Belly-up to the bar – and to the calories! The 10 most fattening drinks

Susan Yara

Margaritas have a whopping 740 calories. But that’s nothing compared to the Long Island iced tea. Check out the top 10 most fattening, with carb and calorie counts.

After a night of drinking cocktails, most people will not only wake up the next morning with a screaming hangover, they’ll wake up fatter too.

That’s because the average serving of one ounce of 80-proof alcohol contains about 90 calories. And that’s before mixers are added. While many people who spend hours on treadmills or yoga mats may smugly eschew dessert or ban butter from their diets, often they will happily consume a cocktail–or three–without giving it a second thought. But they do so at considerable peril to their waistlines. A Pina Colada, for example, has more calories than a Big Mac.

That could spoil Happy Hour on your next trip to Mexico.

Of all the evils of alcohol, weight gain is probably the least discussed. To be sure, there are many far worse results of alcohol abuse, but many people are still ignorant of the danger booze poses to their pant size.

We don’t mean that the occasional cocktail will instantly result in a Brobdingnagian beer belly, but you shouldn’t be fooled just because these drinks taste light and fruity. Not only do spirits, such as vodka, gin, rum and whiskey, contain a higher percentage of calories than beer and wine, but if you add fruit juice, syrups and sodas to the mix–for example, orange juice has 56 calories per serving and Coca-Cola has 105 calories per eight fluid ounces–the calorie count keeps growing. And don’t think that drinking fewer cocktails with a bigger kick will solve that problem: The higher the proof, the greater the calories.

While most alcohol doesn’t contain actual fat, its calories tend to be stored in the abdomen. “It’s hard for the body to process and eliminate many alcohols at one time, and sugar makes us fat,” says Michael George, a fitness expert and author of Body Express Makeover (and a nutritionist from ABC’s reality series Extreme Body Makeover).

For people who exercise regularly and are in reasonably good physical shape, drinking a few Screwdrivers on Saturday night won’t be a big deal. But for anyone trying to shed a few pounds, any decent nutritionist would argue that alcohol and weight loss mix like whiskey and grapefruit juice.

Nevertheless, many people see cocktails as a glamorous and tasty alternative to beer and the typically mediocre wine sold in most bars. Over the past decade, consumption of spirits–particularly premium spirits–has been on the rise. In the U.S. alone, vodka is the best-selling spirit, with sales rising 12.6% to $3.3 billion in 2004, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. A distant second is rum, which is up 8% to $1.6 billion.

But don’t feel you have to be condemned to a life of white wine spritzers (a five ounce glass contains 100 calories). Roughly knowing how many calories are in what you’re drinking will make you not only a smarter drinker, but a healthier and thinner one, too. Depending on the ingredients, that cocktail shouldn’t necessarily give your personal trainer the vapors.

For example, in New York City night clubs such as Lotus and Level V, one of the most popular cocktails is the watermelon martini–a fruity, pink mixture of vodka, simple syrup and pureed watermelon–that has only 125 calories. That’s not too bad for the calorie conscious–except for the sugar content. The real issues come with cocktails and drinks, like Long Island Ice Tea, that contain several types of liquors and additives.

“I usually recommend vodka with a splash of juice to my clients. What’s even better is vodka on the rocks or with soda water,” says Ashley Borden, a celebrity fitness and lifestyle consultant in Los Angeles, “I also tell them to have a glass of water to sip, too.”

Eugene Remm, director of promotions for Be Our Guest Restaurants and James Hotels, says any type of liquor on the rocks is a great alternative to the cocktail, and he’s recently noticed more people drinking this way. “Those who were once margarita drinkers…are drinking Corazon Blanco, and instead of adding the sweet and fattening syrups, they’re just putting it on the rocks.”

It may be hard to remember this information as you become increasingly squiffy. If all else fails, you could always ask the bartender or waitress to help you make a selection. Another resolution would be to indulge in cocktails made from fresh-squeezed juices, like those served at New York City’s Double Seven lounge. Most cocktails contain refined sugar, but drinks like the Gold Rush are bourbon, honey and a splash of lemon juice. The drinks taste stronger without so many additives, but tickle your taste buds just the same. It’s part of a drink list created by Sasha Petraske, owner of the fashionable cocktail-lounge Milk and Honey in Manhattan’s Chinatown, and with each sip you’ll find yourself forgetting about things like calories, which, after all, is the point of a cocktail in the first place.

#1 Long Island Ice Tea

Calories: 780
Carbohydrates: 44 grams

Ingredients: one part vodka, one part tequila, one part rum, one part gin, one part triple sec, 1 1/2 parts sweet and sour mix, a splash of Coke (The liquor should equal two or three total shots.)

Nutritionists say drinks with more than one liquor combined with a cordial pack in the calories. Coke also contains a large amount of sugar, adding even more calories. Instead of drinking a meal, substitute this one for rum mixed with Diet Coke and topped with a slice of lime; it will save you more than 600 calories.

#2 Margarita

Calories: 740
Carbohydrates: 56 grams

Ingredients: 4 ounces limeade, 4 ounces tequila, 1/3 ounce triple sec (The limeade is usually a premix.)

On a hot day, this south-of-the-border favorite may taste great, but you might as well have dinner at Taco Bell with all of the calories it contains. At Level V nightclub in New York City, the calorie conscious are substituting the margarita for the Corazon Blanco tequila on the rocks with a splash of lime.

#3 Pina Colada

Calories: 644
Carbohydrates: 90 grams

Ingredients: 3 ounces light rum, 3 tbsp. coconut milk, 3 tbsp. crushed pineapples (Most bars and clubs tend to use premix, which is almost purely sugar and makes this drink even worse for you.)

Some people like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain, but they may have to get over it. This cocktail isn’t as much fun when you realize how many calories it has. Don’t kill the messenger. Instead, substitute this one with vanilla-flavored vodka and Diet Coke, and you’ll save yourself more than 500 calories.

#4 White Russian

Calories: 425
Carbohydrates: 26 grams

Ingredients: 2 ounces vodka, 1 1/2 ounces coffee liqueur, 1 1/2 ounces heavy cream

All of the creamy drinks are filled with calories. They taste great and add a nice touch after dinner, but they combine sugar and fat. The only real substitute for heavy-cream drinks are desserts–they’re basically the same thing.

#5 Mai Tai

Calories: 350
Carbohydrates: 30 grams

Ingredients: 1 ounce light rum, 1/2 ounce dark rum, 1/2 ounce creme de almond, 1/2 ounce triple sec, sweet and sour mix, pineapple juice

The Mai Tai is popular because it has a lot of flavor and tastes like dessert, but it also has plenty of calories. It’s a tropical concoction that will make your body look terrible on the beach. Trade it for a flavored vodka and Diet Coke, and then add a maraschino cherry.

#6 Champagne Cocktail

Calories: 250
Carbohydrates: 13 grams

Ingredients: 6 ounces champagne, 1 1/2 ounces cognac, 1 ounce lemon juice, 1 tsp. sugar

Champagne cocktails are more popular than ever, but champagne is pure sugar, meaning each additive just adds more calories. Another popular champagne cocktail to substitute for the French 75 is the Bellini–just make sure the bartender uses real peaches and doesn’t add any more sugar.

#7 Fog Cutter

Calories: 225
Carbohydrates: 13 grams

Ingredients: 1 1/2 ounces light rum, 1/2 ounce gin, 1/2 ounce brandy, 1 tsp. sherry, 1 ounce orange juice, 3 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 1/2 tsp. orgeat syrup

The Fog Cutter is another cocktail that consists of more than one liquor. Nutritionists say the combination is harsh on your body, plus a drink this strong needs a lot of additives to make it sweet. Instead, pick one of the liquors and have it on the rocks with a splash of orange juice.

#8 Gin/Vodka & Tonic

Calories: 200
Carbohydrates: 14 grams

Ingredients: 2 ounces gin/vodka, 5 ounces tonic water, one lime wedge

Wait a second, isn’t this a low calorie drink? That’s what most people think, but in actuality, it’s packed with sugar from the tonic water. This isn’t the most fattening drink out there, but we thought it’s best to warn you that the calories aren’t being spared with this one–it’s even worse than a Cosmo. Instead, ask for club soda with your spirit of choice.

#9 Mojito

Calories: 160
Carbohydrates: 12 grams

Ingredients: 2 to 3 ounces rum, 1 tsp. lime juice, 2 tsp. sugar, fresh mint leaves, club soda (Most bars and clubs use sugar water to sweeten this drink even more.)

The most popular drinks at places like Lotus nightclub in New York City are the rum-inspired drinks, like Mojitos and caprinhas. Mojitos aren’t too bad, until you factor in the sugar used to sweeten them. Some bars use a lot and some don’t–it’s hard to know. But after a few of these minty numbers, you’ll be filled with calories. If you can’t let go of this one, ask the bartender if they can use Splenda instead of sugar.

#10 Cosmopolitan

Calories: 150
Carbohydrates: 10 grams

Ingredients: 1 ounce vodka, 1/2 ounce triple sec, 1/2 ounce lime juice, 1/2 ounce cranberry juice (Most bars and clubs will use syrup instead of lime juice, which contains even more sugar.)

The drink of every fashionable woman, but if they keep drinking them that sexy outfit won’t fit anymore. It may not have as many calories as the other drinks on our list, but you’ll drink this one quicker and find yourself ordering it again…and again. A simple solution is to order vodka with diet cranberry juice (yes, you can get diet cranberry) instead.

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