Mixing drinks and watching carbs

SIPS

Modifications let drinkers partake without guilt

Sips

April 21, 2004|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you have declared war on carbohydrates, you may be pleased to know that alcohol is not your enemy.

In fact, if you're busting carbs from your diet but you really want a drink, you can't do better than scotch on the rocks or a shot of bourbon. Neither one will nudge your carbo-meter.

The same is true of a classic gin martini, provided you use dry vermouth. Should you prefer a vodka tonic, or even rum and Coke, you're also home free, as long as you stick to a diet tonic or cola.

Unlike wine and beer, distilled spirits are carb-free drinks, whether they are made from potatoes, sugar cane or grains.

"It's simple chemistry," says Dr. Monica Gourovitch, senior vice president for Scientific Affairs at the Distilled Spirits Council in Washington.

"During fermentation, adding yeast to the mixture causes a chemical reaction that breaks down the carbohydrates in the raw materials and produces ethyl alcohol, or ethanol. The distillation process then separates the ethanol from the fermented mixture and leaves the carbohydrates behind."

However, once you stray past straight distilled spirits, either with liqueurs and their added sugars or cream liqueurs with their dairy products, you're back into carb territory.

The same holds true with mixed drinks, which can easily turn a no-carb shot of rum into a high-carb pina colada or a shot of tequila into a sugary margarita.

But if you're a fan of mixed drinks, take heart - it's quite possible to have a tasty and sophisticated low-carb cocktail. You can make your own modifications - such as using diet mixers or even making simple syrup (sugar water) with a sugar substitute (see Splenda Syrup recipe below).

In a nod to the popularity of low-carb diets, some bars are featuring low-carb cocktails. At the Loews Annapolis Hotel, for example, sippers can enjoy a Green Tea-No, featuring vodka and green tea. The drink's only carbs come from a tablespoon each of fresh lime and lemon juice - for less than 3 grams of carbohydrates.

The low-carb menu also offers a Berry NOlada for 8 grams of carbs or a Blackberry NOjito with 3.3 grams of carbs.

Even so, when it comes to dieting, it's important to remember that carbs aren't the whole story. Just like a standard 4-ounce glass of wine or 12-ounce serving of beer, a 1 1/2 -ounce shot of alcohol will cost you about 100 calories, carbs or no carbs.

Green Tea-No

Serves 1

2 ounces lemon vodka

2 ounces iced green tea

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

lemon wedge for garnish

Combine ingredients, except lemon wedge, and shake with ice. Strain and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

- Loews Hotels

Per serving: 139 calories; 0 grams protein; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 2.7 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 1 milligram sodium

Berry NOlada

Serves 1

2 ounces unflavored rum

2 ounces green iced tea

1/4 cup fresh raspberries (see note)

1/4 cup fresh strawberries (see note)

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon Splenda simple syrup (see recipe)

lime wedge for garnish

Combine ingredients, except lime wedge, and blend with ice. Pour into a martini glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Note: You may also use blueberries or blackberries.

- Loews Hotels

Per serving: 165 calories; 1 gram protein; 0 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 8.2 grams carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 2 milligrams sodium

Splenda Syrup

1 quart water

8 packets Splenda

juice of 1 lemon

juice of 1 orange

Bring to a boil. Chill and serve.

- Loews Hotels

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