Keto alcohol – the best and the worst drinksketo diet?
First, the obvious: alcohol is not a weight-loss aid. The more alcohol you drink, the more weight loss may slow down, since the body tends to burn alcohol before anything else.1 Drinking alcohol can also make you want to eat more.2
With that said, there is a huge difference between different kinds of drinks when it comes to how many carbs they contain. Some are ok, yet others are disasters.
The short version: wine is much lower in carbs than beer, so most people who eat keto choose wine. Pure spirits like whiskey and vodka contain zero carbs. But watch out for sweet mixed drinks – they may have massive amounts of sugar.
For more detail, check out the visual guide below. The lower-carb (keto-friendly) options are to the left.
Wine and beer
Even on a keto 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.
Dry wines usually contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per glass.4 Fermentation byproducts in wine, like glycerol, should have a minimal effect on blood sugar or insulin levels.5 Using 2 grams as an estimate of carbs per glass of dry wine is conservative. Fortunately, all dry wines fit well within a keto diet.6
Sweet dessert wines, however, contain a lot more sugar.
Beer is a problem on keto. There’s a reason people talk about “beer bellies.” Beer is made from grains, which provide a lot of rapidly digestible carbs. It’s even been called “liquid bread.”7 For this reason, unfortunately, most beers are a disaster for weight control and should be avoided on keto.
Note that the amount of carbs in beer varies depending on the brand. There are a few possible low-carb options for keto. Check out our keto beer guide below for details.
The numbers represent grams of carbs per drink, or the amount 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, gin, and tequila contain zero carbs and are all fine on keto.
Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks, though. Don’t add juice, soft drinks, or sweet flavorings to spirits. Adding tonic to zero-carb gin boosts its carb count to 16 grams per serving! Have vodka, soda water and a twist of lime instead for a refreshing carb-free drink.
The worst option of all is to mix alcohol with soda or juice. This is a sugar bomb.
Alcopops / wine coolers
The numbers represent grams of carbs (sugar) per bottle.
The numbers above are the grams of carbs in one 12 oz. bottle of beer (355 ml).
Although the carb counts vary among different brands, most are too high for a keto diet. Even on a more liberal low-carb diet it might be wise to keep beer drinking as an occasional thing.
The exception is ultra-lite American beers, which contain very few carbs. So if you like them, you’re in luck. Check out the brands to the left in the graphic above.8
Top 5 keto alcoholic drinks
On a keto 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 great keto options, with little or no sugar or carbs.
Here’s our list of the top 5 keto alcoholic drinks.
- Champagne or sparkling wine (extra dry or brut): one glass contains about 2 grams of net carbs.
Pop the bubbly for a low-carb toast to good health. Whether it’s expensive Champagne from France or more affordable sparkling wines like Cava or Prosecco from other countries, look for the driest versions and enjoy as an aperitif, with food or as a stand-alone drink.
- Dry wine, red or white: one glass contains about 2 grams of net carbs.
“Beer is made by man, but wine is made by God,” said Martin Luther. Some have called it the fourth macronutrient, after fat, protein and carbs. It’s been part of human civilization for at least 8,000 years — and no wonder, since it pairs so wonderfully with food and friends. Fortunately, dry wine is fine on a keto diet from time to time.
- “Skinny Bitch”: one tall drink contains 0 grams of carbs.
The go-to drink of “The Real Housewives of” TV franchise, skinny bitch has all the country-club cachet of the classic gin-and-tonic — without the carbs. Sparkling, light and refreshing, it contains only vodka, soda water, and lime. Perfect to sip and dish the dirt.
- Whiskey: one drink contains 0 grams of carbs.
“Whiskey is liquid sunshine,” said George Bernard Shaw. Whether you like it neat, on the rocks, or with soda or water, it’s entirely carb free. It’s also gluten free, even though it comes from fermented grains. Scotch, Irish, Canadian, Bourbon, Rye — whatever its name and style, whiskey is fine for a special occasion.
- Dry Martini: one cocktail contains 0 grams of carbs.
In books, James Bond always liked his martini with 3 parts Gordon’s gin, 1 part vodka, and a half jigger of Kina Lillet. On the screen, it was a vodka martini with a whisper of vermouth, garnished with a lemon twist. Whether made with gin or vodka and garnished with an olive, lemon twist or pearl onion, martinis remain one of the most popular aperitifs — shaken, not stirred, of course.
A word of caution
When eating a keto diet, many people might need significantly less alcohol to get intoxicated.9 So be careful the first time you drink alcohol on keto. You may only need half as many drinks as usual to enjoy yourself. So keto may save you money at the bar.
The reasons for this common experience aren’t fully known. Possibly the liver is busy producing ketones or glucose, and thus has less capacity to burn alcohol.
This is great if you’re looking to maximize alcohol’s intoxicating impact. On the other hand, your hangover could be worse.10
Be very careful doing anything where impairment could increase the risk of accidents or injury. Never drink and drive.
Furthermore, if you’re using a keto diet to treat metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease, be aware that alcohol can have a negative effect on liver health.11 Excessive alcohol acts as a liver toxin.
Finally, it appears that alcohol intake might somewhat reduce ketone production, even in the absence of sugar or carbs.12
Here’s an in-depth article with more details on the above, and other surprising things about alcohol on a keto diet:
Similar keto guides
Studies show that at least in the short term, drinking alcohol tends to increase the amount of food people eat:↩
For example, here are sugar levels in grams per liter (about 7 glasses) of sparkling wine, depending on sweetness ranking:
Brut nature (no added sugar): 0–3 g
Extra brut: 0–6 g
Brut: 0–12 g
Extra dry, extra sec, extra seco: 12–17 g
Dry, sec, seco: 17–32 g
Demi-sec, semi-seco: 32–50 g
Doux, sweet, dulce: 50+ g ↩
Drinking regular wine does not seem to provoke any noticeable increase in blood glucose or insulin levels:
“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”:
For much more about wine and keto diets, listen to our podcast interview with Todd White, the founder of Dry Farm Wines:
Drinking beer can result in a rapid increase in blood glucose and insulin levels:
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This is commonly reported by people who eat keto diets. However, there isn’t much scientific research yet to explain why tolerance seems to be reduced, just theories.
For more on this, read section #5 here:
To our knowledge, there is no good scientific evidence for this. It’s based mostly on anecdotal reports and that it makes biochemical sense [very weak evidence].