One of summer’s greatest pleasures is dining alfresco with a cool cocktail in hand. But there’s no getting around the fact that most alcoholic beverages are loaded with hidden sugars that can derail the benefits of a healthy diet and your morning after. Fortunately, it’s possible to be mindful of what you’re drinking while toasting the sunniest season of all.
“While all alcohol should be limited, not having a drop of it for the rest of our lives isn’t realistic [for many],” says Los Angeles–based nutritionist Kimberly Snyder, C.N., whose clientele includes numerous Hollywood A-listers. As she explains, all alcohol is not created equal. “Wine is a good option,” she says, “but opt for an organic or biodynamic bottle to avoid extra sulfates.”
When you’re in the mood for a spirit, skip premade mixes that contain refined sugar, preservatives, and color additives. Instead, “pick a drink made with fresh ingredients, like lime juice or muddled berries,” says Snyder. “Vodka or tequila on the rocks with a splash of lime is also a great alternative.” And for an extra boost of antioxidants, Snyder recommends using a homemade or natural store-bought kombucha as the base of your summer cocktail. “It’s low in sugar and packed with vitamin B, which can help aid in hangover prevention,” she notes.
Other mixing ingredients that help stop a hangover before it begins include pineapple (known to have anti-inflammatory properties) and coconut water, which provides electrolytes to help balance the dehydration of alcohol. Beyond that, Snyder advises clients to arrive at the bar fully hydrated and to eat foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like chia seeds and leafy greens, before drinks.
Fortunately, if you forego these steps before a night out and are feeling it the next day, it’s still possible to troubleshoot. “Flush out toxins first thing with a mug of hot water and lemon,” suggests Snyder, and “take a probiotic to help rebalance your gut.” She also recommends avoiding caffeine, salt, dairy, or any iced drinks, which can delay efficient digestion.
If all else fails, Snyder suggests inhaling the aroma of lavender—fresh or in essential oil form—throughout the day: “It’s soothing and anecdotally believed to help you get over a hangover.” Here, her favorite recipe for a cocktail that’s low in calories, yet high in summer flavor.
Refreshing Cucumber Cooler
1 medium cucumber (about 1⁄4 pound)
2 T fresh mint leaves, plus a few sprigs for garnishing
3⁄4 cup cool filtered water
1 shot of vodka or gin
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice
3⁄4 tsp. stevia
Peel the cucumber if it is non-organic. Cut a single thin slice from one end of the cucumber and reserve. Juice the cucumber and mint together in a juicer. If no juicer is available, blend the cucumber, mint, and water in a blender or food processor, and then strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. Pour the cucumber juice into a tall glass.
Stir in the vodka or gin, lime juice, stevia, and filtered water (if you did not blend it in already). If you want to emulate a classic cocktail, shake it up in a cocktail shaker with a little ice. Although drinking it cool without ice is ideal digestion-wise, says Snyder.
Garnish the cooler with a sprig of fresh mint and cucumber slice.