Low carb alcohol or not, alcohol isn’t a healthy part of any diet …low
…but the reality is, many of us enjoy taking in a drink from time to time—whether that’s a glass of wine with dinner, or after work drinks with colleagues.
We live in a drink-heavy culture, and trust me I know, it can be difficult to navigate when sticking to low carb foods.
But alas, there’s hope…
Although it isn’t necessarily better for your health, low carb alcohol does exist, and choosing your drinks wisely (and moderately) will help you stay on low carb track more than guzzling down those sugar-laden cocktails.
Here’s everything you need to know about low carb alcohol; from the carbs in wine to the carbs in whiskey, to the vodka carbohydrate amount — this article’s got you covered.
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What is the Best Low Carb Alcohol
The best low carb alcohol is:
- Tequila, Gin, Vodka, Whiskey—on the rocks, neat, with a diet soda or seltzer: 0 grams of carbs per shot.
- Red Wine—Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah all have under 4 carbs per 5 oz glass.
- White Wine—Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc have right around 3 carbs per 5 oz.
- Champagne—a 5 oz glass contains only 2 carbs.
- Beer—Bud Select 55: 1.80 carbs, Michelob Ultra: 2.60 carbs, Miller Lite: 3.20 carbs.
Now let’s dive in a little further, because as you can imagine, there’s a lot more to know about carbs in alcohol…
What Kind of Alcohol Can You Drink on a Low Carb Diet?
If you’re on a low carb diet, low carb alcoholic beverages such as spirits (rum, whiskey, tequila, and vodka) sans sugar-y mixers—best enjoyed on the rocks, wines such as table red and whites (no fortified or sweet wines), and champagne are your best choices.
If you’re not on a low cab plan and wondering what is the best alcohol to drink on a diet, this may be a more difficult question to answer, as you may need to look at the calories and other ingredients instead.
Your Cheat Sheet
Before we get started on which beers have the lowest carbs or whether wine or spirits work best with your current diet plan, you’ll want to have a good sense of what actually qualifies as a full serving of an alcoholic drink.
As you may have learned in high school health class, wine, spirits, and beer all have different alcohol contents, hence the diversity in serving sizes…
Generally speaking, one standard drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol—which you’ll get in:
- A 12-ounce can of beer
- A 5-ounce glass of wine
- A 1.5 ounces (or jigger) of spirits.
So even though a shot of tequila is a whole lot smaller in size than your average can of beer, it packs a more potent punch.
Beers get a little trickier as a Bud Light and a craft-brewed double IPA typically have very different alcohol percentages…
With all that in mind, here’s a great reference for what constitutes a standard drink—good to keep in your head as you add carbs into the equation.
Another item to mention, is not all shots or glasses of wine are created equal. You may order a glass of wine that your extra-friendly-server pours rather generously—just something to keep in mind if you’ve got a specified daily carb limit.
Low Carb Alcoholic Drinks, the detailed-nitty-gritty
We’ve looked at low carb alcohol as a concept, now we’ll take a closer look at the specific types of adult beverages—from wine to beer, spirits and cocktails.
Here’s a look at how your low carb food list can also include alcohol:
Low Carb Wine
Believe it or not, wine is relatively low carb in nature, and personally, I couldn’t be happier about this! Most red wines fall between 3 and 4 carbs per glass—which is pretty minimal, especially if you’re treating yourself.
The problem with carbs here isn’t so much standard red or white wine, rather the ultra sweet varieties, like port—so stick with the options below for the best low carb wine choices…
For a 5 oz serving, the best low carb red wines are:
- Merlot: 122 calories, 3.69 carbs
- Pinot Noir: 121 calories, 3.40 carbs
- Cabernet Sauvignon: 122 calories, 3.83 carbs
- Syrah: 122 calories, 3.79 carbs
- Zinfandel: 129 calories, 4.20 carbs
For the same 5 oz serving, the best low carb white wines are:
- Chardonnay: 123 calories, 3.18 carbs
- Pinot Gris: 122 calories, 3.03 carbs
- Sauvignon Blanc: 119 calories, 3.01 carbs
Champagne is also another great choice. A 5 oz glass has got about 100 calories and 2 carbs… cheers!
