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With the frantic festive season over and many people looking for more low-sugar and low ABV serves, leading NYC bartender, Ivy Mix, gives us the low down on how to produce the perfect cocktails to please the calorie-conscious customer this January.

Why low ABV and low-sugar cocktails?

Over the past few years, there’s been a growing demand for low ABV and low-sugar serves. From Brooklyn to Houston and Singapore to Mexico City, more and more low ABV and low-sugar options are appearing on menus. That being said, the ones I’ve tried have been a real mixed bag! Reducing the alcohol or sugar content can make it harder to structure a cocktail, as it is essential that the drink retains that all-important balance. It’s all about how the flavours are mixed and the proportion of spirit used in the serve.

Sometimes, after the holidays when everyone has "given up" drinking cocktails due to a long haul of heavy eating and festivities, it is nice to offer low ABV and low-sugar cocktails as an alternative. After the holidays, I like to have mocktails and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as lower ABV and lower sugar serves on my list. This allows a variation of serves for every customer.

Key trends

There’s a huge selection of low ABV cocktails. I see lots of so-called “sangria” variations, and plenty of beer-based cocktails which are increasingly taking over from traditional fortified wine cocktails like the Bamboo. With all of these, I recommend adding a small amount of higher proof spirit to give a stronger flavour. Instead of simple syrup, try using flavours with more impact, such as cinnamon. In place of orange bitters, you could use an aromatic bitter, or throw some stronger modifiers in there, like amaro.

Another trend I see quite a lot is customers asking for something that isn’t too sweet, which can sometimes be a tricky request. It goes without saying that alcohol has sugar in it, and we have to use sugar to make a drink well-balanced, but you can get around adding additional sugar by using products which are already naturally sweet. Fruits contain plenty of natural sugars and liqueurs and cordials can add flavour and sweetness without any additional sugar. I also like to put other natural sweeteners in a cocktail, such as maple syrup, honey and agave, instead of relying heavily on refined sugar. Of course, all of these alternatives still contain sugar – the aim is to lower the sugar content, not remove it altogether.

Top tips for creating low ABV and low-sugar serves

Creating the perfect low ABV and low-sugar serves can be tricky to begin with, but it is important to have a balanced variety on your menu. Having five or six options, each with a different flavour profile, will ensure there’s an option to suit the needs of every customer.

Here are my top tips on how to create the perfect low ABV and low-sugar serves:

Serves for you to try

Here are some perfect examples for you to try out in your bar:

Pimm’s Cup


55ml PIMM’S


20ml ginger syrup

Dash of angostura bitters


Muddle 3 lemon wedges, 2 strawberries, 2 cucumber discs and 8 mint leaves in a tin.

Shake and fine strain into a glass

Top with soda

Garnish with some cucumber slices and a mint sprig

(2.0 standard drinks*- 2.2 units per serve)

Johnnie Walker Red Label and green tea



100ml green tea

1 wedge of lemon


Fill a glass with ice

Fill a highball glass with ice cubes

Add Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Whisky to the glass and stir

Using a jigger, measure 25ml JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL into the glass and stir with a bar spoon

Top up with green tea

Garnish with a lemon wedge

(1.0 standard drinks – 0.8 units per serve)

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(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)

PLEASE NOTE *Content of pure alcohol varies between countries