Green-tea ice cubes, ginger vodka, and other smart ways to build tasty, ab-friendly summer cocktails.
Brian Good 1 / 6
Every shot you down is about 100 calories. Knowing that, the last thing you should ever do is add sugar to your drink and make it even more fattening. Good thing, then, that many top mixologists have begun swapping lazy syrups and sugar-laden mixers for more interesting, healthy, natural ingredients.
To help you elevate your own cocktail repertoire, we went behind the bar with Carlos Rios, brand ambassador for Stoli vodka. Pick up some pitchers on your way home—you’re gonna need them.
A good flavored vodka—think wasabi, ginger, or grapefruit—really takes the guesswork out of making a drink, says Rios. “Just add soda and a garnish.” You can also infuse your own. Just get some fresh herbs, fruit, or vegetables, prep them (clean, peel, cut into large cubes), then use them to fill a large jar halfway full. Top it off with vodka, cover, and let it sit in a cool, dark place for a few hours to two weeks, depending on the ingredients.
Try it out by mixing... 1 1/2 oz pepper-flavored vodka 2 oz lemon juice Fresh jalapeño slices 2/4 oz agave syrup (diluted 1:1 with water) 4 oz water Shake and serve over ice.
Originally sold as a form of medicine at the turn of the century, bitters—concentrated alcohol infused with a potent blend of überflavorful plants and herbs—are an ideal way to add zing to a drink without too many additional calories, says Rios. “There are literally hundreds of different varieties out there, like celery, rhubarb, chicory, and pecan, and you only need to add a couple of drops to really change a drink,” he says. (Pick up a sampler pack from The Bitter End or Fee Brothers to try some popular flavors and get a feel for your faves.)
Try it out by mixing.. 1 oz vodka 1/2 oz blue curaçao 4 oz diet lemon-lime soda Dash of citrus bitters
Think “press” not “pulverize” when you toss that fresh fruit or sprig of herbs into the cocktail shaker and whip out your muddler. “The goal is to gently extract the essential oils or juices from whatever you’re crushing,” says Rios. Over-muddle mint, for example, and you break the veins in the leaf, releasing chlorophyll and making the drink bitter. You can muddle everything from melon to cucumbers—each yields tons of flavor with minimal calories.
Try it out by mixing... Fresh raspberries 2–3 slices lime 1 sprig fresh basil 1 1/2 oz vodka 3 oz club soda
Muddle berries, lime, and basil. Add vodka and soda, shake, strain, and serve.
Those tiny water enhancers (like Mio or Stur) you keep by your desk to kick up the office tap can also add a bartender-approved bite to your drink. Just go easy, warns Rios. “You want to boost your cocktail’s flavor, not define it.” Stick with basic flavors—citrus, berries, tea—and remember, a little goes a long way.
Try it out by mixing... 1 1/2 oz vodka 2 oz orange juice 2 oz club soda 2-4 drops coconut liquid flavor enhancer
Most store-bought, zero-calorie flavored waters and teas taste great with liquor. You can also make your own. Just soak fruit or vegetables, like cucumber or red bell pepper, in water and refrigerate for 24–48 hours. Strain the liquid and pair in a 2:1 ratio with vodka, says Rios. You can also pour any of these into an ice-cube tray and freeze for later use.
Try it out by...
Filling a glass with green-tea ice cubes. Top with 11⁄2 oz vodka, a splash of diet ginger ale, and a twist of lime.