Wines that are higher in carbs include:
- Burgundy: 127 calories, 5.46 carbs
- Riesling: 118 calories, 5.54 carbs
- Dessert Wines. A few types of dessert wines are Sherry and Muscat… typical serving size for these is 3.5 oz, which will run you are 165 calories, 14.10 carbs
- Fortified Wines. Fortified wines are distilled with a spirit (like brandy). They tend to be much sweeter—a few varieties are Port, Sherry, Marsala and Vermouth.
For my fellow sushi lovers—sake (without the “bomb”) runs at 1.46 carbs per 1.5 oz serving.
Low Carb Beer
As far as low carb alcohol is concerned, beer doesn’t usually make the cut.
Made from water, grains, hops and yeast, beer is essentially liquid bread, and guzzling down a few cold ones can rack up those carb in short order.
But, if it’s beer you’re craving, there are some choices that’ll give you that coveted beer fix. Fair warning, if you’re a heavy-duty beer drinker, you may find the lowest carb beer choices less than impressive…
Your best low carb beer choices are going to be:
- Bud Select 55: 55 calories, 1.80 carbs
- Michelob Ultra: 95 calories, 2.60 carbs
- Bud Select: 99 calories, 3.09 carbs
- Miller Lite: 96 calories, 3.20 carbs
- Busch Light: 95 calories, 3.20 carbs
- Becks: 64 calories, 3.20 carbs
- Bud Light Platinum: 137 calories, 4.40 carbs
- Bud Light: 103 calories, 4.60 carbs
- Keystone Light: 101 calories, 4.70 carbs
- Coors Light: 102 calories, 5 carbs
- Corona Light: 99 calories, 5 carbs
Your highest carb beer choices include:
- Porter (Fuller’s London Porter, 12oz): 181 calories, 20.59 carbs
- IPL (Colorado Native Double IPL): 245 calories, 18.40 carbs
- Pale Ale (Sierra Nevada): 176 calories, 14.16 carbs
- Belgian Ale(Blue Moon): 168 calories, 14.10 carbs
- Pabst Blue Ribbon: 144 calories, 12.80 carbs
- Miller High Life: 141 calories, 12.20 carbs
- Miller Genuine Draft: 140 calories, 12.20 carbs
- Stella Artois: 141 calories, 10.90 carbs
- Budweiser: 146 calories, 10.60 carbs
Another beer-esk drink to watch out for is cider—with 199 calories per serving, and 21.02 carbs, it’s no wonder why this drink tastes so sweet!
As you can see, beers range in carb counts pretty dramatically, and unfortunately for us watching our carbs, nutritional data isn’t printed on the back of every can. When in doubt, stick to the low carb beers listed above.
Low Carb Liquor
Liquor lovers, rejoice. Straight liquor typically has no carbs or a nominal amount. Order neat or on the rocks and you’ll find it relatively easy to stick to your guns.
As far as low carb liquor goes, you’ve got zero carbs in:
- Tequila: 96 calories, no carbs
- Gin: 110 calories, no carbs
- Rum: 110 calories, no carbs
- Vodka: 110 calories, no carbs
- Whiskey: 110 calories, no carbs
The reason you have no carbs in gin, no carbs in tequila, and no carbs in rum is due the fermentation process, which essentially converts carbohydrates into ethyl alcohol via yeast enzymes.
Now, liqueurs are another story.
Despite its similar name, these two are completely different products…
Liqueurs are sweetened spirits infused with a range of flavors. Many start with a base of whiskey, rum, or brandy, then they’re sweetened with ingredients like sugar syrup.
Because there’s a wide range of flavors and additives present in liqueurs—think coffee-esque Kahlua, almond-y Amaretto, Bailey’s, and everything sweet and fruity—carb counts differ tremendously. But as a general reference:
- Kahlua (1.6 oz): 144 calories, 22 carbs
- Crème de Menthe (1.5 oz): 186 calories, 20.80 carbs
Now back to liquor. When it comes to carbs, it isn’t the liquor you’ve got to watch out for, rather the mixers… Juices, sodas, all manner of sugary cocktails—this is what you need to avoid.
To make it easy on yourself, order liquor either on the rocks, with an ice cube, or neat. You can also try a highball, which is a basic cocktail made of liquor and a mixer…
Think gin and tonic, rum and coke, scotch and soda, seven and seven—unfortunately the classic version of these cocktails are high in sugar (again, the mixer’s fault)… which can easily solved with our low carb cocktail suggestions below!
