Coolers, Shandies, and Spritzes: Our Most Irresistible Drinks That Just Happen to Be Low ABV
Cheers! Next time you toast and sip, make it a low-ABV cocktail that mixes flavor and refreshment with less booze. Check out our recipes for delicious drinks that are light on alcohol but big on everything else.
Cocktails signal the ushering-in of good times. The time-honored way to mark any celebration is to lift a glass, toast, and sip. As more people choose to drink less, the low-alcohol-by-volume acronym has inched steadily up on our collective drinking consciousness: low ABV is trending, and it's increasingly associated with creative imbibing in drinks such as the Hibiscus-Ginger Spritz shown here. Pungent ginger and warm cinnamon are kissed by rum and made vivid by the acidity of a hibiscus flower infusion. Drinks like this embody all the fun of anticipation and good cheer, but fewer of the consequences of overindulgence.
Low ABV drinks certainly contain less fire power in terms of booze, but in no way should a good drink skimp on the defining characteristic of a successful cocktail: alchemy. Mixology is called the art of blending for a reason. The creative challenge in mixing a low ABV drink is to eschew the high-proof hooch, and search instead for other ingredients that deliver sophistication or pure delight. What we look for in a good cocktail is a skilled combination of thoughtful presentation and the imaginative pairing of complementary components. Simply put, the mixed drink needs to look good and taste good. And if it reflects the season, all the better.
How does one lower that alcohol ratio? Lots of ways: cut back on the spirits, use wines or beers as a base, make the most of the effervescence of seltzer, play with fruit (and vegetable) juices and syrups, and work in good vinegars. Herbs, fruit zests, and condiments can be used to build flavor and create nuance. They each play a role in creating drinks to please informed palates, without the anxious fear of missing out.
Bourbon Cranberry Shrub
Tannic cranberries infused in white wine vinegar with sugar create a mouth-puckering and gorgeous red seasonal shrub, warmed by bourbon and cut by chilled seltzer and ice.
Carrot and Lime Chillers
Carrot juice is electrically appealing and surprisingly complex in terms of flavor. In this refreshing drink, its earthy undertones are made bright by fresh lime. Although the recipe is zero-proof we happen to know that it's rather good with the addition of one ounce of smoky mezcal per glass!
Chilled white wine is transformed by a dash of vibrant Campari. Don't forget to rub the rim of the glass with fresh lime peel—it's the first thing you will taste.
Gordon's Breakfast Cocktail
Basil Gimlet Fizz
The rich fragrance of basil adds opulence to drinks. Here, it's muddled with sugar and lime juice, topped with a little vodka and lot of seltzer, and finished with an unexpected treat of frozen watermelon cubes.
Hard pear cider is an elegant alternative to better-known apple. Adding Aperol shoots the low-ABV brew through with its neon color and signature bitter-herb and burned orange essence
The Mexican Michelada is a food-friendly cocktail that makes the most of your favorite cerveza. In our version of the beer-with-sauces drink, the savory weight of Worcestershire and soy is refreshed by wedges of lime.
Watermelon Cucumber Cooler
A rosy blend of ripe watermelon, juicy cucumber, sour lime, and honey creates the appealing body for a drink where the bite of vodka is softened by the copious juices.
Sparkling Strawberry Cocktail
Poured from a pitcher (and perfect for a party), a silky purée of fresh strawberries with orange is made fizzy by dry sparkling wine.
Sparkling Pear and Cranberry Cocktail
For palates that prefer sweeter drinks, light and fruity Moscato d'Asti is a lovely match for autumnal pear nectar and cranberries, offset by the piercing scent of rosemary.
Cranberry Ginger Shandy
One of the secrets to a successful low ABV drink is ice, and lots of it. Fill your glass right to the brim before adding homemade cranberry-ginger syrup and topping it with a nice, dry pilsner. This appetite-stirring shandy goes down exceptionally with salty chips
The herbal bittersweetness of Lillet blends beautifully with a dash of vodka, fresh orange juice, and fragrant basil, judiciously mellowed by icy tonic water and lots of ice.
Peach and Bay Laurel Shrub
The oils in orange peel slices and the scent of bruised basil leaves are delicious infused in the sugar-and-quinine bite of Dubonnet Rouge for this light and luscious drink.