7 Tips for Sinless Drinking + Skinny Cocktails

Skinny cocktail Donaji cocktail by Caroline on Crack

Does this Donaji cocktail at Rivera count as a “skinny cocktail”?

Lately I’ve been obsessed about losing weight and just recently decided to see what would happen if I went on a cocktail diet. After all, Americans drink about 20 percent of their calories on average (according to Fitness magazine). But instead of limiting my cocktail intake, why not just drink skinny cocktails? And I’m not talking about that Skinny girl fad but smart drinking like avoiding sugary ingredients, etc. Did you know a 2.5-ounce Manhattan has 130 calories? Now THAT’s a skinny cocktail I can get behind.

So I did some research (aka poked around the Interwebs) and came up with some guidelines for smart, guilt-free drinking. Some of it may be obvious to most but I still found it useful to have it spelled out.

Guidelines for Sinless Drinking:

  1. Skip the mixer and go for infused spirits for the added flavor.
  2. No creams or creamy, sugary liqueurs.
  3. Avoid the sugar — on the rim, chocolate syrups, maraschino cherries. When faced with the choice, use club soda not tonic water which has sugar.
  4. Enjoy your cocktail on the rocks. If anything, straight spirit on the rocks is ideal.
  5. Keep it simple. One spirit, maybe one or two fresh juices. The less ingredients, the better your chances that it’s low in calories. So avoid multi-spirit cocktails. Long Island Iced Teas are always a bad idea anyway.
  6. The higher the proof, the higher the calories. While 100-proof vodka is a surefire way to get buzzed faster, it’s also a surefire way to get that pooch.
  7. Drink water before you start your night and between each drink so you don’t make the mistake of using the cocktail to sate your thirst.

And I asked Damian Windsor of The Roger Room in West Hollywood what he’s told customers who’ve come in asking for skinny cocktails. Apart from Guinness and Bacardi and diet, he suggested a Partida margarita which basically has 1.5 ounces of tequila and agave nectar, no sweet and sour here.

For one customer averse to the nectar, he sweetened it another way. “While I worked at Copa, a guest told me he had an allergy to processed sugar (amongst other problems) so we went through a lot of products before we finally came up with 1.5 ounces of Partida blanco, two strawberries as sweetener and three ounces of grapefruit juice.” Sounds like a tasty way to cut down the sugar. FYI, you can also find this Partida margarita aka “The Perfect Margarita” at Rush Street in Culver City.

For fun, I perused through some of my fave Los Angeles bars’ cocktail menus and applied the above guidelines to figure out what sounds like the lesser of all evils. I’m not a health expert so can’t vouch for how many calories each cocktail actually has but again, these are just what I’d pick according to the low-calorie drinking guidelines. And remember, you can always tell your bartender to go easy on/leave out the simple syrup or agave nectar for a true skinny cocktail.

Copa d’Oro:

  • Santa Monica Gimlet — Tanqueray Gin, celery, cucumber, fresh lime juice
  • Romantic Affair — Ketel One Citron Vodka, strawberry, basil, fresh lemon juice

The Edison Downtown:

  • Amelie — Strawberry and cucumber crushed with Ron Matusalem Classico, bitters and touched with a bit of effervescence

Comme Ca:

  • Maid in Mexico — Tequila, fresh lime juice, sprig of mint, wheel of cucumber
  • Gordon’s Cup — Gin, muddled limes and cucumbers, pinch of salt


  • La Picosa — Reposado tequila, serrano chile, mango, honey
  • Donaji — Mezcal, fresh citrus, pomegranate, agave nectar, chapulin salt

Little Dom’s:

  • Pixi Goldrush — Rye and Pixi Tangerines
  • The Echo Park — El Charro Tequila, muddled sweet peppers, mint and lime


  • The Akasha — Crop organic cucumber vodka, pineapple and cucumber juice

Westside Tavern:

  • Carrot & Cilantro Caipirinha — Boca Loca Cachaca, cilantro sprigs, lime juice, carrot juice, Angostura bitters
  • Moscow Mule — Vodka, pureed ginger, lime, club soda

Fuego at the Maya:

  • Strawberry-Watermelon Margarita — Fresh watermelon, strawberries and Herradura silver tequila blended and served up

Ortega 120:

  • Jamaica Cooler — Gran Centenario Rosangel, housemade hibiscus with a sparkling finish

More low-calorie drinking info:
Great low-calorie cocktail recipes from the Intoxicologist.
Low-Calorie Cocktails from WebMD

21 Responses to 7 Tips for Sinless Drinking + Skinny Cocktails
  1. H.C.
    September 18, 2009 | 12:20 pm

    nice tips — being one mindful of calories consumed here, another good tip to throw in is to watch those portions (in this case, the size of the glass) — oversized cocktail glasses may make drinks seem like a better value, but it can also mean one’s drinking two cocktails worth’ of liquid with one order — so def. something to consider.

