Liquor: Like Wine, Usually Efficient: Beware Mixers

Liquor comes from distilling a grain, which means converting its carbohydrates to alcohol via fermentation. For this reason, distilled liquors, such as vodka, rum, and whiskey are near 100% efficiency (defined as percentage of calories from alcohol). Where some go wrong is with choice of mixers. Regular soft drinks are loaded with the empty calories aka high fructose corn syrup. Put "Diet" in front of anything (Coke, Red Bull, 7up, etc.) and you're tremendously better off. Let's take a look at 3 popular mixed drinks' calories, efficiency, and how much they can be improved.

At some point, there will be an interactive tool, so that you can "mix" your own drink. Until then, here are some examples using reasonable guesstimates at proportions you might be served at a bar:

Cranberry Vodka

  • 6 oz. Cranberry Juice
  • 2 oz. Vodka

234 calories in 8 ounces! That's just 55% on the efficiency scale. Cranberry juice packs a serious caloric punch. Worse yet, cranberry "juice" taps at bars tend to be extra concentrated and light on the juice factor, so forget about any antioxidant benefits.

Sip this, ditch that: Vodka, Soda with a splash of cranberry. Not 100% efficiency, because you're probably getting about an ounce of cranberry if you order at a bar, but its efficiency is in the 90% range (saving about 80 calories) and it should taste reasonably good. Cranberry juice is an extremely potent mixer, even in small quantities.

Vodka Tonic

  • 6 oz. Tonic
  • 2 oz. Vodka (80 proof)
  • A splash of lime juice

This 8 oz. drink has a healthy 192 calories. With this proportion of mixers, the drink is 67% efficient. Not terrible, but could be better.

Sip this, ditch that: Vodka (Club) Soda. 100% efficiency saves 64 calories per drink. Vodka with Diet Tonic is the same, but you won't find Diet Tonic in bars.

Rum & Coke

  • 6 oz. Coke
  • 2 oz. Rum (70 proof)

This 8 oz. drink comes in at 183 calories, but is only 62% efficient because Coke is slightly more caloric than tonic and your typical well rum or Bacardi is a bit weaker than vodka.

Sip this, ditch that: Rum and Diet. Again, liquor + diet mixer = 100% efficiency. You can save 70 calories per drink with this change.