5 Simple Tips to Lighten Up Your Favorite Cocktails

Host happy hour from the comfort of your kitchen.

Lighten up your cocktails with these five simple tips for making healthier drinks. These simple swaps will help cut unnecessary sugars while still maintaining the flavor and balance of your favorite cocktail. Your updated cocktails will be tastier and healthier for you, which means you can order another round!

Tip #1: Use Sparkling Water

Swap out soda or fruit juice for sparkling water. Flavored sparkling water typically has very few calories and little or no added sugar, making it a healthier option. You'll still get the fizz and flavor. These Margaritas, Strawberry Daiquiris and Piña Coladas all use sparkling water.

margarita in a cocktail glass garnished with jalapeno slices and citrus slices

Pictured recipe: Jalapeño Margarita

Tip #2: Make Your Own Mixers

Store-bought mixers for drinks like Margaritas or Moscow Mules often contain high amounts of sugar. By making your own, you can manage the sweetness of your cocktail. Karen Rankin, a recipe developer and food stylist in our test kitchen, suggests using a combination of fresh fruit juice and sparkling water instead. You can add a touch of sugar to the mix depending on your tastes.

Tip #3- Maximize Fresh Fruits

Fresh fruits are the perfect option for making cocktails lighter without compromising on flavor. Add freshly squeezed juice to a homemade mixer or use slices of fruit to make a fun garnish for your glass. Rankin suggests mashing some berries or adding ripe pineapple to your drink for the perfect amount of sweetness.

moscow mule cocktail in copper mugs with lime wedges

Pictured recipe: Moscow Mules

Tip #4: Take It Easy on Simple Syrup

Many cocktails call for the addition of simple syrup, which is made by boiling sugar and water together until it creates a thick syrup. While you don't need to skip the simple syrup altogether, you might be surprised by how little you need, especially if you use the simple syrup in combination with fresh fruit juice, as with our Jalapeño Margarita. If you'd rather cut out regular sugar altogether, you might try an alternative like stevia or monk fruit.

Tip #5: Add a Pinch of Salt

While this tip may seem counterintuitive, cocktails are all about creating a balanced drink. As Rankin says, "A pinch of salt will amplify the sweetness in your cocktail while minimizing any bitterness your palate might detect." The combination of salty and sweet will make a drink that is delicious, like our take on a Salty Dog.

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