If you have diabetes but want to relax with an alcoholic drink, it's important to know what cocktails are most appropriate for people with diabetes. Avoid sugary concoctions that are loaded with carbs and choose from a variety of alcoholic drinks that won't cause you to consume too much sugar.
List of Alcoholic Drinks for People With Diabetes
Moderation is key in drinking alcohol whether you have diabetes or not. In general, diabetes does bring with it additional challenges, and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends women should have no more than one alcoholic beverage per day, and men should consume no more than two. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 1/2 ounces spirits. The following cocktails limit carbohydrates naturally, so they can be part of a diabetic diet.
If you're looking for a flavorful cocktail that won't cause your blood sugar to spike, a Bloody Mary is a terrific option. Make a Bloody Mary (or its tequila-based sister, the Bloody Maria) using this basic Bloody Mary recipe, making sure the tomato juice you use has no added sugar. R.W. Knudsen's 100% organic tomato juice is a good option. If you have access to an abundance of fresh tomatoes, you can squeeze them yourself. In general, tomato-based cocktails are a tasty diabetic safe cocktail as long as they don't contain added sugars.
A martini made with gin or vodka, dry vermouth, and garnishes like olives, lemons, and baby onions is a good option for those on a diabetic diet. Dirty martinis also work well for people who are seeking to keep the sugar in their diet to a minimum. However, if you're out, clarify what ingredients are in your drink as many martinis served in bars are full of sugar.
Vodka and Club Soda
Club soda and soda water are both great mixers for diabetics because they don't have any calories, sugar, or carbs. Mix a shot of vodka with three to six ounces of club soda, squeeze in a bit of lime, and stir over ice. You can alter the drink by adding different citrus fruits. It tastes great with lemon, a mixture of lemon and lime, or even a squeeze of orange or grapefruit. For a unique twist, use cucumber vodka and garnish with mint to create a cucumber vodka Rickey.
Pickle Juice Vodka Shot
If you're a fan of shots, it's pretty easy to avoid added sugar by opting for any straight hard liquor and avoiding sweet concoctions made with various liqueurs. However, sometimes you want to dilute the alcohol a bit or just enjoy a bit of additional flavor without added sugar. In that case, a pickle juice vodka shot just may hit the spot. There's nothing sugary about this shot at all, but it tastes great!
Whiskey, Bourbon, Scotch, or Rye
You can also sip on your favorite distilled spirit, neat or on the rocks. Whiskey, bourbon, scotch, and rye are all distilled spirits that don't have carbs, so they make a decent drink for someone with diabetes. Avoid flavored whiskies, which may have sugar syrup added.
Diabetic-Friendly Old-Fashioned Cocktail
If you're a fan of the old-fashioned cocktail, it's easy to make a low-carb version.
- 2 drops liquid stevia
- 2 dashes bitters
- 1 1/2-inch piece of orange peel (no pith)
- 1 1/2 ounces whiskey
- Splash of water
- In a rocks glass, combine the stevia, bitters, and orange peel. Muddle.
- Add the whiskey, water, and ice.
Sugar-Free Mojito Cocktail
You can also enjoy this refreshing, low-carb version of a mojito.
- 10 mint leaves
- 1 packet powdered stevia or 5 to 10 drops of liquid stevia (to taste)
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 1/2 ounces white rum
- Soda water
- Mint and lime for garnish
- Add the mint leaves, stevia, and lime juice to a cocktail shaker. Muddle.
- Add the rum. Shake to mix.
- Pour into a rocks glass half-filled with ice. Top off with soda water.
- Garnish with mint sprigs and lime wedges.
Dry Red and White Wines
Some wines have high residual sugar, particularly off-dry, sweet, and dessert wines. However, while all wines have some carbohydrate, dry red wines and dry white wines are low in residual sugar and can be an appropriate alcoholic libation for people with diabetes.
Lite or Low-Carb Beer
Lite beer and low-carb beer may also be a good option for people with diabetes provided you only consume them in limited amounts. Look for lite beers that have 5g of carbs or fewer per 12 ounce serving.
If you're not a fan of beer but are looking for a low sugar cocktail available in single-serving cans or bottles, hard seltzer is a great choice. This low sugar/low carb hard beverage is flavored spiked seltzer water. It has a light and refreshing flavor and can be enjoyed on alone or mixed with other beverages.
DIY Sugar-Free Kahlúa
Most liqueurs and cordials, including Kahlúa, are high in sugar. If you'd like a sweet substitute for Kahlúa, then try the following recipe.
- One cup each of vodka and water
- 3/4 cup of Swerve sweetener or granulated erythritol
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee
- Place ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring gently until the coffee and sugar substitute (if using granulated) dissolve.
- Remove from heat, then allow to cool completely before using.
- Store in an airtight bottle with a lid.
Enjoy it on the rocks alone or with a splash of cream. You can also mix it into brewed coffee or sugar-free hot chocolate.
Low-Carb/Sugar-Free Cocktail Mixers
Low-carb mixed drinks are appropriate for individuals with diabetes as they have little to no added sugar. Some mixed drinks don't call for sugary ingredients, while low-sugar or sugar-free products are available to reduce the sugar content of adult beverages that often have a high sugar content. Look for sugar-free versions of your favorite sodas to mix with liquors you enjoy.
- Vodka and diet ginger ale or diet ginger beer is a good combination. You could also mix light rum or gin with diet ginger ale.
- If you are a fan of whiskey and cola cocktails, pair your favorite bourbon with Coke Zero or Diet Coke.
- Gin or vodka tastes great mixed with sugar-free lemonade.
- You could even make diabetic-friendly jello shots using sugar-free gelatin.
- If you're pining for sugary frozen drinks try Baja Bob's sugar-free cocktail mixers for diabetic-friendly versions of margaritas, mudslides, pina coladas, and more.
- Make a Long Island tea using Diet Coke or Coke Zero instead of regular cola, sucralose or Stevia instead of sugar, and Diet Sprite or 7-Up instead of simple syrup.
- Make an erythritol-based simple syrup by combining 1/2 cup of a granulated erythritol such as Swerve with 1/2 cup of water and simmering it on the stove until the sweetener dissolves.
Alcoholic Beverages People With Diabetes Should Avoid
There are a number of spirits, liqueurs, mixers, and other alcoholic beverages that are high in sugar and should be avoided.
- Sweet cocktails made with simple syrup
- Tropical cocktails made with fruit juice and/or simple syrup
- Liqueurs, cordials, and schnapps
- Fruit juice based cocktails
- Off-dry, semi-sweet, late harvest, dessert, and sweet wines
- Cocktails made with semi-sweet or sweet vermouth
- Dark rums with added sugar
- Flavored vodkas and whiskeys with added sugar, such as Fireball whiskey, which has 11 grams of sugar in 1.5 ounces
- Sweet and sour mixer
- Mixes such as margarita mix, daiquiri mix, etc.
- Full-calorie, full-carb beers, ciders, and malt liquors
- Drinks made with non-diet sodas
- Wine coolers
- Drinks made with tonic water; diet tonic water is okay in moderation
- Drinks containing grenadine
Alcohol Consumption and Diabetes
Consuming alcohol is not without risk. Diabetics should know consuming alcohol can cause a life-threatening blood glucose to drop (hypoglycemia) as well as liver damage, particularly if the diabetes is poorly controlled, you drink in excess, or you drink on an empty stomach. There may also be concerns for people with diabetes consuming artificial sweeteners commonly found in diet soda, such as aspartame, so speak to your doctor for clear guidance on what is best for you.