Low-carb alcohol – the best and the worst drinks

What alcoholic drinks are low carb? What are the best options on a low-carb diet, and some common mistakes? This guide will tell you what you need to know.

First of all: because of the way it’s processed by your body, too much alcohol may slow down your weight loss and undermine your health gains on a low-carb diet.1

In addition, it can impede weight loss by stimulating appetite and increasing food intake.2

However, if you can drink alcohol in moderation it might not be a major issue as long as it’s low in carbs.3 This may vary from person to person, though. Low-carb options include wine, champagne and pure spirits like whiskey and vodka. High-carb drinks? Beer and sugary cocktails.

Below you’ll find all the details, the options with fewer carbs are to the left.

Disclaimer: Consumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems if consumed in excess. Note that on a low-carb diet you might need significantly less alcohol to get intoxicated. Women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy.


How many carbs?

Low-Carb Wine and Beer

Each of the numbers is the grams of carbs in a typical glass. The lowest-carb option is a flute of champagne with 1 gram of carbs. Dry white and red wine have around 2 grams per serving, though note that sweeter wines can have up to 4 grams or more (see below). A typical beer has 13 grams!

Wine

If you are eating a moderate low carb diet, about 20 to 50 carbs a day, dry wines probably can be enjoyed on a regular basis with little weight-loss impact from the carbs. If you are on a very strict low-carb or keto diet, consuming under 20 grams of carbs a day, a glass of wine on occasion is also fine. If, however, you find you are not losing weight, try cutting back on alcohol.

A glass of dry wine contains about 0.5 grams of sugar as well as small amounts of glycerol and other carbohydrate remains of the wine-making process, which usually amount to less than 2 grams of total carbs.4 It is unlikely that a glass of dry wine will impact blood sugar or insulin levels significantly.5

Sweeter wines, like Rieslings and Gewurztraminers, have about 4 carbs in a typical glass. Even sweeter dessert wines, like Muscato, Tokaj, Ice Wines, or fortified wines like Port, Sherry and Madeira, are all sweeter and contain more fructose, with carb counts per glass of around 5 grams or more.6

Beer

Alas, most beer is a no-go when you’re eating low carb. Its hops and fermented grains are like drinking liquid bread — and the big beer bellies it can produce proof-positive that it contributes to abdominal obesity.7 Not a good choice for weight loss or diabetes reversal.

However, carb counts can vary depending on the brand of beer, and there are a few lower carb options. Find out in our low-carb beer guide below.

Beer: how many carbs?

Low-Carb Beers

The numbers under the brands of beer represent the grams of carbs in a 12 oz. (355ml) bottle of beer.

As you can see, some very light American beers contain the least amount of carbs and can be consumed without derailing a low-carb diet, if you enjoy that type of beer. Check out the brands to the left in the graphic above.8

Other brands of beer are fairly high in carbs and should be consumed with caution or avoided completely, depending on how many carbs you target per day.

Spirits: how many carbs?

Low-Carb Spirits

If you drink hard liquor, this is how many grams of carbs are in a typical drink.

Whiskey, vodka, brandy, gin, tequila and other pure alcohols have zero carbs and so are fine on a low-carb diet. Don’t add juice, soft drinks, or other sweeteners like sweet cream. Adding tonic to zero-carb gin boosts its carbs to 16 grams per serving! Have vodka, soda water and lime instead for a no-carb summer drink.

Alternatively, if you insist, use diet tonic (with artificial sweeteners) for a zero-carb gin & tonic, though we generally recommend to avoid sweeteners.9

Think vodka and orange juice is a healthy choice? That gives you a whopping 28 grams of carbs, almost as bad as a rum & coke for 39 grams.

Coolers

Low-carb wine coolers

The numbers are the amount of carbs (sugar) in a bottle.

Sometimes called alcopops, spirit coolers, wine coolers or hard lemonades, these pre-mixed, packaged drinks are loaded with sugar and carbs. Do not drink if you want to stay low carb — you are drinking sugar.


