Tis’ the season for awkward tan lines, socially distant backyard BBQ’s and weekends spent on the docks at the cottage. Summer is officially here, which means an assortment of new summer-themed alcoholic drinks have hit LCBO shelves.
Since I’m not a beer drinker, my go-to drinks in the summer usually consist of white wine, hard ciders, or fruit flavoured coolers. Are you seeing a trend here? I might as well have said: “In the summer I consume copious amounts of liquid sugar”.
I can’t even count the number of times I’ve woken up after an evening of indulging in a few too many wobbly pops and experienced sugar gut-rot ten times worse than the actual hangover that one would expect after a night of drinking. There’s a reason they don’t put a nutritional label on the side of a cooler can, it’s because the first ingredient is almost always sugar.
FACT: Most countries, including Canada don’t require nutritional labels to be placed on alcohol. If you don’t see a label on your booze, then it’s safe to assume that the sugar content is through the roof.
You’ve probably noticed that a lot of beverage companies have been more proactive lately about providing low-sugar, low-carb options for people who still want to enjoy a few summer bevy’s without the gut-rot. Luckily, they’ve realized that some of us don’t want to be in a sugar-induced coma all summer long. I mean, being hungover is one-thing, but it’s swimsuit season, who has time for summer weight gain? I’m still trying to lose my COVID-15!
Since there are SO many calorie-conscious drink options available now, I decided to take one for the team and try them all. That was an interesting day. Kidding! (or am I…?) What can I say, I’m a self-proclaimed under the influencer. You’re welcome.
Unfortunately, in most cases removing the sugar from booze also means removing the taste, which really defeats the purpose for me. Why would I consume a drink that I don’t even LIKE? I’m not in college anymore. Gone are the days of downing six shots of cheap bar rail just to get a good buzz on. Just like fine wine, my palate apparently got better with age.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most popular low-calorie summer drink options available at your local LCBO right now:
- White Claw Sparkling Water l 2. Georgian Bay Strawbery Gin Soda l 3. SoCIAL LITE Triple Berry Vodka Soda l 4. Smirnoff Seltzer White Peach Rosé l 5. Cottage Springs Ontario Peach Vodka Soda l 6. Palm Bay Zero Blackberry Lemon
Sugar 2 gm
Carbs 2 gm
When the White Claw pandemonium hit Canada, I was super pumped to give these vodka-based coolers a try. This was deemed THE drink of hot girl summer and basic bitches everywhere were losing their minds as this became the most trending topic on social media. When cases would hit stores, they’d sell out in hours. We have two flavours of this spiked sparkling water available at my local liquor store that I was able to get my hands on, black cherry and mango.
I may get my girl card taken away from me for saying this, but I was really disappointed in these. The black cherry flavour is quite fake tasting, and offensive to my palate. The mango was a lot better though, so if you want to see what all the hype is about, I would suggest starting with that flavour. I probably won’t be purchasing these again, but if choices are limited, and I was offered the mango flavour, I wouldn’t turn it down in a pinch.
Rating: 2.5 pineapples out of 5
Sugar 3 gm
Carbs 3 gm
This is a brand new flavour from a local beverage company in our area, Georgian Bay Spirit Co. Their Gin Smash was a giant hit a few summers back and even converted a lot of non-gin drinkers. Strawberry is one of my favourite flavours, and isn’t often one that you see as an option in boozy coolers, so when I saw the giant red strawberry popping off of the bright white can on the shelf, it drew me in immediately.
Not being a fan of gin typically, I was surprised that I couldn’t really taste it at all in this crisp, light sparkling soda. The flavour is still more subtle than I’d like, but it also has some hints of peppercorn that help to give the strawberry aftertaste a bit of a boost. I can’t drink many of them due to the amount of carbonation, but if you are looking for something light and refreshing, definitely give this Strawberry Soda a try. This drink is already a summer staple in my bar fridge.
