Is happy hour not making you feel so happy the next day? That's likely why a growing number of Americans are becoming sober-curious.
In fact, online sales of low- and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 315 percent between October 2020 and 2021, per a Nielsen report.
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If you do drink, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends just one drink per day for people assigned female at birth and two drinks for people assigned male at birth.
One drink is defined as:
- 5-ounce glass of 12-percent alcohol by volume (ABV) wine
- 12-ounce 5-percent ABV beer
- 1 ½ ounces of 40-percent ABV liquor
Stick to drinking in moderation and you'll score some health benefits while sipping your favorite spirit. "And keep in mind that all alcoholic beverages also have calories," says Katherine Brooking, RD, co-founder of the nutrition news company Appetite for Health. (Alcohol has 7 calories per gram while protein and carbs have 4 grams each and fat has 9 grams.)
Some people should not drink alcohol at all, Brooking says, including:
- Anyone under 21 years old
- People who are or may be pregnant
- People with medical conditions that might interact with alcohol
- People who have trouble controlling the amount they drink
- Anyone with plans to do activities that require coordination, like driving a car
If you don't fall into any of the camps above, find out how low-ABV ready-to-drink cocktails could be a good call.
1. Prairie Organic Spirits
ABV: 5 percent
Available in three flavors, including Minnesota Bootleg (lemon, lime and mint), Cucumber Lemonade and Grapefruit, these sparkling vodka cocktails pack 120 calories and 5 grams of sugar (that's just over 1 teaspoon).
Unlike many spiked seltzers that are boozy by way of fermented sugars, these actually include a splash of the brand's signature corn-based vodka.
Buy it: Drizly; Price: $12.99 per 4-pack
2. Fishers Island
ABV: 7 to 9 percent
Fishers Island, named after the quaint island in New York, makes lemonade canned cocktails in three varieties: Fishers Island Lemonade Original (9 percent ABV), Fishers Spiked Tea (7 percent ABV) and Fishers Pink Flamingo (7 percent ABV).
These refreshing, lemony drinks are all made with both vodka and barrel-aged whiskey as well as lemon and honey. The brand also makes a spiked ice pop perfect for summer days.
Buy it: Drizly; Price: $3.99 per can
3. Spa Girl Cocktails
ABV: 16.5 percent (per can)
Spa Girl vodka canned cocktails contain no artificial sweeteners, colors or flavors. One can has just 48 calories and 1.5 grams of sugar. They also come in bottled cocktails, for when you're entertaining.
Available in Pear, Cucumber and Peach, think of these like a lower-alcohol liquor and mix them with club soda, fresh fruit and herbs to stretch each ounce of alcohol further.
Buy it: Spa Girls; Price: $49.99 for 12 cans
4. Pulp Culture
ABV: 4.9 percent
Similar to probiotic drinks like kombucha, these 99-calorie canned cocktails tout live cultures and zero sugar, two features that may support your gut health.
Pulp Culture comes in four complex flavors: Think (guava, peach, ginseng, matcha, lion's mane), Hustle (passionfruit, strawberry, ginger, turmeric, lion's mane), Restore (grapefruit, goji berry, dandelion, milk thistle, reishi) and Relax (blueberry, lemon, lavender, valerian root, reishi).
Buy it: Pulp Culture; Price: $14.99 per 4-pack
ABV: 5.25 percent
Think of Volley like a margarita but without all the calories and sugar. This 100-percent blue agave tequila is much lighter — and made with only three ingredients (the other two: sparkling water and organic fruit juice).
The spiked seltzers come in Zesty Lime, Spicy Ginger, Sharp Grapefruit and Tropical Mango varieties. At 100 to 110 calories per can and about as much alcohol as a light beer, these low-ABV canned cocktails are perfect on a warm summer afternoon.
Buy it: Volley; Price: $13.99 per 4-pack
ABV: 7 percent
Typically made with simple syrup (aka sugar water) and sugar-sweetened ginger beer, a Moscow Mule or two can quickly tack calories onto your day.
These Moscow Mule-like canned cocktails are flavored with organic ginger juice, lime and lemon, and are sweetened with zero-calorie erythritol and stevia. The mules are available in 12-ounce (140 calories) and 16-ounce (185 calories) cans.
Buy it: Drizly; Price: Starting at $3.27 per 12-ounce can
7. Cutwater Spirits
ABV: 5 to 12 percent
With 19 current flavors ranging from Horchata Vodka Cold Brew and Spicy Bloody Mary to Lime Margarita and Tiki Rum Mai Tai, the variety allows for a wide range of booze bases (gin, rum, whiskey, vodka and tequila) and alcohol levels to please everyone.