 

Top 5 low-carb alcoholic drinks

Top 5 Alcoholic Drinks

On a low-carb diet, you can still enjoy a delicious drink or two on special occasions. Even though many alcoholic drinks contain a lot of sugar, there are still some decent low-carb options. Here’s our list of the top 5 low-carb alcoholic drinks.
 

  1. Champagne or sparkling wine (extra dry or brut) – one glass contains about 2 grams of net carbs.
  2. Nothing says celebration like a glass of bubbly! Although Champagne can be very expensive other kinds of sparkling wines or Cava come in a variety of prices and can be enjoyed as an aperitif, with your food or as a stand-alone drink.

  3. Dry wine – red or white – one glass contains about 2 grams of net carbs.
  4. There must be a reason why humans have been drinking wine for thousands of years. One of them is probably that it tastes really good with food. Ben Franklin even called wine “constant proof that God loves us”. Fortunately, drinking an occasional glass of dry wine is fine on a low-carb diet.

  5. “Skinny Bitch” – one long drink contains 0 grams of carbs.
  6. Skinny bitch is the drink for you if you want to skip sugar and artificial sweeteners. This sparkling long drink with vodka, soda, lime and ice tastes way better than it might sound.

  7. Whiskey – one drink contains 0 grams of carbs.
  8. Even though whiskey is made from various forms of grains, it’s zero carb and gluten free. It comes in many different classes and types. Too much ice can kill the flavor but serving it with a little dash of water can actually enhance the flavor.

  9. Dry Martini – one cocktail contains 0 grams of carbs.
  10. The iconic James Bond cocktail is made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. It’s still in the top of the most requested drinks. But make sure to order it shaken, not stirred.

 
Return to the top of the low-carb alcohol guide
 

 

 

Beware: Alcohol packs more punch on low carb

When on a strict low-carb diet, many people might need significantly less alcohol to get intoxicated.10 So be careful the first time you drink alcohol on low carb. Possibly, you may only need half as many drinks as usual to enjoy yourself. Low carb might save you money at the bar.

The reasons for this common experience are still unclear. It could be because the liver is busy producing ketones or glucose, and thus has less capacity to spare for burning alcohol, slowing down the process.

If you’re going to be driving be extra careful. Don’t drink and drive. On low carb this may be even more crucial.

Learn more surprising facts about low-carb diets and alcohol here:

Alcohol and the keto diet: 7 things you need to know

Q&A

Do you have more questions about low carb and alcohol? A few common questions are answered below, for more see our full low-carb FAQ.

Does drinking alcohol slow down weight loss on low carb?

Yes. The alcohol is burned first in the liver, slowing fat burning somewhat.11 Alcohol thus slows down weight loss.

Furthermore, drinking alcohol can remove inhibitions, and this can result in eating things you were not planning to or needing to eat.12 If that happens it further slows weight loss.

For effective weight loss, consume alcohol in moderation (choosing lower-carb options) or not at all.

Can you get a worse hangover on low carb?

Yes. Many people find that their tolerance is reduced on low carb, and that they are more likely to get a hangover.13 To minimize it don’t overconsume alcohol, and make sure to drink enough water.

What are the best alcoholic drinks that are low in carbs?

The top low-carb drinks are wine (dry white or red), champagne and pure zero-carb spirits like whiskey, gin or vodka (avoid cocktails with sugar in them).

 
Full low-carb diet FAQ

 

 

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  1. The Journal of Clinical Investigation 1988: Ethanol causes acute inhibition of carbohydrate, fat, and protein oxidation and insulin resistance [non-randomized study; weak evidence]

    The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999: De novo lipogenesis, lipid kinetics, and whole-body lipid balances in humans after acute alcohol consumption [non-randomized study; weak evidence]

  2. In addition to containing calories, alcohol seems to increase the amount of food people consume:

    British Journal of Nutrition 2019: The effect of alcohol consumption on food energy intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis [strong evidence]

    Appetite 2015: Moderate alcohol consumption stimulates food intake and food reward of savoury foods [crossover trial; moderate evidence]

