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looking for simple, good vodka drinks that are not loaded with calories

Just read this thread "What's wrong with wanting a drink made with vodka?," so I hope I don't sound like a total rube for wanting some good drinks made with vodka.

Here's the deal: I love wine, but DH does not. If I open a bottle, it goes bad before I can drink it. I hate beer. Every once in a while, I'd like to have a drink made with hard liquor since I don't like wasting wine.

I always have good unflavored vodka in the house because I use it in cooking. (For Penne alla Vodka, for example.) I don't have flavored vodka and don't intend to buy any. I don't want to use sugary mixes, like soda pop. I don't want to use diet pop or things like artificially sweetened lemonade. Fruit juices would be fine, because I'd get some nutrients along with the calories. I have some liqueurs at home (Chambord, Triple Sec, etc) that I use for cooking, and I could buy more liqueurs to use in mixed drinks. When I google vodka drinks, I've stumbled across drinks using an elderberry liqueur several times. It's said to be pricey but good.

So far, this is all I've come up with:
vodka plus oj
vodka plus oj plus triple sec
vodka plus grapefruit juice
Bloody Mary's, of course, but I have to be in the right mood :0)

Anyone have additional ideas for me?


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  1. I like vodka with just soda and a squeeze of lime... but you can up the lime juice and add triple sec. I believe that's a kamikaze, but if you serve it in a martini glass, nobody has to know.

    Vodka, soda & pomegranata liqueur can be nice, if a bit on the sweet side (I'm not a big fan of sweet drinks in general), but you can always dilute with lime juice.

    1. Arnold Palmers... half iced tea, half lemonade. Add vodka.

      1. A 12oz. can of "sugary" coke has 140 calories and a shot of vodka has 100 calories. So throw back a shot of coke and you're way ahead of the game.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ferret

          Hi Ferret,

          Are you a guy? I have this same conversation with my DH :) Here's the difference: a. I don't like coke, but I do like some mixed drinks. b) I like the little buzz I get from alcohol. I get no buzz from coke. 3) I would much rather chew my calories than drink them, but I have not figured out a way to chew booze.

          Thanks for the ideas, wyogal and linguafood.

          1. re: soccermom13

            You can chew Jello shots.
            Polar Seltzer has come out with a new flavor, Granny Smith Apple. It is just water, natural flavors and bubbles. No sweeteners artificial or otherwise and no calories. I have been enjoying it plain and have thought it wills make a great warm weather drink mixed with vodka. The taste is fresh and bright.

          2. re: ferret

            Vodka has 70 calories, oops correction that's 70 per ounce. I actually measure it out for dieting purposes..... I feel like vodka may be better for you in the long run over "sugary" soda! Unfortunately my favorite mixer with vodka is Kahlua, not much better. Some Perrier with a slice of lemon is nice for a change though.

          3. You don't want sugar, yet sugar is a component of almost all cocktails (save for a small class of drinks make with a spirits and something like dry vermouth -- the Martini being the prototype). If you really want to avoid unnecessary calories, I suggest that you try a good gin Martini, with nice fresh vermouth. This cocktail has essentially no added sugar and is a world-class drink. It may take some time to come to appreciate it. It is one of the few drinks that I could drink every night and not tire of.

            Another tact would be to skip the cocktail part and grow to like spirits neat or on the rocks -- scotch, other whiskey, rum, cognac, etc. The world of whiskey has vast, as is rum.

            Otherwise, I'd recommend switching to gin. It has flavor (compared to vodka), so you don't have to use much mixer to make a nice cocktail. Gin + Campari + Soda + Lime is rather like a Gin and Tonic, but with much less sugar. Gin, lemon, Maraschino (+ optional Creme de Violette) makes an Aviation (the amount of Maraschino and CdV is very small).

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            4 Replies
            1. re: EvergreenDan

              Hi Dan,

              What is Maraschino? The liquid that is in a jar of maraschino cherries? Other? Thanks for these ideas.

              Humm, when I read the "What's wrong with wanting a drink made with vodka?" thread, I found myself wondering if I needed to buy some gin. Maybe I will.

              Thanks for these great ideas.

              1. re: soccermom13

                Maraschino liqueur. Yes, like the cherries, but in liquid form. It's a really great addition to cocktails.

                Damn, now I want that Aviation (no Maraschino in the house >sigh<).

