Low-carb alcohol – the best and the worst drinks

What are the best and the worst alcoholic drinks on a low-carb diet? First the obvious: Alcohol is not a weight-loss aid. The more alcohol you drink, the more weight loss may slow down, as the body burns the alcohol before anything else.

With that said, there is a huge difference between different kinds of drinks – some are pretty ok, some are disasters.

The short version: wine is much lower in carbs than beer, so most low carbers choose wine. Pure spirits like whiskey and vodka contain zero carbs, but watch out for sweet drinks – they may contain massive amounts of sugar.

For more detail check out this guide, the lower-carb options are to the left.

Wine and beer

Low-Carb Wine and Beer

The numbers represent grams of carbs per a typical serving – for example one glass of wine or one draft beer.

Wine

Even on a strict low-carb diet (below 20 grams per day) you can probably have a glass of wine fairly regularly. And on a moderate low-carb diet, wine is not a problem.

Please note that dry wines contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per glass. The other carbs constitute miscellaneous remains from the fermentation process, like glycerol, that should have a minimal effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. Using the number 2 grams of carbs per glass of dry wine is conservative. All dry wines fit well within a low-carb diet.

Sweet dessert wines, however, contain a lot more sugar.

Beer

Beer is a problem on low carb. There’s a reason people talk about “beer bellies”. There are tons of rapidly digestible carbs in beer – it’s been called liquid bread. For that reason, unfortunately, most beers are a disaster for weight control and should be avoided on low carb.

Note that the amount of carbs in beer vary depending on the brand. There are a few possible options on low carb. Check out our low-carb beer guide below for details.

Spirits

Low-Carb Spirits

The numbers represent grams of carbs per drink, e.g. what you’ll get if you order one in a bar.

When it comes to drinks, it’s pretty straightforward. Pure spirits like whiskey, brandy, cognac, vodka, tequila contain zero carbs and they are all fine on low carb.

However, avoid sugar-sweetened drinks. Note that the popular drink Gin & Tonic is full of sugar, 16 grams – a common mistake on low carb. Switch to vodka, soda water and lime instead, and you’ll have zero carbs.

The worst option of all is to mix alcohol with soda or juice, this will be a sugar bomb.

Alcopops / wine coolers

Low-carb wine coolers

The numbers represent grams of carbs (sugar) per bottle.

So, what about alcopops / wine coolers? They’re just like regular soda with alcohol in them, and should be avoided by everyone who wants to avoid drinking massive amounts of sugar.

Low-carb beers

Low-Carb Beers

The numbers above are the grams of carbs in one 12 oz. bottle of beer (355 ml).

There are huge differences between different brands, but most contain too many carbs to fit a strict low-carb diet. Even on a more liberal diet it would be wise to keep beer drinking as an occasional thing.

The exception is very light American beers. Many of them contain few carbs, so if you like them you are in luck. Check out the brands to the left in the graphic above.
 

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 really good low-carb options. Here’s our list of the top 5 low-carb alcoholic drinks.
 

  1. Champagne or dry sparkling wine – one glass contains about 1 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
 

 
 

A word of caution

When on a strict low-carb diet, most people need significantly less alcohol to get intoxicated. 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 will 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.

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

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

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

 

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132 Comments

  1. tz
    Bud Ice is I think 8.9g so it isn't low carb.
    Labatt's 52 (1.9) and Miller 64 (2.1) in the US and Canada are also low, as is Coor's "Aspen Edge".
    Replies: #10, #42
  2. Lloyd
    After 3 weeks of LCHF I tried the red wine and sparkling water yesterday (it was my birthday) I got a bit carried away and sank the whole bottle, BG this morning was better than normal but my headache wasn't, and after 16 hours fast lunchtime BG was best I've had in months 5.6! Hopefully will not catch up with me in a few days, I'm normally a beer drinker on special occasions so it was a nice change, even avoided party food and cake, had the LC pancakes (cottage cheese recipe) from website, thank you DietDoctor!!
  3. Brent
    Pure Blonde is ultra Low Carb Beer.
    1.7g per serving or 0.5g p/100ml
    Goes down nice as well!
  4. Ash Simmonds
    Can you please cite your sources for carbs in wine?

    Nobody seems to, and all the online lists are flat out wrong, most wine contains just 2-8 grams of residual sugar per LITRE (mostly glycerol), not per serving - well, unless that's your serving size.

    More details with citations here: http://ashsimmonds.com/2014/08/09/carbohydrates-in-wine-its-not-starc...