    Appetite 2010: Short term effects of alcohol on appetite in humans. Effects of context and restrained eating [crossover trial; moderate evidence]

    Health Psychology 2016: Alcohol’s acute effect on food intake is mediated by inhibitory control impairments [randomized trial; moderate evidence]

  3. This is based on the clinical experience of low-carb clinicians. [weak evidence]

  4. References:

    Wikipedia: Winemaking process

    Wikipedia: European Union terms for wine

    Wikipedia: European Union terms for sparkling wine

    European Commission Regulation regarding wine products

    European Commission Regulation regarding sparkling wine products

  5. Drinking regular wine does not seem to provoke any noticeable increase in blood glucose or insulin levels:

    Food Chemistry 2014: The effect of different alcoholic beverages on blood alcohol levels, plasma insulin and plasma glucose in humans [non-randomized study; weak evidence]

    “In the United States, however, carbohydrates are taken to be whatever is left once the contents of water, alcohol, fat, protein and minerals in wine are accounted for. In the US, then, tartaric acid, glycerol and other substances that might not immediately be thought of as carbohydrates would be counted as such, and the carbohydrate content declared for a wine in the US could easily be twice the level that would be declared for the same wine in Australia”:

    BIO Web of Conferences 2014: An analysis of ingredient and nutritional labeling for wine [overview article; ungraded]

  6. For example, here are sugar levels in grams per litre (about 8 glasses) in sparkling wine, depending on sweetness ranking:

    Brut Nature (no added sugar) 0–3
    Extra Brut 0–6
    Brut 0–12
    Extra Dry, Extra Sec, Extra seco 12–17
    Dry, Sec, Seco 17–32
    Demi-sec, Semi-seco 32–50
    Doux, Sweet, Dulce 50+

  7. Drinking beer raises both blood sugar and insulin levels much more than wine or spirits:

    Food Chemistry 2014: The effect of different alcoholic beverages on blood alcohol levels, plasma insulin and plasma glucose in humans [non-randomized study; weak evidence]

  8. Diet Doctor will not benefit from your purchases. We do not show ads, use any affiliate links, sell products or take money from industry. Instead, we’re funded by the people, via our optional membership. Learn more

  9. This is because they maintain cravings for sweet foods, may stimulate overconsumption and may potentially have other negative health effects. Learn more

  10. This is commonly reported by people on a keto diet. However, there isn’t much scientific research yet to explain why tolerance seems to be reduced, just theories.

    Low carb and alcohol #6: Lower tolerance, worse hangovers

  11. The Journal of Clinical Investigation 1988: Ethanol causes acute inhibition of carbohydrate, fat, and protein oxidation and insulin resistance [non-randomized study; weak evidence]

    The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999: De novo lipogenesis, lipid kinetics, and whole-body lipid balances in humans after acute alcohol consumption [non-randomized study; weak evidence]

  12. Health Psychology 2016: Alcohol’s acute effect on food intake is mediated by inhibitory control impairments [randomized trial; moderate evidence]

  13. This is based on anecdotal reports. [very weak evidence]

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185 comments

  1. Sharon
    I’m confused I bought a bottle of Gordons gin yesterday and the nutrition label lists the carb count as 1.8g per 30ml or 5.9 per100ml. Nothing is stated about this including a mix. It also lists sugar as less than 1g. Per 100ml. So needless to say I didn’t enjoy the first GNT in four years that I was looking forward to. Can you help clear this up for me please. The gin was bottled in Australia, distilled to Alexander Gordon’s exacting standards.
    Reply: #152
  2. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor
    I have never seen a gin that has carbohydrates in it. You may wish to contact the company if they have a contact email on their website. They may be able to provide clarification for you.