                1. re: linguafood

                  Yes, but Maraschino has little to do with cherry fruit flavor. It is made from the whole cherry, including the pit. It is clear and has a unique, funky flavor. An acquired taste, too. I recommend Luxardo brand.

                  1. re: EvergreenDan

                    Oh, no need to convince me. In the right drink, Maraschino makes magic happen. Like the aforementioned Aviation.

            2. Hot summer days remind me of vodka drinks. My lowbrow vodka favorites - Vodka and iced tea is one of my favorite drinks. Vodka/diet ginger ale/lime/mint - a riff on a moscow mule.... And I like vodka with crystal lite, those little single packets, cherry pomengranite is a lot like kool aid, but I kinda like it.

              1. soccermom13, it sounds like you don't really like the taste of vodka, as you said the only vodkas you have are used for cooking. If so, then why look for vodka drinks? I am asking simply to help you find what you are looking for. If you are looking to get an alcohol buzz with the fewest calories, then fair enough. There are plenty of ways to do so without relying on vodka that will still taste pleasant. As a bartender who does not like vodka, I struggle with people who drink vodka and can't explain why on a daily basis. I enjoy trying to find something for them outside of their comfort zone.

                10 Replies
                1. re: TheCiscoKid

                  Thanks for these ideas, hounds.

                  CiscoKid---I asked about vodka drinks because I have a bottle of good quality vodka in the house already. But there is no reason I can't buy a bottle of good gin. I am more than willing to purchase some shelf stable items to use for some good drinks. I'd like to avoid drinks that call for items I'd use just a small amount of and then the rest of the item would go to waste before I use it again (for example, bellinis---I would open a bottle of sparking wine, make one drink, then the rest of the bottle would go to waste because I would probably only make myself a mixed drink once or twice a week.)

                  I do love gimlets. But Rose's Lime Juice has 10 calories per tsp (240 calories per half cup). That is a lot of calories which carry virtually no nutrients. I think a lot of women who watch their weight have these same concerns---they want a nice drink now and then, are aware that booze itself has a fair number of calories, and so are looking for drinks where the "mix" ingredients aren't too calorific. This can sometimes result in dreadful drinks. There's a restaurant in my city that has a "lower cal" cocktail menu. I ordered one and it was truly dreadful. I know the hounds on this board can give me some ideas for drinks that are delicious and still meet my criteria for being lower cal.

                  Thanks, hounds.

                  p.s. Calliope--- I hate jello :0) but that Granny Smith seltzer sounds interesting..... I am in MN, so I will have to check on the availability of Polar brand.

                  1. re: soccermom13

                    I make my gimlets with fresh lime juice (I find Rose's too sweet) and just a dash of triple sec (instead of simple syrup), which apparently makes 'em Rickeys. I don't care, and they are awesomely refreshing. And low-cal :-)

                    1. re: soccermom13

                      Another good gin drink is called a buck .... In a Collins Glass, fill with ice and take 1.5 ounces of gin, an ounce of fresh lemon or lime juice, and due to your caloric issues, top off with low calorie ginger ale.

                    2. re: TheCiscoKid

                      CiscoKid (and others)-
                      Bartender told me yesterday that she thinks gin and grapefruit juice is a very pleasing combo. Do you find this to be true?

                      Everyone---I got a lot of really good ideas from this thread. Thanks very much.

                      1. re: soccermom13

                        Yes, gin and grapefruit go well. If you like bitter, adding a little Campari or Pimm's would make it more interesting. A little Green Chartreuse would be great too. In the quantities that we are talking about, the sugar would be negligible.

                        www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                          1. re: Dapuma

                            .... and respectfully due to my belief that Hendricks Gin is not an introduction bottle for someone to re-try gin, I think said drink Dapuma cites would more likely than not work great with any more straight forward london dry gins recommended here [Bombay Original, Beefeaters, Boodles, etc.] ...

                            1. re: hawkeyeui93

                              Hendricks is what brough me back into the gin world so i will have to respectfully disagree with your disagreement ;p, it is not a traditional london dry gin though - previously i thought all gin tasted like pine sol before randomly trying Hendricks never realizing there were all sorts of different varieties and that gave me a baseline to start and test other flavors without the juniper dominating, however...now i do like some of the more juniper heavy (london dry) in certain drinks - however I generally side on the "lighter"less juniper forward gins more often than not

                            2. re: Dapuma

                              Um, Hendricks marketing person, that's not a Martini.