    Eg:

    "Analysis of the carbohydrates of a selection of 11 different Israeli white wines of the Sauvignon Blanc type revealed five sugars: fructose, glucose, sucrose, maltose, and maltotriose. Fructose (0.2-2.0 g/liter) and glucose (0.4-0.8 g/liter) were the major components, followed by sucrose, maltose, and maltotriose. Glycerol (6.3-8.3 g/liter) was found in all samples."

    I've done a ton of research on this over the years, and it seems everyone is just copy/pasting bad information instead of doing the actual research.

    Reply: #5
  5. Ash,
    Yes there's a lot of confusion about that. I've actually written about it above, under the "Wine" heading. I may have to change the numbers too.
  6. Ash Simmonds
    Thanks Doc, yep - noted that you don't just lump them all in as "carbs in wine" like most folk, but as you can see this field requires more research before flat-out saying "this has that".

    For the most part the "4g/glass" thing appears to be an approximation of all wines, which is detrimental to both those who are vinophiles and those who just like a weekend binge. This is because proper wine lovers who are likely drinking the stuff with almost no residual sugar in it are scared off from enjoying a few because it sounds relatively high when it's more like <1g and completely inconsequential. Then those who drink the summer breeze jailbait swill goon boxes which is basically half booze half fruit juice think they're *only* drinking 4g carbs a glass when it's more like 15-30g a hit and are knocking them back like schoolgirls.

    In the end lumping all wines together is as useful as lumping all fats together - as if making sauce from Canola is the same as using grass-fed butter. I appreciate what you're doing - but the newbie visiting an authority site really deserves at least a slightly more nuanced version, because these things are mindlessly shared as truth.

    Sorry for the rant - but as you can see I've been battling this carbs-in-wine uncited malarkey for years, and am a super wine enthusiast. I'm not trying to enable alcoholism, but I've seen thousands of posts over the years lamenting not being able to enjoy wine any more because they need to stay keto, due to rounded off information like this becoming popular.

    Got a ton more resources on alcohol/nutrition/low carb/etc here: http://highsteaks.com/f/index.php?topic=90.0

    Keep up the good fight.

    Reply: #23
  7. Angela
    I'm assuming the gin and tonic at 16 carbs is the tonic water? not the gin.... you can have diet tonic instead
    Reply: #115
  8. 1 comment removed
  9. PennName
    One can reduce the carbs in a Cosmo buy using orange-flavored vodka instead of plain vodka + orange liqueur. Bonus that it is not as potent, either. Also use low sugar cranberry juice.
  10. sm
    I love beer and I'm confused by the chart of low-carb beer which is posted above. I would love it if Bud Ice were only 1.2g but...according to the nutritional information provided by Anheuser-Busch, Bud Ice contains 4g carb & 121 calories not 1.2g carb and Stella Artois contains 3.6g carb & 43.3 calories not 13g carb as shown in the chart. Is there an additional formula or information that was applied to the chart that I may not be aware of? I can only go by nutritional labels.
  11. Elizabeth
    My new favorite drink when we go out occasionally is vodka, water with extra lime. Am I okay with that? I also love mich ultra so I am happy to read that on occasion...I can still have one or two!! thanks!!!!
    Reply: #34
  12. Frank
    Bud Ice is 4 G of carbs from Anheuser Bush website.
    http://www.anheuser-busch.com/s/uploads/Anheuser-Busch-Nutritional-In...
    Reply: #25
  13. Elviira
    You can reduce the carb count in cocktails using stevia instead of sugar. Here are some examples: http://www.lowcarbsosimple.com/sugar-free-summer-cocktails
  14. Chris
    Yes, tonic water has carbs. I'm pretty sure there is a "diet tonic water" that would be preferable for low carb.
  15. Julie in uk
    What about port? With diet lemo?
    Reply: #19
  16. John schofield
    Can we clear up this question of gin and tonic. The quoted carb figure of 16 surely can't apply when a low calorie tonic is used. The carb figure stated on a well known brand in the UK is zero carbs. So where does that leave gin ? Jonn
    Replies: #18, #24
  17. Geraldine Denise
    Why can't we have Gin Tonic with Tonic Zero? Caipirinha, the Brazilian National Drink (Cachaca,0 carbs) with lime and sweetener, Stevia, etc. instead of sugar Surely once in a while it wouldn't hurt to have a ZERO SUGAR SODA with a Distilled to keep the carbs down? Better than drinking beer and we're in a country where people drink lot. Especially beer, nowadays also wine.
  18. Geraldine Denise
    Gin has ZERO carbs as do all the other distilled liquors. Andreas's judging the soda.....and he doesn't much like sweetener because they make some people's blood sugar go up occasionally. I'm drinking rarely , but I love my Gin Tonic! Zero carbs!
    Reply: #21
  19. Geraldine Denise
    Port's got LOTS of sugar in it!
  20. Karen
    When we're in Spain we like to drink Cava. I think it's made in the same way as Champagne so will it gave the same carbs?7
  21. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    Hi!

