“To your health.” As you raise your glass this holiday season, make it a point to bring this traditional toast to reality with our tips for making healthy holiday cocktails.
Text: Sidney Fry, RD
November 08, 2010
1 of 14Photo: Jennifer Causey
Healthy Holiday Cocktails, Reinvented
The holiday season is notorious for indulgence. Most of us get so wrapped up in maintaining enough willpower to keep from over-eating, that we forget about the calories we can accumulate by over-drinking. To keep you from stressing over one more thing this season, we’ve lightened some of your favorite holiday cocktails. In addition to being good stress-relievers, you might be surprised to find some added (and tasty!) health benefits from some common ingredients—like pomegranate, cranberry, and cinnamon—found in holiday libations. Raise your glass to our tasty makeovers; this might just be your healthiest and most stress-free season yet.
2 of 14Jennifer Causey
Cranberry-Ginger Shrub Cocktail
3 of 14Caitlin Bensel
Holiday Coconut Cooler
Wow your guests this holiday season with a whimsical white cocktail. A mix of coconut milk and coconut rum adds Caribbean flair, making even the coldest winter days feel bright and blissful. Entertain a crowd with ease by making a double or triple batch ahead of time—just give it a stir right before garnishing.
Wind down at the end of the day with the adult version of a glass of warm milk. Research shows cardamom may help ward off stomach ulcers. It and sesame seeds (the essential ingredient in tahini) also have heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory benefits. Be sure to use refrigerated coconut milk (found with nut milks in the dairy case) and not canned coconut milk.
5 of 14Jennifer Causey
Rejuvenating Rosé Spritzer
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Cranberries are a seasonal powerhouse protecting against urinary tract infections as well as being an excellent source of Vitamin C, manganese, and other phytonutrients called flavonoids. These powerful antioxidants help maintain cell structure and eliminate “free radicals” (aka: toxins) from the body. Not only are they super healthy, but they’re festive, colorful, and delicious. Jazz up your holiday offerings this year with our Cranberry Cosmopolitan – made with your own homemade Cranberry Liqueur.
Cranberry Cosmopolitan: 1/2 cup Cranberry Liqueur, 1/4 cup Cointreau, 2 tablespoons lime juice. Mix with 1 cup crushed ice; strain into martini glass. Makes 2 cocktails.
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Cinnamon is a powerful antioxidant and is currently under research for its potential to help regulate blood sugar and inhibit tumor growth. Cinnamon has the highest antioxidant capacity of any spice, and is a potent antimicrobial agent. Don’t hesitate to sprinkle extra cinnamon on those holiday dishes (and cocktails) this year.
In Apple-Jack Spiked Hot Cider cinnamon sticks are steeped with butter, brown sugar, black peppercorns, cloves, and allspice for a unique blend of spicy-rich flavors. Applejack brandy, a cider-based brandy, or Calvados (the French version) gets stirred in for the spirited final touch.
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Pomegranate are rich in Vitamin C, B6, and potassium – not to mention their peak season is in sync with holiday time. Just one glass of pomegranate juice has the same cancer-fighting polyphenol content as two glasses of red wine or 10 cups of green tea. Add some healthy, festive holiday cheer to your party with one of our bubbly pomegranate refreshers.
In our simple Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktail, vibrant pomegranate juice, sweet grenadine, and chilled, dry sparkling wine combine for the perfect holiday toast. Garnish with lime slices and pomegranate seeds for a pop of color.
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Heart-healthy, brain-stimulating, age-prolonging, cancer-fighting red wine. Who needs holiday gifts with all these goodies? Studies have indicated that certain components in red wine, namely resveratrol and polyphenols, might play an important role in preventing damage to blood vessels, reducing bad cholesterol, preventing blood clots, improving blood flow, and inhibiting the development of certain cancers. Spice up your traditional glass with a twist of citrus (aka vitamin C…) in our wintery version of Sangria.
Any good-quality, fruity red wine works well in Blood Orange Sangría; a combination of pinot noir and Beaujolais is particularly good. The vermilion flesh of blood oranges (which come into season in December) is lovely. But if they're not available, substitute navel oranges—both offer a good hit of vitamin C.
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Coffee is not just your morning eye-opener anymore and currently is a hot subject in research. Studies are finding that coffee in moderation (1 to 2 cups per day) may help reduce cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and may even help preserve cognitive skills such as memory and comprehension. It doesn’t stop there either. Coffee, much like the highly acclaimed green tea, is actually high in antioxidants. Perk up a cup for the holidays (we suggest after work…) with one of our heart-warming brews.
Our version of Irish Coffee combines Irish whiskey with smooth, round flavor, with boldly brewed coffee and just a touch of sugar. A topping of whipped cream adds the final festive touch.
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No holiday season is complete without a swig or two of this festive cocktail. While it is a good source of both calcium and protein, eggnog is notorious for its heavy hand in cream. A typical 6-ounce pour of the real deal can set you back nearly 435 calories and 30 grams of fat (and you haven’t even eaten yet!). Keep your calories and fat in check with our version of Eggnog at only 147 calories and 2.3 grams of fat per 1/2 cup which still includes your protein, calcium and yes, even the nog.
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Chocolate and cocoa are naturally rich in antioxidants called flavanols. Be sure to look for the “dutch” processed cocoa and avoid milk chocolate. Chocolate has been reported to lower LDL (bad cholesterol), promote healthy blood flow, and may even lower your blood pressure, which is essential this time of year. Chocolate also boosts natural levels of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter. Just remember that chocolate does contain both calories and fat so consume it sparingly.
Treat yourself and your guests with this delicious “spiked” hot chocolate. Start with Peppermint Stick Hot Chocolate (which on its own is delicious and kid-friendly). Add in mint liqueur, such as peppermint schnapps or crème de menthe for the adults.
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Not into hard liquor? Try a beer cocktail. A study from Tufts School of Nutrition showed that beer may protect bone mineral density because beer contains high levels of dietary silicon which enables the deposit of calcium and other minerals in bone tissue. The silicon in dark beer helps absorption of calcium and minerals to make strong bones.
Try a Black Velvet by mixing equal parts champagne with a chilled stout or dark beer. (Try a Guinness; despite its hearty reputation, it has fewer calories than many of its lager friends.) Pour the stout into the glass first, then slowly add the champagne so that the drinks layer.
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Cheers to Moderation
Enjoy this holiday season with our suggested festive cocktails. But remember that excessive drinking may not only increase your risks for some diseases and cancers, it can also add lots of calories and lower your “healthy-eating” inhibitions. So cheers to moderation… and dedicate this holiday season “to your health!”