                              1. re: Dapuma

                                i think it fails in the "simple" category

                          2. Not sure on the calorie count but I sometimes have a an ounce of vodka, an ounce of grapefruit juice (fresh) and a half ounce of campari shaken and served over ice with a lemon twist. and some bitters. I'm not sure what it's called and most of the time, I prefer the drink with a good gin but it seems like a pretty light drink to me and it's delicious!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: JeremyEG

                              Jeremy -- that sounds great. Sounds even better with gin. Take any two of gin, Campari, and grapefruit, and that pair of ingredients has great affinity for each other. The trio would be outstanding; I'm trying it later tonight.

                              If you use white grapefruit, it will be more tart (although I'm not sure if this is because it actually has less sugar or because it has more acid).

                              To keep the calories down, add some seltzer water and go easy on the Campari.

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                            2. Since it sounds like you're really concerned about the calorie-nutrient ratio, I'd suggest sticking to fresh juices as your main flavorers/ mixers. As I'm sure you know, most liqueurs have a lot of sugar (even though you use just a small amount) and probably not too many nutrients. As you said, you can mix the vodka with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice to make a vodka greyhound (add salt to the rim to make a salty dog). You can also buy gin and make a traditional greyhound. Similarly, mix with fresh orange; combine citrus flavors etc. Obviously, tonic or club soda are other options if you really want a drink that doesn't have much sugar.

                              Personally, the only vodka drink I've ever found particularly enjoyable (others are drinkable but sort of average) was the Petit Zinc- vodka, cointreau (you could sub your triple sec), sweet vermouth and fresh orange juice. The vermouth adds some herbal background notes that I find to be a lot more interesting than your typical vodka and syrup drinks. The sweet vermouth is an aromatized wine, so it's semiperishable, but you can buy a half bottle (375ml) and if you store it in the refrigerator, it should keep for a few months.

                              If the elderberry liqueur you're referring to is St Germain (an elderflower liqueur), that might be a good option. Their website has a couple recipes that call for vodka, but my personal favorite St Germain drink is a St Germain sidecar- switch out some or all of the triple sec in a sidecar for St Germain.

                              It sounds like you're headed in a good direction wanting to avoid sweet sodas and fake lemonade, so I'd suggest that you explore liquors other than vodka. Maybe go to a good bar, try out a few drinks that aren't too complex, and see which spirits you like best.

                              1. Hello there.

                                I like to go with Vodka and Crystal Light. Crystal Light comes in various flavors and is good with the vodka, you could also add a little bit of orange liqueur as well.

                                Best regards, Tony

                                1. how about

                                  Hendricks Gin 2oz
                                  Muddle Cucumbers in a splash of simple syrup (or St Germain)
                                  Top with soda water
                                  Squeeze a Lemon Wedge in it as well is nice

                                  Low cal and some veggies :)

                                  If you are only drinking two drinks, i dont think that worrying about 50 calories per drink matters to much - bust out 100 situps and 20 pushups between drink one and two

                                  1. You could mix vodka with just about any fruit juice. You could also muddle some fresh fruit and mix it with vodka and citrus or vodka and and some herbs.

                                    When I've had a lot of fresh strawberries around that were getting a little soft, I'd muddled them and added vodka and the juice of one lemon. If you don't want it as strong, you can add a little club soda or seltzer water.

                                    I also like to muddle white grapes with fresh basil and add vodka, some fresh squeezed lime juice, club soda and some ginger liquor.

                                    A lot of people here like to denigrate vodka as relatively flavorless. An advantage of its more subtle flavor profile though is that it mixes well with just about anything. Just get creative with just about any mixers that you would normally like.

                                    As something simpler, I enjoy the occasional moscow mule which is just vodka, ginger beer and a lime wedge. Not sure whether you'd consider the ginger beer soda pop or not though. Technically, I suppose it is.

                                    12 Replies
                                    1. re: bg90027

                                      Thank you for all these great ideas. I am going to buy some good gin at Costco (an industrial-sized bottle :0) and then take tinnywatty's suggestion to try a few drinks at a bar to see what I like before I purchase additional ingredients such as elderflower liqueur.

                                      I really appreciate your thoughtful answers.

                                      1. re: soccermom13

                                        Gin is the one liquor I'm not crazy about, that floral flavor just doesn't agree with me. Make sure you like it before you buy an industrial size bottle! I do always keep a small bottle for BIL in house though.

