Happy hour is one of my favorite pastimes, and our blender at home gets a lot of use. (Margaritas.) But I’m always wary of drinking too much because a) sloppy drunk looks good on no one; b) hangovers make me want to die; and c) THERE’S A LOT OF SUGAR IN ALCOHOL. Luckily, Claire of Eat Well. Party Hard. is here with a few suggestions on the best drinks to order at the bar when you want to treat your body right (while still having fun).
To get straight to the point, I like to drink.
Drinking is fun, whiskey tastes great and, in the right context, alcohol catalyzes the kind of crazy adventures* that spark new friendships and solidify old ones.
However, it’s common knowledge that from a physical standpoint, drinking night after night is extremely taxing—on your waistline, your digestive system and your ability to wake up without a painful, productivity-killing headache the next morning.
This isn’t great news if your career and/or social pursuits place you in bars several nights a week.
That used to be my life.
Those of us who spend a significant amount of time in alcohol-heavy environments have to get crafty when it comes to juggling the social situation and our health. So to avoid unknowingly consuming buckets of creepy chemicals, artificial ingredients or a few hundred (sometimes thousand) extra calories, here are your four best boozing bets for a fun, relatively healthy night.
1. Craft or locally brewed beer—but only if you’re having one or two.
Beer—especially beer with real flavor to it—is high in empty calories and carbs. Several “light” options are typically available (your Bud Lights, Miller Lites, Michelob Ultras, etc.) for between 90-100 calories per 12-oz serving, but virtually all commercially brewed beers are laden with sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or dextrose, additives like caramel coloring and a huge array of other chemicals. Food Babe actually asked spoke one-on-one with several mainstream breweries about what their beers contain, and her findings are pretty depressing. Sierra Nevada, Heineken and Amstel Light appear to be the only major companies who don’t use artificial ingredients, stabilizers or preservatives in their brews.
To avoid the chemical trap of commercial beers, it’s best to stick with craft beers and microbrews, or to opt for a German beer if available (the Reinheitsgebot purity law in Germany requires all beers to be produced with only a core ingredient list of water, hops, yeast, malted barley or wheat). However, with the knowledge that these choices are significantly higher in calories than the cheap-o “Lite” stuff, be mindful of how many calories are in that mug o’ tastiness.
Wine is lower in calories and carbs than beer, though like beer—or any other mass-produced food or drink—commercial wines are made to a specific taste; this ensures that the second bottle of Yellowtail pinot grigio you open will taste just like first. This uniformity is achieved, of course, by heavy processing, chemical manipulation and the use of various additives. So be aware that at the bar, your glass of wine won’t likely be as pure as those that come from small-scale vineyards, but at least the carb count is lower than the Bud Light your friend ordered.
3. Your favorite liquor + club soda + lime
Calorically speaking, liquor is the best bang for your buck at around 100ish calories per 1.5-oz serving—the mixers that go with them, though, get real dangerous real fast.
Though old-school versions of most drinks are relatively harmless, bars more often than not are stocked with pre-mixed versions of the classics—and once again, commercially packaged = tons of sugar, coloring and chemicals. According to WebMD, a 6-ounce piña colada packs on about 380 calories, and an 8-ounce mojito is 214 calories.
Rather than pulling out a calculator at the bar, order your preferred liquor with club soda/seltzer (not tonic water, which is super high in sugar) and a splash of lime—the fizz and citrus will keep it interesting.
4. Your favorite liquor, straight
If you dig the taste of your chosen liquor on its own, try ordering it on the rocks or neat. Too strong? Dilute it with some water as you acquire the taste.
What’s your favorite healthy(ish) drink?
*Said adventures are too numerous to list fully, but do include many nights running around New York ’til sunrise, snagging a cop’s hat and posing for photos on said cop’s motorcycle (with said cop present) and skinny dipping at Coney Island, among others.