Robyn Flipse, MS. MA, RDN
Consultant to the Calorie Control Council
There are countless concoctions from around the world that play a starring role in the celebrations of other cultures, just like lemonade does in the USA on Independence Day. If you want to omit the alcohol from a classic cocktail, you can still capture the flavor created by the distinctive combinations of mixers, fruits and spices without it.. And if you want to avoid excess calories and carbohydrates, you can replace the sugar and sweet syrups with no-calorie alternatives.
Let the fun begin by planning a tasting party to prepare and sample some drinks from other countries. Here are 5 recipes to get you started.
American Lime Rickey is traditionally made with the freshly squeezed juice of one lime, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 8 ounces of seltzer water and 2 ounces of gin served over ice in a tall glass with a lime wedge garnish. The gin can easily be omitted for an alcohol-free version, and a sugar-free version can be made using one packet of a no-calorie sweetener, like Equal, in place of the sugar or using a diet citrus-flavored soda in place of the seltzer and sugar.
Indian Lassi is a yogurt-based drink often served sweet and chilled in hot weather or as a savory beverage after meals to aid digestion. The basic ingredients are yogurt, milk or water, sugar or salt, and spices, with the addition of fruit in some regions. Mango Lassi has become an international favorite, with just a hint of cardamom, made here with sugar or a no-calorie substitute.
West Africa Ginger Root Drink can be enjoyed cold or hot, but either way, it provides the healing powers of ginger along with the heady refreshment of this spicy root. The addition of peppercorns in this version gives it an extra kick without any alcohol! Replacing the sugar with a no-calorie sweetener works just as well in maintaining the balance between the peppery and sweet tastes in this restorative drink.
Moroccan Mint Tea is served throughout the day to invited guests and drop-in visitors alike as a sign of hospitality in Moroccan homes. It is typically drunk from small glass cups presented and poured in a ceremonial fashion no matter what the occasion, and is always served hot. The brew includes fresh spearmint, green tea, sugar and water and can be made just as sweet with a no-calorie substitute for the sugar.
Spanish Sangria is basically a red wine punch and like any punch, the flavor combinations are endless. The key ingredients are wine, brandy, fruit, sweetener and sparkling water, and the fruit can include any type from citrus to berries to peaches, pears and pineapple. To make your own sangria just mix one cup of chopped fruit with 4 ounces of brandy, 750mL bottle of red wine and 3 ounces of simple syrup (or equivalent sugar-free syrup) in a pitcher, and then chill to develop the flavors. When ready to serve, pour it over ice in a stemmed glass – being sure you get some of the fruit in each glass – and top off with club soda. If you’d like to try a non-alcoholic version, cranberry juice stands in for the wine in this Cranberry Spritzer Punch and it uses a sugar substitute and diet soda to replace some of the added sugars.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.