What’s in Your Summer Drink?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
August 03, 2017

Sweet summer drinks with rum like a Piña colada pack the alcohol of two beers. And more calories than you’d scarf down in two small bags of potato chips. 

It’s easy for summer drinks around the pool or at a beach bar to creep up on you. Sipping from those colorful umbrella-topped tall glasses, you may not realize that you’re getting double the alcohol in other kinds of drinks.

In any one day, a woman is safe sticking to one beer or glass of wine, which in standard cans or glasses comes to 0.6 fluid ounces of alcohol. A man under the age of 65 can drink two beers or glasses of wine, and still be drinking moderately. But cocktails vary from one to another and the recipe.


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Know the numbers

A standard Piña colada with 3 oz. of rum runs to 490 calories and contains the alcohol of two wines or two beers. One margarita with 1.5 oz. of tequila counts as 1.7 drinks. So any woman who finishes just one of these summer drinks is splurging. A mojito with 2 oz. of rum — or a screwdriver with 2 oz. of vodka — is a better idea. They each contain about a third more alcohol than a beer or wine. You can check out the alcohol content of your recipes here.

Here’s how the numbers work: A standard 12 oz. can of beer is about 5 percent alcohol, which comes to 0.6 ounces of alcohol. Five fluid ounces of wine, with around 12 percent alcohol, ends up also giving you 0.6 ounces of alcohol. To get to the same number with distilled spirits, which contain around 40 percent alcohol, you would drink 1.5 oz.

So maybe you absolutely love Piña coladas (and getting caught in the rain). Split it with a friend. When you’re out, you can also specify 2 oz. of rum, or less, rather than the standard 3 oz. Experiment and see what you prefer.

Remember that you can always find a non-alcoholic summer drink. Just ask the waiter or bartender to mix the cocktail you like without the alcohol. This especially applies if you’ve already had one and you want a second — get the taste without the alcohol.

Low-calorie summer drinks

One option to satisfy a Piña colada craving is to make your own at home. This recipe has only 165 calories a serving, with 1.5 oz. of rum, the equivalent of a glass of wine.

Try mixing strawberries, mint, lemon juice and a sweetener with no more than 1.5 oz. of vodka (or you can substitute another spirit), and you’ll run under 200 calories.

You can also try lemonade, pomegranate juice, club soda, and lemon-lime vodka.

For a sangria sparkler, mix dry red wine, brandy or cognac, orange juice, orange liqueur, club soda, a sweetener, and sliced oranges.

A diet soda or diet sweetener isn’t such a great choice: the alcohol in the drink will act faster than it would in a drink with sugar.

Summer drinks for kids

To make a bright red sweet drink without sugar, brew a hibiscus tea and put it in the blender with frozen strawberries. This works as a low-calorie drink for adults, too.

You can also make your own grapefruit-pineapple soda syrup and mix it with club soda.

For a summer kids’ birthday party, check out this recipe for a drink called “Ocean Water.” It involves lemon-lime soda, blue food coloring, and an orange gummy fish floating on top of each glass. It’ll give the parents a laugh, too.


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April 09, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN