*This is from May 2014, reposted on the site November 2014.
There are always occasions to have a drink, and May is no exception. Here in Kentucky it's hard to imagine celebrating Derby Day without a mint julep in hand.
Now if you don't drink, there's no reason to start. Alcohol is toxic to the liver, it's inflammatory, dehydrating, addictive, and it's far from a productive part of a weight-loss plan.
That said, it's a part of our social fabric, it's fun, and it can be downright delicious (all when consumed responsibly).
There are many different ways to approach consuming alcohol in a healthy way.
The Paleo diet: In its strictest sense Paleo forbids alcohol, but many Paleo followers have amended this to exclude only grain based alcohols, including: beer, bourbon, whiskey, scotch, gin, sake, and grain vodka. This means that wine, potato vodka, brandy, hard cider, rum, and tequila are "Paleo safe."
Lowest calorie: Most of you know I don't like thinking in terms of calories, because nutrition is far from that cut and dry. That said, I'm sure you're curious about this. A 5oz glass of wine has about 100 calories. A shot of liquor (no mixers) comes in about the same. Beer varies, but comes in about double. Most of the calorie trouble comes with quantity and mixers. Fruity cocktails, soda splashes, and mixed shots add up quickly! A vodka soda with a lime or a glass of wine is your best bet in this regard.
Gluten free: The alcohols that are Paleo-approved are all gluten-free, but so are sorghum-based beers, gin, and sake. Sake is made from rice, so it isn't Paleo, but is is gluten-free (if it's of decent quality). Technically the distillation process should remove all traces of gluten from liquors such as whiskey and bourbon. That said, many people who are highly sensitive or have Celiac disease find they still react. Choose these liquors with caution.
Least sugar: Hard alcohols/liquors (without added flavors or mixers) are technically sugar-free because the sugar has been fermented into alcohol. Beer is high in carbs, and liqueurs are typically high in sugar. Wine is a fairly reasonable option, especially dry reds.
So, what's my advice?
Best choice: Red wine! Bonus points if it is organic. Red wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which is why it has been touted as a healthy part of your diet. It's approved by all of the above alcohol considerations. Also, it makes food delicious and tends not to cause bad hangovers (but you weren't planning on drinking that much anyway, right?).
Second place: White wine (preferably dry). White wine doesn't have resveratrol, and the dessert wines such as Rieslings are approaching the sugar content of fruit juice (high!), but dry white wines are very fairly in second place.
But what if you don't like wine?
Third place: Gluten-free spirits such as potato vodka with non-sugary mixers (see below) or healthy mixers (think homemade bloody mary) are a good option. I think other liquors, either straight or with good mixers, are also a reasonable choice, but listen to your body and don't choose drinks that you know come with a higher price (for many of us, I'm talking about tequila here!).
Other things to keep in mind:
For mixers: Choose mixers that have a low sugar content, such as water/ice, soda water, lemon juice or lime juice. Avoid fruit juices, sweetened sodas, and tonic water.
Don't over pour: A drink is 1.5oz of liquor (one shot), 5oz wine, or 12oz beer.
Choose quality: Everyone knows a cheap liquor will make you feel worse than a good quality one. When you indulge, indulge well.
And the classic old rule: Moderation!
So make yourself a good drink and enjoy it to the last drop! As always, listen to your body. Drive safely and soberly, and have a great time.