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Shaking it up with low-calorie cocktails

Made with ingredients like probiotic-rich kombucha and relatively low-calorie tequila and agave syrup, the new-age cocktail embodies the zeitgeist of conscious drinking

(Left) The drink named Mojo Rojo in Poco Loco; and Skinny Tequila Lemonade at Smoke House Deli.
(Left) The drink named Mojo Rojo in Poco Loco; and Skinny Tequila Lemonade at Smoke House Deli.

To most of us, the very notions of alcohol consumption and healthy living spoken in the same breath might seem contradictory. But try telling that to the new-age drinker who demands to have it all by placing equal importance on personal well-being and health-conscious living, while not compromising on having a good time.

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Finding that sweet spot

According to a report last year by international data analytics firm Global Data in their publication titled, Top Trends in Alcoholic Beverages 2023, health and wellness is the principal factor when consumers seek to purchase alcoholic drinks.

Close on the heels of this, the Indian F&B industry, too, has responded innovatively. Swiftly catering to these wellness trends through the introduction of new-age cocktails. Most of which are made with what is generally perceived as low-calorie spirits like the agave plant-derived Mexican wonder called tequila. Sweetened once again with agave in its syrup form, along with other healthier-than-processed sugar options like honey and jaggery. All further buttressed with probiotic-enriched drinks, like kombucha, along with fresh pressed fruit and vegetable juices for a low-sugar spin.

Tequila talk

Augmenting this is the recent launch of dedicated low-calorie cocktail menus by a couple of Mumbai restaurants and bars. And one of them is even fronted by a number of tequila-based cocktails. At both its Khar and Kemps Corner outlets, Poco Loco, a Tex-Mex style restobar, has everything from a skinny Margarita to the Mojo Rojo. The latter is 146-calorie libation with tequila and fresh pressed grapefruit juice complete with a spicy kick from the in-house made mojo sauce. “Increasingly, health-conscious consumers across the globe are paying attention to the sugar and calorie content of their favourite drink,” believes Poco’s Loco’s bar manager Vaibhav Salvi. “Tequila has about 97 calories per 30ml shot, while also containing 0g of carbs and fats per serving. Thus, making it the perfect base spirit for the kind of cocktails we serve.”

Agreeing with this is Nitin Tewari, consultant mixologist and founder of both, BarTrender, a beverage consultancy company and the bartending training institute Bar Kala Academy, both based in Gurugram.

“Tequila is among the leaders as far as alcohols with the lowest number of calories go and perfect as the flag bearer of the new-age cocktail movement,” he says, citing a 2016 New York Post article on why tequila is one of the skinniest spirits today.

“It’s also trending here in India at the moment like gin was a couple of years ago. But what makes it all very interesting is that as tequila is derived from the agave plant—the syrup of which I’m seeing a lot being used these days—it is naturally a sweet alcohol. It cancels out the need to add additional sugar-based syrups that add to the calorie count of the cocktail,” opines Tewari who also finds other natural and unprocessed sugar substitutes like jaggery and honey being used extensively in India.

Of the half a dozen low-calorie cocktails on their special diet cocktail menu, the two most popular ones at the many Smoke House Deli outlets across Mumbai are both under 120 calories each. And yes, both are tequila-forward. Speaking of the Skinny Tequila Lemonade and the Tequila Kaffir Lime Kombucha cocktails is Mohit Balachandran, brand head at Smoke House Deli. “We’ve created a category of skinny cocktails on our menu as we get a lot of demand for cocktails with zero added sugar. The base for these cocktails is fresh fruit with spices and natural flavours,” he says. “While the tequila lemonade is sugar-free, the latter is a combination of tequila with (probiotic rich) kaffir lime kombucha from the brand Shimmmi which also has zero residual sugar and flavoured with fresh lemon leaf to add a zing to the drink.”

Conscious cocktails

And while tequila might seem to be ruling the roost as far as being the de facto alcohol in these new-age cocktails, we’re also seeing a few fronted by the ever-popular gin too. At 154 calories a drink, the aptly named Happy Carrots at Jeff’s, an English pub-style bar at the Hotel Royal Orchid Bengaluru, is a gin-based one that has fresh carrot juice with green apple, ginger, basil and lemon making it a veritable salad in a glass.

Though it might not contain tequila, the habanero highball at the Butterfly High restobars across Mumbai is a new-age gin-based, low-calorie cocktail at a little over 100 calories per serving that still references Mexico thanks to the spicy chili hit. “Besides the fresh habanero, we also have fresh pressed orange juice and coriander leaves muddled with tonic water. It’s a spicy cocktail that’s another new age trend I’m seeing a lot of lately,” says Stanley Fernandes, corporate bar manager of the Butterfly High brand.

Spice sans sugar, and alcohol minus the guilt--here’s to “pour decisions” that hopefully have high spirited yet healthy outcomes.

Raul Dias is a Mumbai-based food and travel writer.

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