Alcoholic Drinks That Are Low in Carbs

Gin

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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Cocktails, beer, and wine can be high in carbohydrates and sugar. If you’re trying to reduce your carb intake, but still want to enjoy the occasional drink, there are low-carb alcohol options.

You can even have alcohol on the keto diet, especially once you’ve picked up some tips and tricks for lowering the carb counts of your favorite cocktails.

As long as you’re aware of the best (and worst) alcohol for low-carb diets, you’ll be able to enjoy your favorite drinks in moderation without getting off track with your eating plan.

Shots and Highballs

Tequila
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Even though they're sourced from grain, distilled spirits such as rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, and tequila have no carbohydrates (after the distillation process, all that's left is the alcohol).

Spirits can be served as a single shot, with ice, or with a mixer. If you use a mixer that's naturally calorie and carb-free, like still and sparkling water or club soda, you can actually make a totally carb-free drink.

Other popular mixers do add calories and carbs. However many brands of tonic water, ginger ale, cola, and lemon-lime soda (7Up or Sprite) come in diet versions.

If you're making a drink that's heavier on the mixer than the alcohol, such as a highball, use low-carb mixers to avoid added carbs.

Carb Count for Spirits
Whiskey 0 grams
Tequila 0 grams
Brandy 0 grams
Dry Martini 0 grams
Bloody Mary 7 grams
Margarita 8 grams
Cosmopolitan 8 grams
Gin and Tonic 16 grams
White Russian 17 grams
Rum and Coke 39 grams
*per typical preparation and serving size

Cocktails

Margarita on the rocks
John E. Kelly/Photodisc/Getty Images

The most straightforward carb-free option aside from straight shots is spirits paired with carbonated mixers. If you prefer cocktails made with sweeter mixers like fruit juice, there are ways to make these drinks lower in carbs.

Low-Carb Mixers

Citrus mixers like lemon and lime juices usually don’t contribute much sugar, as a single drink doesn’t require much. The exception is orange juice. While orange juice doesn’t have much more sugar per ounce (3 grams) than other citrus juices (2 grams), you typically use more OJ to make a drink than, say, lemon or lime juice.

One of the most popular drinks made with OJ is a screwdriver (vodka and orange juice). Depending on the size, a screwdriver can easily have 24 grams of carbs or more.

The carbs in other popular fruit juice mixers vary but keep in mind that how much you use (a splash versus a pour) will influence your cocktails’ final carb count.

Carb Count for Fruit Juice Mixers
Diet cranberry juice cocktail 0.2 grams
Tomato juice 1 gram
Light cranberry juice cocktail 1 gram
Apple juice 3.5 grams
Pineapple juice 4 grams
Cranberry juice cocktail  4 grams
*per ounce

Artificial Sweeteners

Simple syrup is a solution of sugar in water used to sweeten cocktails. One ounce has 4 tablespoons of sugar, about 50 grams of carbohydrates and almost 200 calories. Simple syrup is often combined with lemon juice or lime juice to make a sweet-and-sour mixer.

To lighten the sugar and carb load, make your own sugar-free sweet and sour mixer using a liquid artificial sweetener. However, there are pros and cons to using artificial sweeteners you should consider before adding them to your liquor cabinet.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved five artificial sweeteners for use: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose.

For example, the main appeal of sugar substitutes is that they don't add calories or carbohydrates, making them popular choices for people trying to lose weight or control their blood sugar. Many products used to mix alcoholic beverages, like diet soda, powder mixes, and drops (like Crystal Light), have sugar-free varieties.

However, in order to compensate for the lack of flavor, artificial sweeteners are generally much sweeter in taste than real sugar. Some research has indicated that when we eat these sweeter sugar substitutes regularly, it may alter our tastes. We may start to prefer and seek out sweeter foods, finding those with only naturally-occurring amounts of sugar (or no sugar) too bland.

If you want to avoid the additives, look for products sweetened with stevia, erythritol, and fruit juice concentrate or crystals.

Other Cocktail Ingredients

Small amounts of bitters, an alcoholic preparation made with botanical ingredients, are often used in cocktails, especially an Old Fashioned. Carb counts for bitters vary. Some preparations have few or no carbs, while other mixes can have upwards of 15 grams per tablespoon.

Vermouth is a flavored fortified wine used to make classic martinis. Dry vermouth contains about 1 gram of carbs per ounce, while sweetened forms contain about 4 grams per ounce.

