The Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode #168

Going low carb for January? Don’t despair! Listen in for some ideas for “no carb” cocktails and tips for making “no sugar” simple syrups as well.

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In today’s Episode we’re holding the Carbs.

Yep, it’s January and that means a whole load of people are going to try to cut back on unhealthy foods. And while a lot of people skip alcohol this month, we’re not one of them. Rather, we’re (attempting to) skipping the carbs!

No Mixing Required

If you’re not making cocktails and want to just pour and enjoy, you have a few good options:

  1. Wine: yep, most wines are relatively low carb. (Key word: Relatively). Aim for dryer styles, especially dry reds.
  2. Light Beer: “Light” style beers are also relatively (ahem) low in carbs as well. Though they tend to have a lot less flavor than the real thing. But considering that beer is basically carb-water, I think it’s surprising there’s any “low carb” option at all.
  3. Spirits “neat”: Surprisingly (to me at least), distilled spirits have almost zero carbs. That’s because the carbs are removed via the distillation process. That said, be wary of flavored spirits and spiced rums, as they often have sugar added back in after distillation.

Cocktail Time!

Now you know what you can and can’t drink “straight out of the bottle”, but what about cocktails? This is where it gets a bit more complicated. Since you’re mixing lots of things together, we need to talk about all of the various components you may be using and what is / is not “low carb”.

1. Distilled spirits:

As previously mentioned, distilled spirits are actually virtually zero carb ( as long as they haven’d had sugars added after the fact.)

2. Citrus:

Good news: Lemons and limes are fair game! Not only is their juice virtually sugar free, but their peels hold beautiful aromatics a la citrus oil that can make your no-carb drink even more delicious. Go to down on the lemons and limes. (Note: This is NOT the case with oranges. Oranges are very high in sugar and should be avoided.

3. Syrups

Yep, this is where things get tricky. Any cocktail recipe that follow the “sour” format is going to have a sweetener, and chances are pretty good that it uses a syrup of some kind. The only kind of syrups that are truly “no carb” are going to be syrups advertised as such – and they will generally have some sort of alternative sugar. (Scroll down – more on that soon!)

4. Mixers:

Danger! Mixers are a very easy way to add loads of sugar without even realizing it:

  • Fruit juice – high sugar
  • Non diet sodas – super high sugar
  • Tonic water – very high sugar as well.

If you’re going to add a mixer, I’d recommend sticking with plain unflavored sparkling water or one of those newfangled (yeah I said it) no-calorie flavored waters like La Croix (or knockoff).

5. Liqueurs & Amaros

Perhaps the saddest thing to lose, liqueurs and amaros are both usually pretty high in carbs.  Liqueurs are, by definition, sweetened, but amaros are often sweetened too – as the sweetness offsets the bitterness. It’s generally best to skip these completely.

6. Cocktail Bitters

Good news here!  Cocktail bitters are usually just highly infused distilled spirits, meaning they are carb-free. This is a great way to add flavor to your drink.

Sugar Free Simple Syrups

Since having no syrup whatsoever is very limiting, we decided to do some testing to see which sugar alternatives yielded the best alternative “simple syrup”. I’ll go into a lot more detail on this in a later post, but for now, here’s the ranking:

  1. The best: Xylitol Simple Syrup (1:1 Xylitol and hot water)
  2. Next up: a tie between Stevia (and Allulose (1:1 Allulose and hot water)
  3. Next: another tie between “Keto Simple Syrup” (1c hot water, 1/2c erithritol, 1/16 tsp Xantham Gum and 1/8 tsp of Stevia powder) and Monkfruit #2 (1c water, 1/2c Monk Fruit powder, pinch of Xanthan Gum)
  4. Monkfruit #1 (1.5:0.5 Water: Monkfruit powder)

By the way – here’s that suuuuper old video of Chris testing alternative sugars way back in 2014!

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