Low Carb Cocktails at a Bar
At a bar or restaurant, your low carb cocktail choices are going to be slightly limited.
Your best option will likely be a highball mixed with seltzer or diet soda—think calorie and carb free mixers + your low carb liquor of choice. Ask your bartender what they carry and what they’d suggest. You never know, they could have diet tonic hiding back there…
The best low carb cocktails at a bar are:
- Vodka + soda + lime (standard, but works!)
- Tequila + soda + lime (way tastier than the above, really go-for-it with the lime)
- Whisky + Diet Coke
- Gin + Diet Tonic + Lime (some bars will have it, might as well ask!)
- Gin + Diet Sprite + Lime (again, some bars will have it)
Low Carb Mixed Drinks at Home
If you’re mixing things up yourself, you can afford to get a little more creative. There are tons of ingredient that’ll help take your low carb drinks up a few notches, without sugar.
However, since traditional mixers get their sweetness from sugar, the low carb versions are typically sweetened by an artificial alternative. Your options are as varied or limited as the degree of healthy you’d like to be…
Here are some low carb drinks (mixers) perfect for keto alcoholic drink recipes—and the ingredient they’re sweetened with:
1. Diet sodas
Sweetener: Typically aspartame
Flavors: Most regular sodas can be found in a diet version.
Flavors: Cola, Ginger, Root Beer, Cream Soda, Dr. Zevia, Orange, Grape, Etc.
Sweetener: Erythritol and Stevia
Flavors: Tons! I love the Watermelon, Coconut, Strawberry Lemonade and Mango
4. Flavored Sparkling Waters
Sweetener: None, these drinks aren’t sweet
Flavors: Depends where you purchase from. Traditional flavors are lemon and lime—boring—I live for the Trader Joe’s flavors, they’re always coming up with new and delicious ones. Perrier makes and awesome pink grapefruit I love as well.
Tip: Since these don’t add sweetness to your drink, top off your cocktail with some low carb fruit or stevia drops. A few berries or a spritz of orange isn’t going to break the carb bank in my book.
5. True Lime + True Lemon
￼Sweetener: Crystalized fruit, stevia, sugar
Flavors: Currently addicted to their Mango Orange flavor. They’ve also got Watermelon, Limeade, Lemonade, Black Cherry Limeade, Raspberry Lemonade, Peach Lemonade, Wildberry Lemonade, Etc.
6. Crystal Light
￼Sweetener: Maltodextrin, Aspartame, Modified Cornstarch
Flavors: Lemonade, Pink Lemonade, Orange, Fruit Punch, Etc.
7. Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops
￼Sweetener: Stevia, Juice Concentrate
Flavors: Root Beer, Coconut, Grape, Berry, Vanilla, Orange, Toffee, You name it!
In addition to low carb drinks, here are some carb-free-next-level-tasty additions for your cocktails:
- Spritz of Lemon, Orange or Lime— hint of fruit without blowing your carb load
- “Twist” of Lemon, Orange or Lime Peel—serious flavor punch
- Muddled Berries—Low carb fruits like berries add a nice sweetness without artificial sugars
- Low carb vegetables—Get creative and try making a low carb Bloody Mary… Celery, pickles and olives happen to be low in carbs, it’s the tomato juice you’ve got to be leery of.
- Pickle juice—since there are no carbs in scotch, pour a glass on the rocks with pickle juice to chase—yum.
- Low carb milk—exciting news, heavy cream is virtually carb free. Get creative and try a low carb white Russian (sans Kahlua, sorry)
Because I know you’re curious, the worst cocktail choices include anything with multiple types of liqueur, excessive fruit juice, or some excessively sweet, colorful concoctions.
Think of the obvious sugar drinks like blended margaritas, white Russians, or anything that resembles a slushie or a shake—the drinks you enjoyed as a child, except with booze now— piña coladas, strawberry daiquiris, you know what I’m talking about.
