The Skinny on Low-Cal Cocktails


Say what you will about those housewives (you know the ones I’m talking about), but you’ve got to give reality-television star Bethenny Frankel her due for helping fuel a whole new beverage category. Thanks to the Skinnygirl brand margarita that she gave birth to on “The Real Housewives of New York” (and recently sold to a major spirits label for an unconfirmed $120 million), weight-conscious drinkers are clamoring for every kind of low-calorie cocktail, from sangria to mojitos. To find out what all the fuss is about, we sampled skinny margaritas at three Sacramento bars and discovered that no two low-cal concoctions are alike.

National chain The Cheesecake Factory has jumped headlong into the low-cal cocktail craze with five drinks topping out at 150 calories. The margarita we sampled lacked the citrusy brightness you expect from a lime-centric cocktail and carried an overwhelming aftertaste from the artificial sweetener, though it scored points for not being cloying. If you don’t mind the flavor of Splenda, this could be your drink.

The off-menu skinny margarita from Bandera, on the other hand, was all about the lime: tart, refreshing and clean tasting. To save on calories, Bandera omits the sweet-and-sour mix and pours the tequila and triple sec with a light hand. We would like to have tasted a tad more alcohol but appreciated that no gimmicky ingredients were used to keep the drink light. Perfect for those who don’t mind a lot of pucker.

The pour was heavier at Riverside Clubhouse (so heavy, in fact, we wondered how low-cal it could possibly be). But we have to dock points for the use of bottled lime juice. Rose’s just doesn’t cut it when fresh limes are available (and virtually calorie free).