Cocktails are experiencing a renaissance. Worldwide, trends that emphasise clean eating, conscious consumption, and avoiding sugar are pushing people to pay more attention to what they’re putting into their bodies, including when they’re out drinking. Beverage consultant and cocktail expert, Gareth Wainwright, says this trend, coupled with a shift among drinkers to consume more of the drinks “their grandparents drank” has resulted in a new style for the cocktail industry.


Wainwright says bartenders of the early 20th century could only create cocktails from what was readily available to them, which meant a focus on vermouths sweetened mostly with natural sugars created in winemaking. As a result, cocktails were less sweet, less watered down, and often a lot healthier than their modern-day counterparts. By the end of World War II, preservatives began to make their way into everyday foods, which included the pre-made, factory-produced, sugar-loaded artificial cocktails that you can purchase in supermarkets today.

Reduce your sugar intake

So, with low-sugar alternatives popping up all over the food and beverage industry, is there a way to have a night out without the added kilojoules? In serious cocktail bars, you can certainly reduce your sugar intake greatly by asking them to fashion you drinks made with xylitol, stevia, and other sugar-free sweeteners. Go for cocktails with less liqueurs (which have the highest sugar content at 125g per litre) and more vermouths (which only contain 25g of sugar per litre), such as Martinis – if you’re finding it too strong, Wainwright advises that you ask your bartender to make it “wetter”. Poor-quality whiskeys, vodkas, gins, and tequilas will often use caramels and sugar to mask unpleasant flavours, so pass on those too. Stay away from fruity cocktails – fruit juice is loaded with sugar, and if wine is your thing, always ask for the driest of the selection, whether that’s white, red, or rosé – dry means less sugar.


Ultimately, stay away from mixers, flavoured spirits, and champagnes – your body will thank you the next day.

Make a sugar-free Tom Collins


  • 50ml Tanqueray London Dry Gin
  • 25ml Fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tsp xylitol granules
  • soda water
  • Ice
  • lemon zest

Add all ingredients except the soda water and ice to a cocktail shaker. Stir until xylitol granules dissolve. Fill with ice and shake vigorously until cold. Fill a long glass with ice, and top up with half soda water and top up with the cocktail shaker contents.

Words: Lucy Sarah Heaney
Images: Stock

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