    --Kristin

  3. gazza
    In australia we have a full strength ZERO carb beer
    Replies: #164, #186
  4. Kathy
    I love my Espresso coffee with heavy whipping cream. It doesn't take much and it only has .4 grams carbs in an ounce.
  5. Walt
    So, I'd like to get into wines - but I'm diabetic, maybe I'm missing the intention of the information on the page or even more likely maybe there was more enlightenment elsewhere on the site I missed. As it relates to alcohol there seems to be an intentional focus on lower carbs(which I have no quarrels with), but even if the wine has 2-3 carbs should we not pay close attention to the sugar in the low carb wines as well? Or is it a general rule that these low carb options are also low sugar. ORRRRR - Have I been duped by previous institutional knowledge? Am I falling for the same trick that got us into this problem to begin with, which is to ask, am I creating a nutritional equivalence with surgar from low carb alchohol just like "fat makes you fat" theory. Does the consumption of Sugar not = more issues for diabetics? IE "Sugar gives you Surgar" :)? - I know(or at least I think I know) that sugar is bad, but in the case of wines, even if it's low carb should I pay attention to sugar as well as low carb?

    I suspect on a low-carb Keto diet journey I'll start to taste and savor my food more - so many things look like they will be delicious - so a glass of wine I think would be great .

    Thanks.

    Replies: #157, #167
  6. Jeanene
    I drink and use Bai Bubbles as a mixer. It's low in both carbs and calories with many flavors. I like them all!
  7. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor
    Walt, it's all inter related! The drier the wine, the higher the alcohol count, the lower the amount of residual sugar left after fermentation.
  8. Nandy_Ohh
    Any thoughts on hard soda? There's a whole bunch in different flavors, and brands that are listed as low carb/low sugar?
    Reply: #159
  9. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor
    That would depend on specific brand and ingredients.
  10. connie burch
    how can vodka have 0 calories when it hits your stomach it turns to sugar since its made from potatoes any thoughts?
    Reply: #161
  11. Jim
    So vodka is made from potatoes which is a starch. The starch is converted to a sugar by enzymes. The sugar is converted to alcohol by the yeast. It is then distilled which is ethanol. So you are not drinking a starch or sugar because the potato has gone thru a chemical change already which is no longer a starch or sugar
  12. Jeanette
    Hi there, I have been reading many many conflicting views as to carb count in Chardonnay. Your list above refers to a glass... would you mind advising what size this refers to ie how many mls in that glass.
    Replies: #163, #177, #178
  13. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Hi there, I have been reading many many conflicting views as to carb count in Chardonnay. Your list above refers to a glass... would you mind advising what size this refers to ie how many mls in that glass.

    A standard measurement for a serving of wine is 250mls.

    Feb 27, editing to say that a standard serving would be 150mls, not 250.

  14. David
    love it!
  15. danny
    what about rum no mention of that
    Reply: #166
  16. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    what about rum no mention of that

    Rum is in the same category as whiskey or tequila, as long as it's not flavored or spiced.

    Reply: #180
  17. Jd
    Walt does your doctor know you are doing keto? Not the best option for a diabetic.
    Reply: #168
  18. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Walt does your doctor know you are doing keto? Not the best option for a diabetic.

    Keto is an excellent option for reversing type 2 diabetes.
    https://www.dietdoctor.com/diabetes

  19. Peggy Weyers
    What if your diabetic what can you drink?
    Reply: #170
  20. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    What if your diabetic what can you drink?

    The guidelines above are designed to be recommendations for anyone following a keto or low carb diet.

  21. Kilmaine
    You suggest 250 ml is a standard measure of wine. However that equates to one third of a standard 750ml bottle! Most UK pubs and restaurants offer small, medium (standard) or large at 125, 175 and 250 ml respectively. Surely some mistake somewhere!!
    Reply: #172
  22. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    You suggest 250 ml is a standard measure of wine. However that equates to one third of a standard 750ml bottle! Most UK pubs and restaurants offer small, medium (standard) or large at 125, 175 and 250 ml respectively. Surely some mistake somewhere!!

    That was a typo on my part. I intended to type 150ml. Thank you for asking for clarification!

