It's fun to have a drink even if you're not trying to get totally inebriated. Drinks with low alcohol content can be smart choices for keeping a mellow buzz—and they're often more palatable, too. The key is to look for drink bases like vermouth, bitter liqueurs and certain wines that have a low alcohol by volume (ABV). Add some low-calorie mixers and interesting garnishes to create a light and refreshing cocktail.
The spritzer is a subtle and easy cocktail with an appealing flavor balance, perfect for sipping any time of day. The traditional recipe calls for wine, club soda and just a dash of lime or lemon, but there are lots of other options, many of which have European origins.
- Rivington Punch: Rosé wine (11 to 12 percent ABV), St-Germain (an elderflower-flavored French liqueur), framboise (French for raspberry), Aperol and club soda.
- Rosé All Day: Rose wine, Cocchi Americano (an Italian aperitif wine), papaya shrub, lemon juice and club soda.
You probably won't find vermouth on wine lists even though it's essentially a fortified wine. Often consumed as an aperitif, it has around 20 percent ABV; but once combined with other ingredients, a vermouth-based drink packs only around 8 percent ABV.
- The Americano: 1 1/2 ounces each of sweet vermouth and Campari (a bitter Italian aperitif), and 3 ounces of club soda.
- Marseilles Can You See: French white vermouth, pastis (a licorice-flavored French spirit), 1/2 ounce of orange juice, and 1/4 ounce of lime juice.
If you're a beer fan looking to cut ABV, shandies may be the answer. They combine beer with different juices and spices to cut higher-alcohol brews to as little as half the ABV. Shandies are also incredibly versatile with regard to possible mixers and garnishes. The traditional shandy mixes beer with lemonade, but the options are endless.
- Shandygaff: Citrus soda mixed with lager.
- Michelada Gingembre: IPA-style beer with lemon-lime soda, ginger juice, simple syrup, hot sauce and sea salt.
Sparkling wines, usually around 12 percent ABV, are excellent bases for low-alcohol drinks, and they can be deliciously diluted.
- Mimosa: Champagne mixed with orange juice.
- Bellini: Champagne mixed with peach purée.
- Prosecco Punch: A mix of fruit juices, prosecco and ginger ale.
Champagne can also be mixed with other fruit juices and nectars like cherry juice, mango nectar and mandarin juice.
Bitter liqueurs are another low-alcohol option. The most recognizable bitter liqueur in North America is probably Campari. It's bottled at 24 percent ABV, but once combined with other ingredients, it can mellow to as low as 5 or 6 percent ABV. Campari and soda is a popular drink in Europe—and with two ingredients only, it's obviously very easy to make.