  2. Caroline on Crack
    September 18, 2009 | 12:23 pm

    I thought of that, too, but snobby me was thinking those are usually available in places like TGIFridays and whatnot. But of course you’re correct.

  3. The Happy Hour Tour
    September 18, 2009 | 12:33 pm

    Great post! Someone just asked me how I can do happy hour and stay in shape. I guess I’m going to have to make tequila my drink of choice.

  4. Sonja
    September 18, 2009 | 12:50 pm

    Love the cocktail recommendations! They all sound pretty good right about now….

  5. Sonja
    September 18, 2009 | 12:51 pm

    Love the cocktail recommendations! They all sound pretty good right about now….

  6. rebecca
    September 18, 2009 | 12:53 pm

    i’m pretty sure Maid in Mexico has simple syrup or agave because I’ve had it many times, and while delicious, it is definitely a little sweet!

  7. Caroline on Crack
    September 18, 2009 | 12:56 pm

    Happy Hour Tour,
    Thanks! I think if you keep it simple with any spirit, you’ll be OK.

    Thanks. I’m craving that Donaji!

    Really? Well if that’s the case, you could always ask for them to make it without the sugar. I’ve done that with some cocktails and although they’re not as yummy they’re at least a bit more sinful.

  8. Evelina
    September 18, 2009 | 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the cocktail recommendations and tips. I’ve been consuming more cocktails then usual lately, so these tips will hopefully help the waistline.

  9. Dion
    September 18, 2009 | 4:36 pm

    I gave up heavy meals so I can enjoy my heavy, dark Belgium beers. I also started running a few times a week (after 10 years of not doing any exercise) so I do not have to give up microbrews. I’ll forgo dessert so I will not have to give up a beer later. It’s not perfect, but I have not gained (or loss) a substantial amount of weight. It’s tough loving beer, but it has helped me on my way to better fitness! (does that even make sense?)

  10. Caroline on Crack
    September 18, 2009 | 4:49 pm

    I think every little bit helps. And staying away from sugar is a step in the right direction.

    I did that, too. Run and go to the gym so I could have my cocktails but then I found I wasn’t losing weight fast enough and cutting back the cocktails was my last step. We’ll see how it goes.

  11. green LA girl
    September 18, 2009 | 4:52 pm

    Nice research! I do wonder if some may have trouble sticking to the tips after a low-calorie drink or 2 —

  12. Caroline on Crack
    September 18, 2009 | 4:55 pm

    green LA girl, I have read that our discipline tends to go out the window the more we drink. But two cocktails is usually good enough for me!

  13. Noelle
    September 18, 2009 | 6:02 pm

    Oh, snap… that’s an amazing list of drinks!!
    I want some. NOW.

    Instead I’ll go sit on the 4-flippin-05 to go to a friend’s…

  14. Natalie DeJohn
    September 18, 2009 | 8:40 pm

    Caroline on Crack, I love you. Thanks for the tips. I needed this reminder. And you even included a list of drinks. Love it.

  15. Caroline on Crack
    September 19, 2009 | 9:47 am

    Yay, thanks! I want one, too.

    You’re welcome! Happy guiltfree drinking!

  16. Holly
    September 19, 2009 | 5:46 pm

    Thanks for this post, Caroline! I’ve been habitually sticking to ketel + a splash of soda for the same reasons, but all these cocktails sound absolutely delicious!

  17. hollywood
    September 21, 2009 | 6:51 am

    So tell us more about the chapulin salt–made with grasshoppers?!

  18. L.A. Story
    September 21, 2009 | 5:49 pm

    Great tips! Now I want one. Cheers! 🙂

  19. Nancy
    September 22, 2009 | 10:45 am

    Or you could do the Nancy-method of cutting back on cocktails — just be genetically averse to alcohol and stop drinking after a quarter-glass after your face turns bright red and you start feeling dizzy. Works every time!

  20. Gillian
    September 23, 2009 | 9:45 am

    I was literally having this conversation just the other day — why don’t more bars in L.A. marketing the fact that you can drink while cutting calories? This is a great list. I now feel vindicated in not staying strictly vodka/soda.

  21. […] created by New York mixologist Julio de los Santos. Word of warning: These are definitely not for weight-watching sipsters and those aversed to sweet […]

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