Low-Cal Cocktails: Didn't We Used to Just Call Those Shots?

Margaritas are supposed to signify the pinnacle of lazy summer good-timing, but bartenders say drinkers are increasingly worrying about the cocktail's caloric content.

Weighing in at more than 700 calories, the traditional tequila concoction's become a favorite bogeyman for women's magazines and nutritionists, who point out a margarita made from a mix is no healthier than a hefty slice of cherry chocolate cheesecake. They usually don't dare to suggest equivalents for two margaritas, which would account for about two-thirds of the suggested daily caloric intake for a 40-year old woman.

So what might a lady on a diet do? She could stick to cocktails made from fresh ingredients or sip water instead of booze. Or, she might indulge in the latest and most American of fads: The low-calorie cocktail.

Low-cal cocktails -- which are apparently popular with imbibers of both genders -- have this summer made their way from health blogs to legitimate bars. Former Top Chef contestant and Truvia spokesman Sam Talbot is busily pitching a 150-calorie blueberry mojito, while the Southwestern restaurant chain Z'Tejas claims it's shaved 500 calories off a margarita: Their "skinny margarita," sweetened with agave, will debut later this month.

According to Z'Tejas spokesperson Deborah Topcik, beer lovers aren't the only drinkers seeking slimmed-down alternatives to their favorite beverages.

"Customers were asking our bartenders for different options," Topcik says.

Topcik says Z'Tejas, which has four Texas locations, can't take credit (or blame) for mainstreaming diet margaritas. Earlier this year, Kona Grill introduced a 115-calorie "sukini marg."

"We're at that time when we're evaluating everything in our lives," Topcik says solemnly. "People are looking at calories."

Even, it seems, when they're lying by the pool and listening to Jimmy Buffet. With margaritas having officially joined the sun, grilled food and runaway parade horses on the list of summer health hazards, it's probably no wonder some folks need a stiff drink.

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