    If you don't have problems with cravings then drink your Gin Tonic with Tonic Zero and have a
    good conscience! :)

    Gin has ZERO carbs as do all the other distilled liquors. Andreas's judging the soda.....and he doesn't much like sweetener because they make some people's blood sugar go up occasionally. I'm drinking rarely , but I love my Gin Tonic! Zero carbs!

  22. Liz
    I wish there was an IPA on the low beer carb list....that is my downfall. Guess I will have to abstain ?
  23. Ash,
    Thanks! I plan an update when my research in the area is complete.
  24. Regular tonic is full of sugar, that's the problem.
  25. Frank,
    Must have gotten that number wrong. I'll update it tomorrow.
  26. Jim
    No Miller Lite on the list of "light beers"? It's supposed to be the original low carb "less filling" beer.
  27. Jimbo
    Middle top. Isn't that miller Lite
  28. Simon Mills
    In Australia there is a 'No Carb' Beer named "Big Head' It's a full strength 4.2% Alcohol but no carbs.?? Due our strict labelling laws in Australia it would be highly Illegal to advertise "No Carb" if the contained any carbs. I find this very confusing. It's a nice beer and doesn't raise my blood sugar, however being 'Full Strength , I'm still wary. Could you look into it and advise
  29. Anna
    "Fat Head" brand beer in Australia is zero carb.
    ?
  30. Elliot
    hey,
    I see you've done beer,wine, spirits and alcopops but what about cider.
    I only drink cider as I really don't like the others.
    I've only come across 3 low carb ciders, a strongbow, a castaway and an Irish one that I can't remember.
    Are there any other good low carb ciders ?
    Reply: #53
  31. PeaknikMicki
    It's "Big Head" by Burleigh breweries in Australia that is zero carb.
    Unfortunately it's not very common in pubs as its not made by a major brewery. And it's a bit pricey too. But the taste is excellent.
    There are other good alternatives as well such as XXXX gold, pure blond and pure blond ultra low carb (0.5g carb per serve), just to name a few.
    Having that said, even if it doesn't throw you out of ketosis it sure seems to slow down weight loss until the alcohol has been cleared through the system, so one still needs to keep an eye on how often/much low carb been one drinks if trying to shed some weight.
  32. JamesF
    After years of drinking Heineken, and then discovering how it spiked my blood glucose, I went on a search for a beer alternative.

    One that I tested was Michelob Ultra, definitely a low-carb beer (http://www.shapefit.com/diet/low-carb-beers.html).

    Not only does Michelob Ultra not spike my blood glucose, it actually lowers it. I've tested this multiple times (and happy I did so) to make sure that the result could be replicated. Simply put, Heineken rapidly raises my glucose readings and Ultra lowers them.

    Any thoughts on why a beer would lower glucose readings after a couple hours of "testing"?

    Reply: #33
  33. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor
    That's normal :) When the body detects sugar in the blood stream it releases insulin to lower the blood sugar...often there is so much insulin so the sugar gets low.

    After years of drinking Heineken, and then discovering how it spiked my blood glucose, I went on a search for a beer alternative.
    One that I tested was Michelob Ultra, definitely a low-carb beer (http://www.shapefit.com/diet/low-carb-beers.html).
    Not only does Michelob Ultra not spike my blood glucose, it actually lowers it. I've tested this multiple times (and happy I did so) to make sure that the result could be replicated. Simply put, Heineken rapidly raises my glucose readings and Ultra lowers them.
    Any thoughts on why a beer would lower glucose readings after a couple hours of "testing"?

    Reply: #36
  34. My new favorite drink when we go out occasionally is vodka, water with extra lime. Am I okay with that? I also love mich ultra so I am happy to read that on occasion...I can still have one or two!! thanks!!!!

    Vodka, water & lime is indeed one of the best possible drinks, when it comes to low carb. Almost zero carbs.

