirl of homemade syrup in place of sugary mixers gives your cocktails a flavorful kick. I´ve been told that this homemade potion is a favorite way of using up the “forest” fruits harvest from the cottage. Use any kind of vinegar — apple cider, red wine, or even champagne — for the syrup. Message-board tip: “The vinárna on Kolinska in P2 has nice, cheap glass wine bottles with flip-style lids in various sizes (1L, 2L, and 5L) bottles; [I´ve] been using them for years. They were well under 100 CZK each.”-pavelpavel

1 cup elderberries (or any berry; raspberries, blackberries, etc.)
1 cup vinegar
1.5 cups sugar
1.5 cups water

Add sugar and water to a saucepan, and heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add berries and simmer until the fruit´s juice blends with the syrup. Let cool. Strain out the solids. Add vinegar to the syrup, bottle it, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

To serve, mix with sparking water or vodka.

Death in the Afternoon
Champagne is a good pick when you´re watching your waist. At about 105 calories per 4 ounces, it´s also the perfect blank canvas for the perennially elegant champagne cocktail which offers endless possibilities (bubbly takes on everything from maple syrup to fresh fruit). Give your champagne cocktail a particularly Prague touch with an absinthe infusion — this classic was invented by Hemingway, and named after his bullfighting book.

1.5 oz. absinthe (45 mL)
4 oz. dry champagne  (120 mL)

Pour the absinthe into a champagne flute and slowly add chilled champagne until cloudy.

For a summertime splurge, stop by Absintherie and try the absinthe ice cream. Champagne/absinthe float, anyone?

Plum Wine Spritzer
With just 115 calories per 6-ounce glass, white wine is a wise choice for calorie counters. Spritzers are even more slimming, if a little dull. For something different, replace white wine with plum wine. Those syrupy little shots that typically follow cheap Chinese may be pure treacle on their own, but with a little lightening up make the perfect “welcome” drink for offering guests on steamy afternoons in the garden.

1/4 cup plum wine (get it at Japa shop)
1/4 cup sparkling water
1 tbsp. lime juice

Fill white wine glasses with ice. Add plum wine followed by sparkling water and 1 tablespoon lime juice. Garnish with lime or slices of chilled or frozen peaches or plums.

Babička´s Jam Jar
Adding a spoon of jam to tea is something that I only recently came across when I saw a village auntie use a dollop of Czech mixed-fruit jam to sweeten her brew. This naturally made me wonder about other possible uses, preferably involving alcohol, for good old-fashioned jam. If anything, this cocktail is a good way to loosen the dregs of jam from the bottom of the jar and because it´s such a small amount, the jam adds sweetness, not sugar and calories.

1-2 oz. vodka or gin (30-60 mL)
squeeze lemon or lime juice
1 empty jam jar with plenty of residue, or 1 teaspoon jam of choice

Fill a jam jar with crushed ice, add vodka or gin, a squeeze of citrus, and fasten the lid. Shake, remove lid, and drink from jar.

The jam jar trick works with cold brewed tea and bourbon as well.


Elizabeth Haas is the editor of I Cook: Cocktails, Margarita Party, 1001 Recipes: Finger Food Buffet, and other titles.

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