On the lower-ABV end, consider the Vodka Soda Lime, Vodka Soda Grapefruit, Vodka Soda Cucumber, Tequila Soda, Elderflower Spritz and Gin & Tonic, all of which have 7 percent or less ABV and less than 200 calories.
Buy it: Drizly; Price: Starting at $12.99 per 4-pack
8. Costa Brava
ABV: 6.7 percent
Available in Vodka Cranberry and Lemon Drop (with more flavors in development), these vodka cocktails have zero added sugars.
Instead, the drinks are sweetened with stevia so each fruity, vodka-based canned cocktail has just 130 calories. (That's less than a glass of lemonade or fruit juice.)
Buy it: Nestor Liquors; Price: $9.99 for 4 cans
9. Two Chicks
ABV: 5 percent
If you crave variety come cocktail hour, Two Chicks could be a great solution.
The ready-to-drink, low-ABV cocktails are spiked with vodka, tequila, whiskey or gin and com in the following flavors: Sparkling New Fashioned, Sparkling Apple Gimlet, Sparkling Vodka CuTea, Sparkling Paloma, Sparkling Vodka Fizz or Sparkling Citrus Margarita.
Just be sure to keep the sugar and calorie contents — 20 grams and 140 to 180 calories per can — in mind as you balance your menu for the rest of the day.
Buy it: Drizly; Price: $14.99 per 4-pack
ABV: 4.5 percent
Nütrl is made with gluten-free vodka, seltzer and fruit juice for a low-ABV cocktail that clocks in at just 100 calories. Choose from fruity flavors, including Pineapple, Watermelon, Raspberry and Mango or go for the lemonade-infused line with picks including Blackberry Lemonade.
Buy it: Nutrl; Price: $19.99 per 8-pack
11. Novo Fogo
ABV: 8.2 to 8.5 percent
Instantly transport yourself to Brazil with Novo Fogo's line of Sparkling Caipirinhas. They come in three flavors — Original Lime, Passion Fruit-Lime and Mango-Lime — that all have 8.2 to 8.5 percent ABV (the Mango-Lime is strongest) and clock in under 140 calories.
Caipirinhas are traditionally shaken with cachaça, a liquor made with fermented sugarcane juice.
Buy it: Mash & Grape; Price: $14.99 per 4-pack
12. Empower Cosmopolitan Martini
ABV: 12.5 percent
True, this isn't exactly low in alcohol compared to beer or cider. But compared to a classic cocktail like a martini (that typically has 32 percent ABV, per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) this pre-mixed drink has about one-third of the spirit factor.
Each 80-calorie serving is made with sweet potato-based vodka, triple sec (an orange-flavored liqueur), white cranberry and lime.
Buy it: W&J Wine; Price: $21.99 per 750-milliliter bottle
What to Look for When Choosing a Low-Alcohol Drink
Simply put, a reduced-alcohol or low-ABV drink is anything less than what's par for the course alcohol-wise by the volume of drink with that particular beverage.
So if your glass of wine has 10 percent instead of the usual 12 percent, it could be considered low ABV.
"High-ABV drinks include things like spirits and liquors with anywhere from 40 to 50 percent ABV," says Jenna A. Werner, RD, creator of Happy Strong Healthy in West Orange, New Jersey.
Sugar and Calories
Besides ABV, you'll also want to note the sugar and calorie content of your drink.
But the thing is, the U.S. Treasury's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has little guidance about what's actually required to be included on alcohol labels. That means what's inside many traditional booze brands is more of a secret than something like that protein bar or box of cereal with a full ingredient list and nutrition facts label.
A few things are required to be included on the package:
- Distilled spirits and any wines with more than 7 percent ABV must list the alcohol percentage included
- Any substances that might cause reactions or be related to sensitivities, including sulfates or synthetic dyes
More recent additions to the market are somewhat more transparent with their nutrition facts, which makes it easier to note a drink's sugar and calories, Brooking says. If the packaging doesn't note nutrition, you can also check the brand's website.
"Avoid any ready-to-drink cocktails that are high in sugar and excess calories. Some of the drinks we selected here use fresh fruit or low- or no-calorie flavorings like citrus. Others use only a touch of honey or sugar," she says.
"It's all about moderation and not drinking too many calories and added sugars from alcohol or other drinks."