  35. I just updated the low-carb beer image with a corrected number for Bud Ice.
  36. JamesF
    Thanks. Understood, but the Michelob Ultra is also lower in alcohol (sugars) and calories versus the Heineken, yet I get a very different blood glucose reaction.

    Fwiw, on separate days I've done a 3-bottle beer test for Heineken and Michelob Ultra. I take a blood glucose reading after each bottle consumed. Total time for 3-beers consumed is about 2 hours. Over 6 weeks, I did this test on 3 days (late afternoon, pre-dinner on an empty stomach) for each beer.

    After each high-carb beer, my blood sugar readings were up compared to the b.s. reading immediately prior to the first beer sip (usually in the mid-80s mg/dl). At the end of the Heineken test, the blood sugar readings were 120+. The testing for the Michelob Ultra revealed just the opposite. The blood sugar was lower after each beer, with the 3rd b.s. level being in the the high 70s.

    Intuitively, my b.s. reactions to the two beers makes no sense in the context of carbs, calories and alcohol. I would surmise the chemical properties of these two beers must be somehow dissimilar to make the pancreas react so differently. Or, maybe the gut's micro-biome is the cause of the different reactions somehow.

    Guess this means I will need to conduct a n=1 test for two different high/low beers as a comparison...oh well, life is bitter when a beer tester.

    Reply: #38
  37. Hope
    We make our own margaritas using lime juice, salt, tequila & stevia. I live in an area in the USA called the Pacific Northwest, and we are spoiled by craft breweries. We have great beer, but I don't drink it because it's loaded with carbs. And I won't waste my time on bottled gmo laden USA low carb beer, bleh. I just stick with the occasional low carb margarita or a glass of red wine.
  38. Peter Biörck Team Diet Doctor

    Guess this means I will need to conduct a n=1 test for two different high/low beers as a comparison...oh well, life is bitter when a beer tester.

    I'm not a doctor but I think that alcohol is a bit complicated when it comes blood glucose, it can both go up and down and then when you add carbs it's get even more messy. So I think you have to do a lot of testing. ;-)

  39. Ash Simmonds
    I asked the question about Big Head zero carb beer some time ago:

    - http://ashsimmonds.com/2014/03/30/big-head-zero-carb-beer-is-it/

    TL;DR - they claim it is, it took a while to figure out.

  40. Idalmy Caro
    I will like to know about KOMBUCHA fermented drink. On one of the benefits is to low sugar (diabetes problem ) is this true or false? please and thank you
  41. Richard GOUGH
    Hahn Super Dry is also very good and has reduced my BSL before dinner.
  42. Zogo
    The chart for Miller Lite is wrong, It has 3.2g carbs. When I do drink beer (being from Milwaukee, I do miss beer), I buy Bud Light Platinum. Not only is it 4.4g carbs, but it is 6% alcohol. Most of the others are very low alcohol content.

    I have contacted multiple small breweries about making a carb free beer in the US, as we can't get Big Head here. No luck yet.

  43. Ohgee
    Miller Lite is not 7!! Geesh...c'mon... you lose all credibility with crap like that.
    Reply: #45
  44. Sista
    I have to count carbs AND calories, and in the US, there are no calories listed on the wine or brandy bottles (not sure about the rest, as I only drink when at a work related function). How can I find out the calorie count? Since starting the LCHP diet, I just abstain altogether - but an occasional sip of something would sure be nice!
  45. Zogo, Ohgee,
    Thanks for telling me, fixed.
  46. Robert
    How is Vodka Lime and Soda zero carb? I can't find a zero carb Lime cordial and even fresh lime has some carbs.
  47. Sarah
    You say that Gin and Tonic it 16gms of carbs. Is this the case for Gin and Slimline Tonic please?
  48. Stu
    Gin has zero carbs. Diet tonic water (schwepps or canada dry) has zero carbs.
  49. Nate
    I'm not commenting on the alcohol article. I commenting on the pictures showing three plates - one for strict, one for moderate and one for liberal low carb. I think that each plate should have the same number of calories on them. So, the strict plate should have more meat, broccoli, etc and may be some nuts, so that number calories are the same as on the liberal plate.

    I think your current pictures cause more people not to try a strict plate just because they would feel that they would have to restrict their calories on that regimen. That to me would be an opps!

  50. Igor
    Hi Nate,
    As mention in instructions for begginers, we should not count the calories. We have to count carbs.

    I was very sceptic when started with LCHF. But now, after 4 weeks I can report that I have never been eat so much and already lost 12 kilos.

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