May 27 2016 03:50 PM

How to cut calories when you’re out for drinks

Millennial Gimlet
Photo courtesy of Bankers Hill Bar Restaurant

Ever looked at a cocktail menu and noticed the word "skinny" listed next to your favorite drink? I've always wondered if that option would help me fit into my skinny jeans better, or if it's just a Splenda-filled gimmick.

A number of local spots feature some form of "skinny" on their menu. Even some Mexican spots such as The Blind Burro, Baja Betty's and Ponce's Mexican Restaurant all offer skinny margaritas. I reached out to a couple seasoned bartenders for their thoughts on skinny drinks, what makes them skinny and what to imbibe if I'm looking to cut calories this summer.

Andrew Larson was recently appointed the creative lead at downtown rooftop bar The Nolen (453 6th Ave.). I asked him if he makes his own version of skinny drinks. "Yes and no," says Larson, who's been mixing cocktails for six years. "I create all my drinks with fresh ingredients and try to stay away from sugary and heavily processed ingredients because fresher ingredients always make for a better cocktail." OK, so fresher is better. "A skinny cocktail to me is something with fresh juice and very light sugar, but balanced," he says. "Most craft cocktails fall into that category."

Good to know my options run far and wide. "I feel like the word 'skinny' is being thrown around to make health-conscious people feel better about what they're drinking," Larson says. Sure, but anything that makes me feel better about my alcohol consumption is fantastic, in my book.

For tips on how to sneakily cut my calorie-intake at the bars, I sidled up to Zack Gray, bar manager at Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant (2202 4th Ave.). A Bay Area transplant with 11 years of cocktail experience, Gray says the best way to order your low-cal cocktail depends on the bar.

"If you're in a bar using prepared sweet and sour, I would suggest asking them to use half of the amount," he says. "Or better yet, get your spirit with some zero calorie soda water. If you're somewhere where they're using fresh citrus juices, ask the bartender to use half of whatever sweetener they're using."

One of Gray's favorite lower-calorie cocktails at Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant is the Millennial Gimlet, made with Old Harbor San Miguel gin, house-made cucumber basil syrup, fresh lime and black pepper. Yum, sign me up. Gray believes a skinny cocktail starts with a dry spirit; the lower the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) the lower the calories.

"I'm not a big fan of someone just saying, 'I want a skinny (insert drink here).' I'm not always sure exactly what drink you want," he says "I think that if you're going to imbibe, then just do it. Going out once or twice a week and being responsible is not going to undo being good the rest of the week."

Well then make mine a double.


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