Step away from the mocktail. For all its good intentions, it's not the only way to go if you're on a health kick and want to curb the calories. We've found a bevy of low-calorie cocktails in London that are big on taste, big on booze and in some cases, a very big deal. So from superstar martinis to healthy mojitos and even nifty negronis, enjoy these guilt-free picks around town (but maybe not all at once).
RECOMMENDED: Read our guide to the best cocktails in London
Low-calorie cocktails in London
If you love negronis, you’re in luck: this trendy spot in Peckham has come up with a lighter, summery version of the popular Italian aperitif, with a nominal amount of calories. Aperol, lillet wine, Beefeater gin, fresh grapefruit and rhubarb bitters is all you get in a Rhubarb Bastard – so at just £6 a pop, the only thing you’ll need to worry about is pacing yourself.
The pleasure-seekers that frequent this popular Stokey haunt know that High Water never fails to deliver, which is why it’s probably the only place that could get away with a drink called the Ricemobile. But once you get the lols out of your system, you'll realise this is actually one serious drink. This yummy low-calorie combo is made up of honey dew melon, bourbon, lemon and genmaicha tea roasted with brown rice, which is rich in fibre, iron, natural sugars and vitamin D.
East London's Discount Suit Company refreshes its cocktail list quite frequently, but if you speak to the right guy, you might be able to wrap your tastebuds around its infamous Carrier Pigeon – a vegan-friendly, low-calorie potion of white rum, lavender, lemon and prosecco. It’s a wonderful drink that lives up to DSC’s rep for excellent and creative booze.
Grain Store in King’s Cross is big on the veg, so offers all sorts of clever drink infusions that will also help you cram in your five-a-day. For a classy little number, go for the chervil root bellini. Prosecco is known for its low calorie count and chervil is naturally sweet, so you can knock back a couple in the knowledge that this delicious moment on the lips won’t mean a lifetime on the hips.
Designed by those Latin lovers at Barrio Brixton, the refreshing Green Grocer is one of the closest things you’ll find to a healthy mojito. This thirst-quencher is jam-packed with kiwi, coriander, cucumber, lime and sesame seeds, delivering all sorts of vitamin-y goodness – but the real clincher is that for those who don’t do refined sugar, you won’t get a drop of it in this low-calorie cocktail, as Beefeater gin substitutes the sugar-based white rum.
The wacky Cocktail Trading Company is brilliant at whipping up experimental concoctions, but surprisingly, their healthiest cocktail is a simple one. The Bee’s Knees is a flavour-rich gin, honey and lemon juice concoction that’s a throwback to the Roaring Twenties, but it's the perfect brew for health-conscious millennials who still want to get their buzz on. It’s less than 200 calories – and fyi, gin is one of the better boozes if you’re sticking to a diet.
Trust this slummy, Victorian-style speakeasy to craft a flavourful, low-calorie drink like the Haiboro Loco. Japanese Nikka Blended whisky provides the fruitiness, but throw in the herby triple root tincture, mint, dill and a saline solution (with the tiniest bit of sugar) and you have one potent glass of liquour that might be better than your average cocktail. That said, you will feel this one in the morning…
When it comes to martinis, this upmarket American restaurant in Covent Garden has got the right idea – offer something for everyone. Of the 24 versions to choose from, calorie-counters can have the watermelon martini – a lovely bevvy that’s only 130 calories. It’s made from vanilla-infused fair quinoa vodka and fresh watermelon and tastes as incredible as it sounds.
The bloody mary is a weight-watcher’s dream: it’s nutritious, delicious and won’t pile on the pounds as the only thing sweet about it is that it’ll sort out your hangover. The one at Duck & Waffle is a remarkably lighter version of the classic, but that’s down to the brilliant handiwork of the venue’s award-winning mixmaster Richard Woods. It’s made with gin, spices and a bloody mary consommé – oo-er! – which gets you a classy, low-calorie drink that still packs a glorious punch.
Whether you like it straight, shaken or served on the rocks, the martini in its simplest form is the one alcoholic low-calorie drink you can raise a glass to. The best in town comes courtesy of the super-swanky Connaught Bar, where a martini is rolled out on a trolley and made right beside you. It's an experience that'll cost you nearly £20, mind you, but even calorie-counters deserve a treat day.
Find more lean drinks in London
It’s the greatest cocktail. For some people, it’s the only cocktail. So perfect in its simplicity – gin or vodka, vermouth, garnish – that it should be easy to make. But bars that achieve perfection still aren’t as easy to find in London as they are in New York City, Chicago or San Francisco. So here are our top ‘tini hotspots, with a bias towards those that do martinis with little variation from classic principles. But don’t worry, you’ll still find a few audacious innovations in our list as well.