What to drink when counting calories

I hope that everyone is off to a great start in 2019!  Did you make a resolution for the New Year?  If so, have you managed to keep it?  According to nearly every survey conducted on the matter, the most common New Year's resolution has to do with improving your health through diet, exercise, or both.
What does this have to do with cocktails?  Normally the answer would be “not much”, but this time of year many of us are counting not only the calories that we eat, but the calories that we drink as well.  This week we are going to take a look at what to drink, and what not to drink should you find yourself counting calories.  
Let's get one ting straight: once alcohol is consumed it is literally turned to sugar by your body.  Therefore any drink with an alcohol content is going to contain some sugar.  An ounce of an 80 proof spirit such as vodka, gin, or whiskey contains around 64 calories.  Most mixed drinks contain around 1.25 ounces of spirit, so nearly every mixed drink is going to come in at 100 calories or more.
The average beer contains around 150 calories while the average light beer is just shy of 100 calories.  A large glass of wine will add around 200 calories to your daily total with the red being slightly higher in calories than white wine.
When weighing beer or wine vs. mixed drinks consider that you will likely consume fewer mixed drinks over than the course of an evening than you would beers or glasses of wine.
Before we get into the best options for those that are calories conscious, I figured that we should take a look at what not to drink.
One of the worst decisions that one can make on a diet is the restaurant style Margarita.  You can make a calorie conscious Margarita at home, but the standard Margarita at most chain restaurants contains around 700 calories per 8.5 ounces.
Long Island Iced Tea? Forget it.  740 calories for 7.5 ounces.
The White Russian comes in around 400 calories per 5 ounces, but I don't know any fans of this drink who have only one.
The undisputed worst offender in the calories per ounce department has to be the Pina Colada.  Fortunately we typically do not drink them until summer, but if you decide to start early you will be consuming around 650 calories for 6 ounces.  Bear in mind that most Pina Coladas are served in tall glasses, so count on your Pina Colada setting you back over 1,000 calories and 180 grams of carbs.  It's not all bad, at least they are delicious.
The theme in aforementioned drinks is that they contain either dairy and/or a sugar sweetener such as cola or simple syrup.
The greatest driver of caloric content is typically the mixer rather than the base spirit.  So if you are looking to cut some calories out of your after dinner cocktail, change your mixer or cut it out completely.
Let's start with cola.  Your standard Rum and Coke or anything “and Coke” will use the high sugar/high calorie Coca Cola from the soda gun behind the bar.  
If you are a fan of cola mixers, order a “Rum and Diet” or your favorite spirit “and diet”.  The difference could be nearly 75 calories depending on the size of the glass.  A typical “well drink” version of the Rum and Diet will contain around 65-75 calories from an ounce of rum and a zero calorie mixer.  That's not bad compared to the oversized fruity drinks.
The most popular well drink for dieters is vodka with a splash of club soda.  If this tasteless, odorless low-calorie wonder does not have enough flavor for your palate you may squeeze in a lime wedge.
Aside from the Vodka and Soda, the Gin and Diet Tonic is also a popular option.  Not every bar will carry a diet tonic, be sure to ask.  Every bar will have club soda, the “Something and Soda” is a safe bet and will typically come in at less than 100 calories regardless of base spirit.
You have 100% control over your mixers if you are mixing drinks at home.  Stock your home bar with your favorite spirits, club soda, diet or zero-calorie cola, diet tonic water, a few limes and you are on your way to keeping a resolution while enjoying the occasional adult beverage.
I hope that this article finds you in time if you are looking to keep a resolution.  According to a survey conducted by U.S. News, 80% of resolutions are broken by the second week of February.  
Let's raise a glass of Gin and Diet Tonic to the other 20%.
Until next week, enjoy responsibly.