Low-Carb Cocktail Recipes

Liqueurs

Bottles of fruit liqueurs lined up
Peter ten Broecke / E+ / Getty Images

Of all the alcoholic beverages, liqueurs have the most carbs—and always contain sugar. If you want to have a liqueur on its own, be mindful of portion size. If you usually include liqueur in your cocktail recipes, use a smaller pour or a sugar-free alternative.

These carb counts for popular liqueur are for one regular-sized jigger (about 1.5 ounces) but the carb counts for individual brands may vary. When you have the choice of several brands, be sure to carefully read nutrition labels.

Liqueur Carb Counts

B & B (brandy and Bénédictine)

8 grams
Kirsch 9 grams
Grand Marnier 10 grams
Bailey's Irish Cream  11 grams
Campari  12 grams
Cointreau 15 grams
Triple sec 16 grams
Ouzo 16 grams
Sambuca 17 grams

Crème de cassis

17 grams

Crème de menthe

21 grams

Crème de cacao

22 grams

Coffee liqueur (Kahlúa)

24 (or more) grams 

Amaretto

25 grams
*per 1.5 ounces

Liqueurs as Mixers

Bénédictine, crème de cacao, crème de menthe, and Cointreau are also used as mixers. You can still enjoy these drinks in moderation by using a swap to lower the amount of sugar the drinks contain.

  • Replace the flavor of liqueur by using other flavorings. A drop or two of orange extract can substitute for orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau. Peppermint extract can take the place of peppermint schnapps.
  • Replace liqueur with an equal volume of sugar-free syrup. Several brands, like DaVinci or Torani, sell syrups in an array of flavors—some of which are those of liqueurs like amaretto, crème de menthe, and Irish Cream.
  • Use flavored spirits. Try using citrus-flavored vodka as the base of your drink rather than adding liqueur. Just be aware that in some cases, the spirits may have a higher alcohol content than the liqueur they're replacing.

Beer

Beer
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Regular beer contains about 12 grams of carbs per serving. However, the number can vary from one brand to another, so check the label. In general, the darker or heavier the beer, the more carbs it has.

Craft Beer

The carb grams in 12 ounces of light beer varies from 2.4 to 7. Ales have around 5 to 9 carb grams. Stouts or dark beers vary greatly, but extra-stout varieties can have up to 20 grams per bottle. Check the label or brewer’s website for specific craft beers, but keep in mind that many can rival stout in carb counts.

Beer Carb Counts
Bud Select 55 1.8 grams
Miller 64 2.4 grams
Michelob Ultra 2.6 grams
Miller Light 3.2 grams
Coors Light 5 grams
Bud Light 6.6 grams
Heineken 11 grams
Budweiser 11 grams
Pabst Blue Ribbon 12 grams
Stella Artois 13 grams
Corona Extra 14 grams
Guinness Extra 14 grams
Fuller's London Porter 20 grams
Samuel Adams Double Bock 27 grams
*by the bottle

Non-alcoholic Beer

If you like the taste of beer but prefer non-alcoholic versions, there are some that are relatively low-carb and low-calorie. For example, a 12-ounce can of Busch NA Low Alcohol Beer has 60 calories and 12.9 grams of carbs, and MillerCoors non-alcoholic beer has 58 calories and 12.2 grams of carbs per 12-ounce can.

Wine

Wine
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Overall, wine contains a small amount of carbohydrate. While the carb count for each type varies, as a general rule, sweeter wines have higher carb counts.

Wine Carb Counts
Dry champagne 2.5 grams

Sauvignon blanc

3 grams

Pinot grigio

3 grams

Chardonnay

3.1 grams

Pinot noir

3.4 grams

Shiraz/Syrah

3.7 grams

Cabernet Sauvignon

3.8 grams

Zinfandel

4.2 grams

Rosé

5 grams

Riesling

5 grams

Muscat

8 grams

Dessert wines

12-14 grams

Late harvest wine

20 grams
*per 5-ounce serving

Wine or spirit coolers can have 30 to 40 grams of carb per bottle. If you’re eating (and drinking) low-carb, avoid “breezers” and “hard lemonade” as these beverages are primarily sugar.

A Word From Verywell

You can enjoy an occasional cocktail, beer, or wine as part of a low-carb lifestyle. If you're cutting carbs to manage diabetes, be aware that alcohol can make your blood sugar levels erratic. The way in which alcohol affects blood sugar is also influenced by several specific factors, such as the type and amount of alcohol you choose, as well as whether you’ve had something to eat.

Remember that reducing a drink’s carb count won’t lessen the effects of alcohol, so always drink responsibly.

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Article Sources

  1. Green E, Murphy C. Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers. Physiol Behav. 2012;107(4):560-7.a. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2012.05.006

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