Rating: 4.5 pineapples out of 5
Sugar 0 gm
Carbs 0 gm
I was first introduced to SoCIAL LITE vodka sodas at a food and wine show a few years ago. They were a brand new business at the time, and I remember being really impressed that they managed to cut the sugar without sacrificing the flavour. Founders of this Ontario beverage company were able to create a variety of different flavours that are lightly carbonated, flavourful, and won’t give you a sugar-high.
The Triple Berry flavour is new to the SoCIAL LITE line-up this year, and I have to say that once again this company knocked it out of the park. At only 80 calories, and zero sugar (that’s right, ZERO sugar), these refreshing coolers are ideal for someone looking to reduce their sugar intake while still enjoying a cold summer drink on a hot summer day. SoCIAL LITE coolers are also gluten-free and naturally flavoured, so you don’t get that bitter after-taste that you find with other low-cal drinks.
Rating: 5 pineapples out of 5
Sugar 0 gm
Carbs 0 gm
Being a huge rosé fan, I had high hopes that this was going to be the ideal sugar-free “rosé all day” substitute. Smirnoff is obviously well-known for their distilled vodka, but they also have a large variety of high-sugar, delicious tasting vodka coolers. When they finally released a no-sugar option, I couldn’t wait to try it.
Unfortunately, this completely missed the mark for me. This didn’t have the rosé taste that I was looking for, all I could taste was flat seltzer water with a hint of fake flavour. The peach flavour wasn’t prominent enough for me either, but if you actually enjoy the taste of seltzer water and are just looking for something with subtle flavouring, you might enjoy this one. I might actually make ice-cubes with this cooler and plop them in an ACTUAL glass of rosé – now we’re talking!
Rating: 1.5 pineapples out of 5
Sugar: 0 gm
Carbs; 0 gm
The Cottage Springs line-up of vodka soda’s were by far my favourite in this little tasting experiment. These sodas aren’t necessarily new, but they were new to me this year. Cottage Springs Brewing Co. is a Toronto based company that wanted to create a refreshing, low-calorie drink for the affluent cottage-country crowd. They have quite a variety of flavours (including non-carbonated options if you can’t handle too many bubbles), but my favourites were the Ontario Peach and Watermelon.
This crisp, lightly carbonated vodka water is bursting with peach flavour, which, dare I say, even resembles Tim Horton’s famous peach juice a little bit. Gluten-free and keto-friendly, these coolers will be in regular rotation for me this summer.
Rating: 5 Pineapples out of 5
Sugar: 0 gm
Carbs: 0 gm
Palm Bay’s have been a guilty pleasure of mine for years, and you KNOW they’ve been yours too, so just admit it already. Pumping out delicious summer drinks like Mango Passionfruit, and Strawberry Pineapple, I was thrilled to see that Palm Bay finally released a no sugar, low-calorie option. Palm Bay Zero comes in two flavours, Blackberry Lemon and Key Lime Cherry. I have yet to try the Key Lime Cherry, but the blackberry lemon was quite good.
These coolers have a really light and refreshing blackberry taste. The aftertaste even had notes of grape Crush (follow me for more sophisticated reviews). Im not really a big fan of lemon, but luckily for me, it isn’t that prominent. My only critique would be that they should have stuck with their standard 355 ml short can. I find the tall can a bit too much carbonation for me and since I sip these slowly, they tend to get warm too quickly.
Rating: 4.5 pineapple out of 5
If I’m being honest, I probably wouldn’t consume any of these cocktails if I wasn’t consciously trying to reduce my sugar intake and avoid summer weight gain. Quite frankly, their sugary counterparts are much more enjoyable to my taste buds. Since all of these low sugar drinks are carbonated, I find they tend to cause a bit of bloat, therefore I can usually only consume one or two. (How’s THAT for drinking in moderation?)
I have tried many other low-calorie options as well, so feel free to reach out if something you’ve been meaning to try didn’t make this particular list. I’ve been on this taste test journey for a while y’all…