Here are the biggest offenders and their carb count. *This data will vary based on bar, recipe, and ingredients, but to give you an idea:
- Pina Colada with 61.27 grams of carbs
- Mimosa Sherbet with 27 grams of carbs per half a cup
- Mojito with 20 grams of carbs per 3 ounce
- Margaritas with 15 grams of carbs per 4 ounce
- Gimlet with 15 grams of carbs per 4 ounce
You’ll also want to watch out for things like Screwdrivers, Greyhounds Mimosas, or Tequila Sunrises…
While oranges, grapefruit, and tomatoes are ok for some for low carb dieters, their juiced counterparts are a surprisingly bad choice for the carb and calorie conscious among us—in fact, orange juice alone contains about 28.96 grams of carbs per one cup serving.
And then there are margaritas.
Those salty, tart creations made specifically for washing down salsa and guac, it’s no secret that the cheap mix (think dollar margarita night) isn’t the greatest choice of beverage…
…But, you can make low carb margarita at home with a few minor swaps—think lime juice and orange extract instead of the neon-colored jug (recipe coming soon!)
Low Carb Non Alcoholic Drinks
If you’re reading this article, chance are you’re feeling a little naughtier than a cup of tea or coffee, but I wanted to point out that low carb non-alcoholic drinks are a little easier to come by than their boozy brethren…
It’s a matter of going for a cup of coffee or tea, diet soda versus the real thing or sticking with seltzer water.
Low carb soft drinks include anything that falls within the diet realm. If you’re averse to artificial sweeteners, skip the soda, or try one of the options listed above—Zevia, True Lime + True Lemon, or Bai.
And if you’re looking for a cold weather alternative to plain coffee, I’ve got a great low carb hot chocolate you can whip up in a jiff!
Can You Drink Alcohol on a Low Carb Diet?
Drinking alcohol on a low carb diet is up to you, your goals and your health. If you choose to drink, stick to pure spirits or use diet mixers and tonic for a delicious low carb cocktail. Table wines are another good choice. Some people experience a pause in weight loss when they drink alcohol—if this is a concern, then stop drinking.
There are a few additional concerns with drinking on a low carb diet…
Low Carb and Alcohol – What to Watch Out For…
No matter what type of alcohol you choose, it’s the other things you need to keep an eye on…
…and I’m not just talking about the mixers, I’m talking about the way alcohol effects our blood sugar, how our bodies react to alcohol when we don’t consume many carbs, and of course the drunken’ munchies—all of which can be a bigger challenge than the alcohol content itself.
The most important key here is moderation.
It’s the same message you’ve heard your whole life, but take this seriously—although I haven’t been able to find any definitive research, common sense and personal experience have lead me to believe that my body reacts differently to alcohol when I eat less carbs.
The lower carb I eat, the lower my alcohol tolerance becomes. Be careful, be safe. You know what to do.
Then there’s your blood sugar…
As a diabetic, I have discussed consuming alcohol thoroughly with my doctor. Let’s just say the way I drink now has changed dramatically from the way I used to drink…
Since this article isn’t about drinking with diabetes, I’m going to assume this isn’t relevant for most, so I’ll keep it brief..
The fact is that: “moderate amounts of alcohol may cause blood sugar to rise, excess alcohol can actually decrease your blood sugar level — sometimes causing it to drop into dangerous levels, especially for people with type 1 diabetes” — Web MD
I’m not a doctor, nor am I giving any sort of medical advice. It’s important to discuss with your doctor your personal needs and concerns.
Ugh, last but not least, the drunken munchies and its ugly cousin, the hangover munchies.
When we hit the bottle too hard, alcohol can messes with our blood sugar levels, therefore creating a feeling of hunger.
Additionally, alcohol can cause dehydration (it’s a diuretic, which is why you’ll see an increase in trips to the bathroom), which sometimes our brains mistake for hunger signals.
Hungry? Try snacking on some low carb nuts or low carb grains instead!
Let’s be real, eating low carb can be hard—but it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to kiss all of life’s great pleasures goodbye. Thoughtful research and planning are the first steps, so congratulations.
Between the spirits, cocktails, beers and wines, if you’re adding low carb alcohol to your low carb shopping list, there are plenty of options to choose from.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any low carb cocktail hacks—whether that’s an herbal seltzer water cocktail or a secret low carb beer you’ve just discovered, let me know in the comments below!
For some ideas of what to serve alongside your favorite low carb drinks, check out low carb meals, low carb snacks and low carb appetizers!
*Unless otherwise noted and linked, all nutritional data was pulled from the USDA Food Composition Database.
Low Carb Alcohol Graphic: