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12 Best Low-Alcohol Drinks (That Still Taste Good)

I don’t have an aversion to the occasional drink, but I also don’t like the harsh taste of alcoholic beverages. When I do have a social drink, it tends to be either a sweet red wine or a sloe gin fizz which I request be made with half the normal amount of sloe gin. I discovered sloe gin during my stint as a bartender.

There are many of the more familiar types of alcoholic beverages like whiskey and vodka that are now available in a low-alcohol version, and wine and beer, which are already lower in alcohol than hard liquor, also now come in low- and no-alcohol versions.

So, for folks who are trying to limit their alcohol intake for health or dietary reasons and those like me who are not particularly fond of the strong taste of alcohol but who would like to order a mixed drink when friends are ordering margaritas to go with their favorite Mexican food, I have put together a list of what I consider to be the 13 best-tasting low alcohol drinks for those times when an alcoholic beverage seems appropriate.

Recommended Mixed Drinks

1. Dirty Shirley

Dirty Shirley Cocktail with Cherry Soda and Vodka

The next low-alcohol mixed drink that provides a refreshing beverage for any occasion is based on the traditional children’s drink called a Shirley Temple, but with alcohol added to create an adult version.

The original Shirley Temple was named for the famous child star of the 1930s and 1940s and was made by mixing lemon-lime soda with a mixture of fresh orange, lemon, and lime juice, topped off with a dash of grenadine and garnished with a maraschino cherry.

The Dirty Shirley, however, is made by following this recipe:

  • ½ ounce grenadine
  • 2 ounces of Keel Vodka
  • 8 ounces of ginger ale
  • 1 maraschino cherry

The grenadine, vodka, and ginger ale are poured over ice into a highball glass and garnished with a maraschino cherry.

Most vodka, which is made from fermented grains and potatoes, is 80 proof, weighing in at 40% alcohol, while Keel Vodka only contains 23.8% alcohol.

Related 6 Best Alcoholic Drinks That Are Easy on the Stomach.

2. Low-Proof Daiquiri

Tropical orange and daquiri cocktail

While the Daiquiri is a traditional drink that has been enjoyed for many years, it has been modernized in a low-proof version to meet the needs of persons who prefer a mixed drink with less alcohol. The traditional daiquiri was made by shaking rum mixed with lime juice and simple syrup over ice, then straining it into chilled cocktail glasses.

Rum, which is made primarily in the Caribbean by distilling fermented molasses or sugarcane juice, is in most cases 80 proof although overproof rum can be up to 150 proof. So, for those daiquiri lovers who prefer less alcohol, a Daiquiri made by substituting sherry for rum will provide a refreshing change.

A Low-Proof Daiquiri can be made by following this recipe:

  • 2 ounces sherry
  • 1-ounce lime juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  1. Combine sherry, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker filled with ice.
  2. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
  3. Garnish with a lime wedge before serving.

Sherry is a type of wine made from white grapes. But what distinguishes sherry from other types of wine is that sherry, after fermentation, is fortified with brandy, producing an alcoholic wine with between 15% and 22% alcohol content.

3. Low-Proof Mint Julep

Lemon mint julep cocktails in traditional glasses

Having been born and raised in the South, my first thoughts on any topic will more than likely include something predominantly known as being Southern. The Mint Julep was once known as the drink of the Kentucky Derby and was traditionally served during Kentucky Derby Week. Made with a fine rich bourbon that is around 80-90 proof, the ingredient list for this drink included only bourbon and simple syrup, served over ice and garnished with mint sprigs.

The Low-Proof Mint Julep, however, is made with Cynar, the Amaro liqueur made from artichokes (Yes, you read that correctly!), which is only 16.5% alcohol. The recipe for the lower-alcohol version of the Mint Julep includes a few extra ingredients:

  • 1-½ ounces Cynar
  • 1-ounce grapefruit juice
  • ¼ ounce raspberry syrup
  • ¼ ounce lime juice

These ingredients are shaken over ice, strained into a julep cup over crushed ice, and garnished with fresh mint.

This more modern low-proof drink is delicious, refreshing, and offers an alcoholic drink that contains only a fraction of the alcohol content of the original Mint Julep.

Related The 9 Best Alcoholic Drinks That Are Easy to Drink.

4. Bourbon & Coke

A bartender adding lime to a bourbon whiskey and coke

If your drink of choice happens to be Bourbon & Coke, but you would like to lower your alcohol consumption, then you don’t have to give up the drink you love. Simply swap out the standard 80-proof whiskey for one of the flavored low-proof whiskeys. You get to enjoy your favorite drink and at the same time lower your alcohol consumption. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!

One of the best low-proof whiskeys is Whyte & Mackay Light, which rings in at just 21.5% alcohol, allowing you to have your couple of drinks and avoid a hangover the following day.

5. Low-Proof Vodka Collins

Tom Collins Cocktail with Lemon Wedge

There are several “Collins” drinks, including Tom Collins, made with gin, and Vodka Collins, made with vodka. Vodka is a clear alcohol made from fermented grains, potatoes, or beets, which is, in most cases, 80 proof. However, there is a low-proof vodka that has 25% less alcohol than the standard 80-proof version.

By substituting low-proof vodka for the standard version in a Vodka Collins, the result is a delicious drink for Collins lovers with 25% less alcohol content.

Here is the traditional Vodka Collins recipe made with low-proof Keel Vodka:

  • 2 ounces Keel Vodka
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup
  • 6 ounces of club soda
  • Lemon wedge
  1. Combine the vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice cubes. 
  2. Shake well, and strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.
  3. Fill with club soda, stir, and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Recommended Wines

Here are some of the best-tasting wines in each category with the lowest alcohol content:

6. Sparkling: Les Capriades ‘Pet Sec’ Chenin Blanc NV

Made from white Chenin Blanc grapes, this wine comes from Loire Valley, has a fruity taste, and only contains 10.5% alcohol.

7. Piquette: Wild Arc Farm Piquette

This wine, crafted by a small winery in upstate New York, is getting rave reviews for their Piquette wines that only contain approximately 7% alcohol. 

The Piquette wines are made by an old French winemaking method that recycles grape skins, called pomace, from grapes that have already been pressed by soaking the pomace for a couple of days, pressing them, and allowing them time to ferment. After fermentation, the results are then combined with some of the wine from the original pressing, and some local honey is added before bottling. This wine is naturally light, lower in alcohol content, but high in flavor.

8. White: Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina

This wine, made from ancient Basque grapes, is Vegan friendly and contains 10.5% alcohol.

9. Red:Broc Cellars Valdiguié Nouveau 

This particular wine is a combination of red, white, and rose with tasting notes of “Swedish fish, melon, and tropical fruit punch” and has 11.5% alcohol content.

10. Off-Dry / Sweet: Braida Brachetto d’Acqui 

This wine is sweet, fragrant, and pairs well with fruit and desserts, and for the chocolate lovers among us, it is “a perfect match for chocolate.” This wine has a low 5.5% alcohol content.

Related The Sugar Content of Alcoholic Drinks | With Detailed Chart.

Recommended Beers

11. Run Wild IPA by Atlantic Brewing Company

According to the listwire of USA Today, this non-alcohol beer with only 0.5% alcohol received the most votes recently from beer advocates as the best of 15 low-alcohol beer options.

12. Boston Beer Sam Light by Samuel Adams

Boston Beer Sam Light is a great-tasting beer and the light version of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. It only has 4.3% alcohol, and it is the result of over two years of testing by the Samuel Adams Company.

The Healthiness of Low-Alcohol Drinks

Even though many people enjoy alcoholic beverages from time to time, we all know that there are many reasons why too much alcohol consumption is not good for our health and is even damaging. In fact, there are too many ways that alcohol is detrimental to our health, for me to mention here.

But are low-alcohol drinks better for you? Let’s ask the experts.

According to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control), “Reducing the amount of alcohol, you drink can improve your short- and long-term health. Even small changes can make a big difference.”

In a 2019 Women’sHealth article by Dr. Hazel Wallace, her professional opinion is that while low or no-alcohol drinks are certainly a better choice than regular alcoholic beverages, if you have a problem with alcohol consumption, it is better to avoid any alcoholic drinks and to “speak with your health care provider if you have any concerns about your alcohol consumption.”

What The Term “Proof” Means As It Relates To Alcohol

The term proof has historical significance and originated during the 1500s as a way of expressing whether alcohol was indeed full strength or had been watered down. The amount of alcohol contained in any alcoholic beverage is measured as a percentage of the total volume in that particular alcoholic beverage, and the proof is expressed as twice the percentage of alcohol. So if there is 50% alcohol present in the beverage, then it is said to be 100 proof.

The majority of alcoholic beverages are produced as 80 proof, or containing 40% alcohol, because that is the standard set by the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1936, which was passed to regulate all phases of the “distilled spirits” trade, including the production, import, and sale of those products. This percentage, however, is for hard spirits. Wine and beer contain a lower percentage of alcohol per volume.

I should add here that this is the standard in the United States, and that each country sets its own standards for the regulation of the distilled spirits industry. In many countries, the percentage of alcohol content is also its proof.

For a more comprehensive explanation of the term “alcohol proof” take a look at this article by Uptown Spirits.

Alcohol Proof Chart

Here is a comparison of the alcohol “proof” of the low or no-alcohol beverages mentioned here to their regular counterparts:

DrinkRegular ProofRegular % of AlcoholLow-Alcohol ProofLow-Alcohol % of Alcohol
Bourbon & Coke8040%4321.5%
Low Alcohol Daiquiri80 (Rum)40%30-44 (Sherry)15-22%
Low Alcohol Mint Julep80-9040-45%3316.5%
Vodka Collins8040%6030%
Sparkling Wine23-2511.5-12.52110.5%
Piquette Wine147%
White Wine10-245-14%2110.5%
Red Wine24-3012-15%2111.5%
All-Dry – Sweet2814%115.5%
No-Alcohol Beer105%10.5%
Low-Alcohol Beer105%8.64.3%

Final Thoughts

Whether you are interested in reducing your alcohol intake for health reasons, for fewer calories, for the taste of a less harsh alcoholic drink, or to avoid that next-day hangover, there are many options available. There are a variety of low-alcohol and even no-alcohol beverages that can provide you with a social drink without all the “headaches.” 

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

For more, don’t miss 6 Least Acidic Alcoholic Drinks (And 6 to Avoid).