Monday 20 November 2017

Want the recipe for the perfect drink?

A Mojito may be the best-selling cocktail here, but it's set to be overtaken by a low-calorie, tasty import from Spain, says Lisa Jewell

When choosing
a cocktail, you
have to weigh
up the alcohol
content and the
calorie content
When choosing a cocktail, you have to weigh up the alcohol content and the calorie content

Lisa Jewell

Now that the summer is here and we're enjoying a few sunny days, something strange is happening to our drinking taste buds.

Glasses of gin and tonic and pints of cider are being left behind the counter in favour of more refreshing, fruity concoctions.

But are we fooling ourselves if we think that cocktails are any healthier for us than other alcoholic drinks?

The problem with many cocktails is that they're either high in alcohol content or else they're high in calories. Some cocktails, such as a Long Island Ice Tea, are high in both. A typical Long Island Ice Tea has measures of vodka, tequila, rum, gin and a liquor called triple sec.

It may come as a surprise to know that the drink racks up just over 500 calories, which is a few more than your typical cheeseburger contains.

"Cocktails should really only be ordered as an occasional drink," says consultant dietician Aveen Bannon. "The difficulty with cocktails is that they vary in terms of how many measures of alcohol are in them and that can be confusing for people.

"There's also an issue with the number of calories in a cocktail so I would advise ordering a drink with only one measure of alcohol and sticking to soda water or diet versions of soft drinks.

"In terms of getting some health benefits, a drink such a a Daiquiri tends to have a lot of fruit in it so you are getting some vitamin intake. But generally, when choosing a cocktail, you have to weigh up the alcohol content and the calorie content and remember as well that alcohol contains empty calories."

But it's not all bad news on the cocktail front. If you are craving a more virtuous cocktail, you might want to try a Spanish mixture called a Rebujito. It's long been popular with the residents of Seville and is now being tipped by those in the know to be the drink sensation of the summer.

It's a healthier option because it doesn't contain any spirits (which have a higher percentage of calories than beer or wine). Instead, it is made from a sherry from Andalucia and is served over ice with a good measure of lemonade or soda water added in.

The mixer takes the edge off the sherry's 15pc alcohol content and the citrus fruits give a vitamin C boost. It also contains little sugar and the ice makes it a refreshing drink to slowly sip on a sunny day.

While it is a popular choice in Spain, the Rebujito hasn't yet made its mark in Ireland. All of the well-known cocktail bars that were contacted said they hadn't got it on their cocktail menu and haven't come across it yet.

But if you want to be a trendsetter, you can ask your bartender to make one up or else try it out at home (see the recipe above right).

Alan Kavanagh, who is a cocktail mixologist, says the sherry ingredient in the Rebujito is an interesting feature.

"People do tend to pigeon-hole certain drinks and can't see their potential," he says. "People do it with drinks like tequila, which always seems to be associated with party time but is actually a very versatile ingredient.

"In the same way, people tend to associate sherry with something that their granny might drink but it's a fantastic ingredient."

According to Alan, the top selling cocktail in Irish bars is the Mojito. The Cuban drink is made up of rum, lime juice, sugar, mint and a dash of soda water.

"With the Mojito or something like a Daiquiri, you can add fresh fruit. A Daiquiri can have blueberries and strawberries, so it has much more of a health kick to it."

When it comes to patrons watching their alcohol intake, Alan says that bar staff can always recommend one that isn't too full of liquor.

"There is huge variation in the types of cocktails available," he says. "People might have this perception of a 'Del Boy' cocktail that has six or seven types of liquor with a cherry on top. But there are lots of different types of cocktails, from the newer varieties to the classics, like the dry gin martini."

If you want to stick to the cocktail menu this summer, there are things you can do to make sure you consume a more health beneficial tipple.

Firstly, check the ingredients for alcoholic measures and opt for drinks with soda water or diet soft drinks. Juice is good for you but don't overdo it, as it's full of sugar. Ask the bar staff if they can dilute the juice with some water.

Watch out for drinks with lots of cream in them (like a White Russian), as they will add to the calorie content.

And if you really want to be virtuous and still enjoy a cocktail, you can always order a virgin version. This will leave out the alcohol content but will still have the juice or soft drink.

How to mix a Rebujito


75ml Fino sherry (this is a Spanish white wine, it can work with other white wines but doesn't taste exactly the same!)

One lime, diced

One lemon, diced

75ml soda water or lemonade

Two tbsp lemon juice

Crushed ice

Two tsp sugar syrup


Put the diced lemon and lime in the bottom of a high ball glass. Half-fill the glass with crushed ice and add the sherry, lemon juice and sugar syrup. Mix well and then add the soda water or lemonade. Stir again and top up with ice. Garnish with either some lemon peel or slices of lemon and lime.

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