Skinny Margaritas -- When Less is More

It wasn’t all that long ago that a rum and Diet Coke was typically referred to as a Skinny Bitch. Kinda harsh, huh? Fortunately attitudes in bars toward reduced calorie drinks have changed, which is welcome news to the growing legions of carb-counting, weight-conscious Americans looking to sip seriously marvelous cocktails without immediately gaining inches around their waists.

Recently Nightclub & Bar and its VIBE Conference event commissioned Mike Ginley with Next Level Marketing to conduct a research study into consumer beverage trends. According to the study, more than half of the 502 adults participating responded that they were interested in ordering low-calorie cocktails.

Creating low-calorie cocktails can be more challenging than it may sound. Take, for example, the country’s bestselling cocktail, the Margarita. A 12-ounce Margarita contains between 7 and 27 grams of carbohydrates and 250 and 740 calories depending on the various ingredients used. That’s fattening enough to cause many people to pass on ordering the drink altogether.

In this case, the villain isn’t the tequila, and thank goodness for that, as the spirit is the featured performer and the driving force behind the cocktail’s popularity. In addition, a jigger of tequila is only 97 calories and contains no carbs.

Next on the roster of ingredients is the modifier, orange liqueur. Although it varies slightly by brand, a jigger of triple sec can add up to 155 calories and 17 grams of carbs. The choice of modifier is where you can begin trimming away some of the fat, so to speak.

Recently introduced Monin Sugar Free Triple Sec is an alcohol-free alternative with no calories and only 4 grams of carbs. It has a zesty citrus bouquet and the flavor of freshly peeled oranges, considerably livelier and more vibrant than those conventionally stocked behind the bar. The lightweight, velvety smooth syrup finishes crisp and clean; again something that can’t be said for its alcohol counterparts. The absence of alcohol won’t be missed in the least.

The prime waist-expanding culprit in a Margarita is the principal ingredient, namely the sugar-laden sweet ‘n sour. A 2-ounce portion of most Margarita mixes contains 17 grams of sugar or more. If you’re looking to create a skinnier version of the cocktail, retooling the composition of the base mix presents a significant window of opportunity.


Houlihan'sHoulihan’s recently test-marketed a drink menu with an assortment of skinny cocktails that included the Skinny Superfruit Margarita (Effen Black Cherry Vodka and a blend of cranberry, blueberry and pomegranate juice). Response was so enthusiastic that the skinny libations now appear in all of Houlihan’s locations.

Another scale-friendly cocktail is the Look Better Naked Margarita, a specialty with more health benefits than an HMO. The drink is the handiwork of Adam Seger, general manager, sommelier and world-class bar chef at mega-popular Nacional 27 restaurant in downtown Chicago.

“We cater to a health-conscious clientele, so I look to create great tasting cocktails loaded with healthy, low-calorie ingredients,” says Seger. “This Margarita is made with all-natural Partida Reposado 100% Agave Tequila, organic açai juice, organic agave nectar, rosemary, organic egg white and freshly squeezed lime juice. The drink is swimsuit-friendly and loaded with antioxidants, amino acids, protein and vitamins. How can you beat that?”

And that’s the point. Skinny Margaritas can be just as palate pleasing as their belly-bulging counterparts. Today, adding the tag “low-cal, low-carb” to a menu description can lead to healthier sales and a more attractive clientele.


Clearly many in this business think Americans believe that if some is good, more is better. It’s the only plausible explanation for marketing mega-Margaritas in birdbath-sized glasses. Like triple-decker burgers, they scream of excess and over-indulgence (not to mention over-service). If you’re looking for ways to shore-up sagging sales and attract a more health-conscious clientele, the essential first step is offering reasonably portioned drinks crafted with fresh, high quality ingredients.

The fact is circus-size Margaritas contain an obscene amount of calories and pudge-producing carbs. Low quality, high alcohol and excessively fattening hardly make for a viable marketing proposition.

Be assured the best course of action is serving reasonably portioned Margaritas made with the best possible ingredients. Likewise, promoting the use of an all-natural sweetener like agave nectar is equally advantageous.

Health benefits notwithstanding, there’s another reason to downsize your Margaritas. Handshaking the cocktail causes it to become highly aerated. However, its zeal and exuberance is short-lived. The drink is therefore best consumed shortly after leaving the mixing tin, before the magic dissipates. That’s tough to do with a cocktail served in a bucket.


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