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Food and Drink Features

Skinnier cocktails

Bars around the metro are starting to offer skinnier versions of sugary favorites, but some cocktails have always been skinny.

Greg Horton September 7th, 2011

You know “skinny” is a popular trend when Cheesecake Factory adds menu items under that category. The chain best known for massive portions and the signature dessert in its name added low(er) calorie cocktails at the beginning of 2011, most notably a skinny Mojito and a margarita, classic drinks with a week’s supply of sugar in the recipe.

Much of the credit for the trend goes to Bethenny Frankel, the natural foods chef and reality television star who started Skinnygirl Cocktails. The company featured a signature margarita with 100 calories for a 4-ounce serving. The trend was catchy, but very few people drink 4-ounce cocktails.

Margaritas tend to come in large tumblers, king-size goblets or small boats. Actual numbers are difficult to come by, but a typical 10-ounce perfect margarita that uses Triple Sec or another orange-flavored liquor can have 550-600 calories. That’s often more than the meat portion of a meal. Combine that with the 1,000-calorie burrito or the “healthy” 1,400-calorie salad, and you’re on your way to overindulging.

Portion control is more important, it seems, than actual calories per ounce. Jason Ewald, beverage director for A Good Egg Dining Group — the parent company for metro restaurants such as Red Prime, 504 N. Broadway, and Cheever’s, 2409 N. Hudson — said the group has never marketed skinny cocktails, but offered some suggestions for drinking skinnier.

“Classic cocktails offer portion control as another option if you want ‘skinny,’” Ewald said. “Straight alcohol has nine calories per gram. If you drink a classic cocktail, like our version of the aviator, you get a 3-ounce cocktail with only gin, lime juice and maraschino liqueur. The calories are very low as long as you don’t drink four of them.”

A Good Egg, which also owns Republic Gastropub, 5830 N. Classen, has started making a skinny version of a margarita.

“Republic has a platinum margarita made with agave nectar  instead of sugary margarita mix,” Ewald said. “I’ve never heard of it referred to or marketed as ‘skinny,’ but it is.”

The trend toward substituting agave nectar for margarita mix is catching, partly due to calorie issues, but mainly as a result of demands for more natural ingredients.

Ashley Parks, a representative at Republic National Distributing, said both Bourbon Street, 100 E. California, and In the Raw, 575 S. University in Norman, have added Partida skinny margaritas that feature agave nectar.

One metro restaurant has taken the additional step of introducing a separate menu for skinnier cocktails. West, 6714 N. Western, launched its “skinnies” menu Aug. 1, featuring five cocktails with 130 or fewer calories. Andy Dixon, beverage director for West, said the response has been very good.

“People have really responded well,” he said. “I was skeptical when Kortney Haynes, our event coordinator, approached me with the idea, but after tasting the drinks, I was amazed at how good they tasted.”

The West menu features the classic margarita and Mojito, but also includes three signature drinks. Dixon said the Mojito and the club special have been the most popular. The club special is fresh lemon and lime juice, agave nectar, vodka and soda water.

“The cocktails are all made with fresh fruit, agave nectar and spirits,” Dixon said. “The only other ingredient is soda water, and you get no calories from that.”

Dixon said the cocktails are more refreshing than traditional mixes because they are lighter and fresher. “Taking out all that sugar keeps them clean and fresh, not syrupy,” he said.

The common element, other than agave nectar, really seems to be portion control, and that’s important in food and booze. Clearly, there are no secrets and no magic here, just good sense.

“Portion size has really come into focus for us,” Ewald said. “Classic recipes call for smaller portions, but you have to be willing to only drink a couple cocktails.”

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