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Turning down the booze with low alcohol cocktails

Low alcohol cocktails, also called low ABV-cocktails, have been around for quite some time. If you want to enjoy the delicious flavors of your favorite alcoholic concoctions, but want to skip the boozy content, then low alcoholic cocktails are the way to go.

Toning the alcohol by volume (ABV) down in your cocktails will spare you from the effects that come hand in hand with consuming vast amounts of boozy drinks.

What is a low alcohol cocktail?

So, what's considered a low alcohol cocktail? This question has multiple answers, but the general "golden" rule is that a cocktail should contain no more than 10% ABV in total. It doesn't matter what type of alcoholic ingredients are used, as long as the ABV does not exceed 10% or 20o proof.

The go-to ingredients used for low alcohol cocktails are usually fortified wines and liqueurs. They tend to have lower alcohol percentages themselves, thus making it easier for bartenders to reach the desired low percentages for low-alcohol cocktails. Spirits can also be used, but 15ml or less should do the job. 

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How to calculate ABV in cocktails

How much alcohol is really in my cocktail? Ask any bartender and I can guarantee you that they've had this question asked to them on multiple occasions. Being a bartender myself during a busy bar shift, I would give a rough estimate on what I thought the ABV would be. But wouldn't it be awesome to have the ABV of the cocktails on your drink menu already? Or at least know the percentages. 

The following calculations will help you calculate the units of alcohol and the percentages, thus making it easier for you to find out which cocktails are, and which cocktails aren't considered as low-alcohol cocktails.

Alcohol consumption is depicted in units. 1 unit equals 10 grams of pure alcohol (ethanol) at 100%.

1 unit of alcohol is present in:

  • 25ml of any spirit at 40%

  • 100ml of any wine at 10%

  • 200ml of any beer at 5%

  • 10ml of 100% pure ethanol

Calculating alcohol units:

Strength (ABV) x volume (ml) ÷ 1000 = units

Examples:

A: 1 glass of beer of 250ml, 5% ABV

B: 1 glass of wine of 100ml, 12% ABV

Result:

A: Strength (5) x volume (250) = 1250 ÷ 1000 = 1.25 units

B: Strength (12) x volume (120ml) = 1440:1000 = 1.44 units

Calculating ABV in cocktails:

(amount 'strong' x ABV%) ÷ (total ml in cocktail) x 100

Example:

Cosmopolitan 

  • 30 ml Vodka (40% ABV)

  • 30 ml Triple Sec (38% ABV)

  • 30 ml cranberry juice

  • 10 ml lime juice

  • 20 ml water (diluted ice from shaking the cocktail)

Result:

Amount strong: 30 x 0.4 + 30 x 0.38 = 23.4

Total ml in cocktail = 120 ml

23.4 ÷ 120 x 100= 19.5 ABV

Units per Cosmopolitan: 19.5 x 120 ÷ 1000= 2.3 units

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So, now you can let your guests/ customers know how much alcohol is in their cocktails. Now, remember, low alcohol or low ABV cocktails are here to stay. They are fairly simple to make and have positive benefits being lower in alcohol and are freaking delicious. Less alcohol equals more flavor!

We've also summed up a couple of low alcohol cocktails we think are worth trying out:

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