These better-for-you adult beverages allow for holiday indulgence without the guilt.
By Molly O’Brien
One of the biggest trends when it comes to enjoying some much-deserved libations this holiday season is a shift toward more healthful choices. People are turning to drinks with less sugar, less alcohol, natural mixers, fresh ingredients and organic options—for just as much flavor, but without the guilt.
Here are some of the ways local favorites like Lido Bottle Works, Fable & Spirit and Louie’s By the Bay are concocting beverages that are just as satisfying, but offer the opportunity to make good on those upcoming diet-related New Year’s resolutions.
Drink Your Fruit and Vegetables
True Food Kitchen at Fashion Island understands that eating good-tasting, good-for-you food makes people feel better and serves as a foundation for a happy, balanced lifestyle. But making healthy choices doesn’t mean sacrificing all the fun of enjoying a tasty cocktail. True Food serves a selection of better-for-you drinks like its signature Citrus Skinny Margarita, a fan favorite that mixes organic tequila, orange, mint and cucumber. There’s also Prairie Royale which is a simple, flavorful combination of organic vodka, cassis and lemon.
Several juicy options are also served at Tupelo Junction Cafe—whose name was inspired by the song “Tupelo Honey” by Van Morrison, the favorite vocal artist of cafe founder and owner Amy Scott. Tupelo gives off vibes of a funky twist on southern comfort. Here, cocktails come in Mason jars and the walls are decorated with fruit crate label art pieces. Those who want to indulge in a sweet, but not too sinful treat should try Tupelo’s Pink Flamingo Paloma. “It’s my favorite drink on the menu,” Scott says. “It’s made with fresh-squeezed pink grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice, Casamigos tequila blanco and a splash of simple syrup, shaken on ice and served in a martini glass.”
Not far away at Fable & Spirit, visitors can find a perfect mix of traditional drinks as well as lighter, brighter options such as the Pod Goals cocktail amid the eatery’s high ceilings, Georgian-style gold door and peacock blue walls that make for a cheerier version of an Irish pub. The Pod Goals drink begins by infusing Roku Gin with sugar snap peas, then combined with yellow Chartreuse, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, fresh lemon juice, cucumber bitters and aquafaba—the leftover liquid from cooked chickpeas is an egg white substitute to create a frothy foam. The libation gets its spunky name after a word play on the term “squad goals” and the recent popularity of sticking together with your “pod” when going out.
“Pod Goals is my personal favorite cocktail on our menu—it’s actually my No. 1 favorite creation ever,” says Drew Coyle, Fable & Spirits’ director of spirits. “A lot of people only think about fresh fruit when it comes to cocktails. I’m always wanting to integrate herbs and vegetables and think outside the box for flavor.”
Helmsman Ale House offers not one, but two large bars crafting cocktails and pouring beer and wine as well as a curated selection from guest breweries in a casual and inviting atmosphere. And in addition to using fresh juices and ingredients in the drinks program, Helmsman also creates rotating beer varieties that are literally packed with fruit (during the brewing process, at least).
Head Brewer Greg Suchsland adds pounds upon pounds of fresh fruit, spices and herbs to his brews, infusing flavor and creating a fresh and less guilt-inducing limited-release selection of beers. Fan favorites in the past have included the Watermelon Basil and Lime Jalapeno sours; On the Rocks With Salt, a margarita-inspired gose (a German sour) with jalapenos and cucumbers; and a Peach Apricot IPA. This winter, Helmsman will release a Newport Blonde variant infused with black tea, agave, orange and lemon.
Sips With Less Sugar
Nestled into a harborside spot in Lido Marina Village, Lido Bottle Works serves a tasty combination of new American cuisine prepared with local and sustainable ingredients, paired with craft beer, wine and cocktails. To turn up the flavor while turning down the added sugars of other too-sweet cocktails, try the Shore Break, which tastefully combines a delicious balance of kombucha, lavender and “bubbles” to create a fresh blend that won’t break any diets. For those who want a bit more of a “pick-me-up” drink, Dawn Patrol mixes fermented vodka, coconut and cold brew for a caffeinated combination sans guilt.
Louie’s By The Bay also offers drinks with less sugar added. The modern Italian steakhouse, at once elegant and comfortable, is perched on the water along Mariner’s Mile in Newport Beach. For a healthier sip while taking in the 180-degree view of Newport Bay, try the signature Gwen’s Garden cocktail, which thoughtfully combines Surf City Still Works gin, cucumber, snap pea and lemon juice with celery bitters and tonic to create a fresh, light and zesty cocktail combo that’s got all of the good flavor with none of the bad feelings.
Stag Bar & Kitchen—more commonly known as “The Stag” by regulars—is one of Southern California’s oldest continuously operating bars, having operated for more than a century. But this bar’s seasoned lifespan hasn’t impacted its ability to keep up with the trends of modern times. The historic establishment offers a refreshing sip called the Cucumber Cooler, which brings together gin, elderflower liqueur, fresh lemon juice, agave, basil leaves and sliced cucumber.
The Tommy Bahama Restaurant, Bar & Store in Corona del Mar creates numerous zero-proof beverages that are just as enjoyable, but with none of the extra calories that alcohol can add to mixed drinks. Try the Blue My Mind, which combines muddled blueberries, passion fruit and scratch-made lemonade for a refreshing blend, or the Pain Chiller drink, which brings together orange, pineapple, cream of coconut and nutmeg to create a fun twist on the well-known Painkiller drink—it’s still a trip to the Caribbean, but it’s truly pain-free.