                                        1. re: coll

                                          If you found gin too floral for you, then perhaps you bought a non-traditional brand. Try again with something like Beefeater (regular), Bombay (regular), or Tanqueray (regular). These should be strongly juniper (pine-like) scented, not floral at all. Try it in a cocktail, too, where the juniper mixes with other aromas.

                                          www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                                          1. re: EvergreenDan

                                            Maybe floral is the wrong word, I guess it is more the pine. I hate rosemary too. I usually keep Bombay Sapphire on hand, or Tanqueray, or last time tried a new one called Brooklyn (?I think? but I also believe it's from California?). Well now at least I know how to describe gin a little better. Instead of saying, it tastes like Pine Sol to me!!

                                            1. re: coll

                                              If Bombay Sapphire tastes like PineSol to you, and you hate new potatoes roasted in chicken fat and rosemary, then I'd say gin is not your thing -- at least at this point.

                                              Tastes change over time. Yesterday I made my wife a drink that she gave 2 stars a couple of years ago ("So-so"). She gave it 5 stars now ("Top favorite; put into rotation"). Quite amazing how tastes change, really.

                                              Try gin every few years. It really is one of the world's great spirits.

                                              www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                                              1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                Slightly off topic, but curious, what was the drink?

                                                1. re: tinnywatty

                                                  Vieux Carre -- cognac, rye, sweet vermouth, plus a little Benedictine and bitters. I made it with Punt e Mes. Fantastic. I was amazed that the cognac (well, actually brandy, since I used Germain Robin) stood up to the other ingredients.

                                                  I was flipping through the PDT cocktail book and saw the recipe. Made it. Wife raved. I then went to Kindred Cocktails to record our thoughts about it, and was surprised to see that I had made it for her in the past and that she was so-so about it. It is now back in the rotation!
                                                  www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                                                2. re: EvergreenDan

                                                  I always assumed it was genetic, my Mom despises gin too and always made a big deal about that fact. But I've become aware that every gin is different, so it's not like I won't touch it at all. I should start keeping notes I guess, because sometimes, some brands don't seem all that terrible.

                                                  1. re: coll

                                                    Just looked, duh, the new gin is New Amsterdam. Close but no cigar. I bought it for the holidays because it had a decent mail in rebate. I think maybe the problem is I don't make intricate cocktails with it, just tonic or martinis.

                                                    1. re: coll

                                                      Someone brought a bottle of New Amsterdam at a party we threw a few months ago. It has this faux citrus taste that I could work around in a Gin Buck [and I am sure might work in a G 'n T and definitely in a Greyhound], but would not find pleasing in a martini.

                                                      1. re: hawkeyeui93

                                                        I haven't even tasted it, I just got it for BIL, but now you're making me want to try it. I will report back. What do you think about mixing it with Fresca, I don't keep grapefruit juice on hand.

                                          2. re: soccermom13

                                            One other thing I forgot to mention is that you can easily make an infusion using the vodka you already have, and then add club soda or whatever and sugar to taste to make a highball. You can infuse fruit, vegetables, herbs, even things like cacao nibs to make a low-sugar chocolate vodka. These will for the most part taste a lot better than store-bought flavored vodkas.

                                            Also, St Germain as well as other liqueurs/liquors come in mini sample-sized bottles, which you should be able to find at any liquor store for around $2-4 or so. It's a good way to try it and you can experiment a little more than you would in a bar (also cheaper if that's important to you). Like Coll said, you should definitely try gin before buying a large bottle- for some it's an acquired taste although there's quite a bit of variation in juniper and citrus levels among different gins.

                                        2. A Rickey is a great refreshing summer drink and one of the few that can be made with no sweeteners. 1.5-2 oz gin, 0.5 oz lime juice, 3-4 oz soda water. You could swap out the gin for vodka, but I'm not sure what that would do for the flavor of the drink.

                                          Another good summer drink is the Daiquiri, you can make it with very little sugar, half a teaspoon, if you don't mind tart drinks. 2 oz white rum, 1/2 oz lime juice, 1 teaspoon simple syrup, shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. This would be a good one to try in a good bar that uses fresh lime juice to see if you like it.

                                          Staying on the rum theme, there is also the Papa Doble which was supposedly made without sugar to cater to Hemingway's diabetes.

                                          1. Caper Codders (vodka, cranberry juice cocktail, wedge of lime) could be good if you like cranberry juice