Low-calorie Summer Drinks: Recipes and Tips on How to Give Customers the Skinny


cocktailsSummer is just around the corner and consumers will soon be looking for new, tasty ways to cool off. The outlook is quite positive for bar operators, as on-premise alcohol sales rose by 3.4 percent between 2010 and 2011 for all types of alcohol: beer, wine and liquor. However, there seems to be one particular type of alcohol that’s outpacing all the others in sales this year.

Watching Your Waist Through Better Drinking

According to Technomic, the incidence of mixed drinks advertised as “skinny” grew by 533 percent between 2010 and 2011. That is NOT a typo. Americans are growing increasingly health-conscious and having a few low-calorie options advertised on your menu is a great way to cater to those consumers. Although you don’t need to use the word “skinny,” it couldn’t hurt. The low-calorie mixed drink company Skinnygirl, started by reality star Bethenny Frankel, was recognized by Technomic as the fastest growing brand of spirits in 2011. Last year alone their sales skyrocketed by 388 percent. Again, that is not a typo. No matter what your opinion of real skinny housewives is, that’s a trend you cannot ignore.

A Healthy Bloody Mary?

Luckily, there is a multitude of inspiring recipes out there that can be easily adapted into an exciting signature drink. To give you an idea, here is a recipe for a Barbecued Bloody Mary (adapted from this recipe). It’s a tasty twist on the traditional day-time drink, though for Mary I think barbecuing probably just adds to her woes:


12ozTomato Juice
2ozBeef Stock
2cCoarse Salt
1tCrushed Chipotle Peppers
1tOnion Powder
1tCayenne Pepper


    • First, build a charcoal fire on one side of the grill for indirect cooking.
    • To make smoked lemon juice, cut the lemons in half and place on aluminum foil or an aluminum baking sheet. Leave the lemons on the empty side of the grill with the lid covered for 30 minutes. Keep the lid closed and be sure that the grill temperature stays at around 225°. After a half-hour, remove the lemons and let them cool.
    • Next, spread a thin layer of coarse salt over an aluminum pan or foil. Leave this on the empty side of the grill for an hour. After one hour, let it cool to room temperature in a sealed container.


  • As the salt is getting nice and smoky, make your Bloody Mary mix. Combine the juice from 2 lemons along with molasses, beef stock, onion powder, cayenne pepper and tomato juice. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate until ready to use.
  • For a garnish, cut thick slices of jalapeno peppers and grill on the flame side for one to two minutes on each side of the pepper.
  • Line the rim of your glasses with lemon juice from the remaining smoked lemons and dip into the smoked salt. Combine four ounces of your Bloody Mary mix with two ounces (or more if you’re feeling saucy) of bourbon and garnish with lemon wedges and jalapeno peppers.
  • Watch customers go crazy for this beverage at all hours of the day and night.
  • Serves: 12, Calories: 167

Prefer to leave Mary unscathed? Here’s a list of some of other tantalizing low-calorie summer drink recipes we’ve seen:

More Drink Ideas

  • Eating Well has this simple recipe for rosemary-infused cucumber lemonade, which features tasty agave syrup instead of sugar. Adding vodka to this recipe only tacks on a few calories and changes nothing of its refreshing deliciousness.
  • Fitness Magazine has a great recipe for a light mojito fresco, which tastes great and is only 95 calories!
  • Margaritas are a great low-calorie drink that customers can’t get enough of. Health Magazine has a comprehensive collection of nine low-calorie margarita recipes that you can adapt to make your own.

While some might argue that alcoholic beverages in any form aren’t great for your health, it can’t be denied that adding low-calorie drinks to your cocktail menu is great for business. Learn more about marketing a healthy menu.

Low-calorie Drink Contest: No matter how you decide to appeal to the calorie-conscious, adding some new and interesting low-calorie options to your cocktail menu is essential. If you find yourself short on ideas, one easy way to come up with a new summer cocktail is to spice up the internal competition with a mixology contest. Chances are your bartenders already have some pretty great ideas, and offering the incentive of putting one on the menu could be enough to get the creative juices flowing.


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Sara Henderson

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