  23. Roxanne Chase
    Fitvine Is a Wine Option. I Have Tried the Cabernet And It was Very Good, You Can Find it Online Fitvine.Com Very Low Carb With Great Taste they Have Red & White Wine.
    Reply: #183
  24. Mel
    For wine with less than 1 gram of sugar in the whole bottle, order from dryfarmwines. They're not cheap (~$30/bottle) but they are biodynamic, which is like organic on crack, and they test and guarantee less than 1 gram of sugar per bottle. The dryest of the dry!
  25. 1 comment removed
  26. Ron Warren
    A 5oz glass of Pinot Noir has around 3.5 carbs. Red wine is good for your health, and you will live a longer life drinking one glass a day with your dinner. Enjoy!
  27. William Kort
    I think the wine graphic should indicate ≈ 4 carbs (not 2) per 150 ml serving - that seems to be the consensus number for dry reds and whites (USDA and other sources). Champagne seems about right at 1 carb (assuming brut style). Of course, sweeter wines like late harvest, many pink wines and "extra dry"/other versions of sparkling wines will be higher in carbs, in some cases dramatically so.
  28. William Kort
    Just checked the Korbel website - their brut contains 4 g carbs per 150 ml, extra dry is 5g, and the sweet rose tops out at 11g. So perhaps the 1 g on the dietdoctor site for champagne needs reconsideration.
  29. 1 comment removed
  30. Jason Jones
    I enjoy Captain Morgan Black rum, and according to the makers, it has about 2 carb per 100ml. I would suspect other spiced rum fall into a similar range. https://imgur.com/a/PTzk9
  31. Seymour
    Caveat emptor.

    There are many so-called "dry" inexpensive wines from very warm climates like Australia. These wines have a lot more residual fruit sugar than many finer wines from cooler climates.

    The producers start with tanker trucks of very sweet and cheap industrially-produced bulk grape juice from hotter, sunnier states...with no "terroir" in sight. The winemaker ferments this overly-sweet juice to "just" 12-13% alcohol and stops the process mid-ferment to create a one-dimensional but very quaffable "dry" wine...you can buy this stuff by the case for only a few bucks here in Oz.

    With reference to my NASH, my doctor expressed more concern about the total sugar remaining in the bottle than any alcohol content affecting my liver. He said drinking a bottle of this stuff is like eating a whole packet of Tim Tams.

  32. Sue
    I think the lime is just a squeeze of juice? That’s with the vodka soda and lime. Not sure about the tequila substitute above by Hope.
  33. Dee
    I agree, the flavor of the cab was good and at 14+ percent alcohol - had a kick! However, the price IMHO does not justify the teeny tiny gain in carb and calories per serving.
  34. June
    My favorite drink, Captain Morgan Spiced Rum is 0.5 carbs and 86 calories per 1.5 oz. My doctor said when you are on the Keto diet, you need to watch calories as well as carbs!
  35. Momo
    A week and a half into the 2wk challenge my company had an after work party. I had 2 glasses of chardonnay (within 2hrs) but had to get a ride home. I felt so hung over!! It was awful, it felt like I drank 2 bottles!! (and I remembered what that felt like from personal experience to boot!)

    Wish I had known I'd be more sensitive but I know now at least! One glass. ONE GLASS.

  36. Garet
    What is the name of the beer?
  37. Joanne seah
    What about ciders? Where do they sit in the guide? Thanks.
    Reply: #188
  38. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    What about ciders? Where do they sit in the guide? Thanks.

    Cider varies too much by brand to include in this guide. Most ciders range from 15-30+ grams of carbohydrate in a 12 oz bottle.

  39. kasibarndoor
    I have tried and like Gin with fresh lime juice and sparkling mineral water. I am assuming this is zero carbs, and I enjoy it whether I remain in Ketosis after a few of these I am not sure!
  40. 1 comment removed
  41. Kornelia
    Is there any difference between white rum and aged rum?
    Reply: #192
  42. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Is there any difference between white rum and aged rum?

    Not as far as carb count goes, no there is no difference. Spiced rum is a different story and usually not a good option.

  43. Ken Trinder
    Is Bundaberg Rum with mineral water ok
    Reply: #194
  44. Kristin Parker Team Diet Doctor

    Is Bundaberg Rum with mineral water ok

    Yes, rum and mineral water should be OK as long as there are no artificial sweeteners.

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