Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Too much alcohol in any form is bad for your health. After all, alcohol itself contains roughly zero health benefits, drinking it in excess over time could result in liver damage, and further insidious side effects include cancer risk, osteoporosis, infertility, weight gain, depression, prolonged slurred speech, pancreatitis, and heart disease. Whether you’re drinking lower-alcohol beer or higher-alcohol spirits or the fanciest of French wines, overdoing it can wreak havoc on your body over time.
That doesn’t mean all alcoholic beverages are created equal, of course. A light, low-calorie beer will likely be better for you than its better-tasting craft counterpart that contains 450 calories. And if you’re a fan of the hard stuff, know that sipping your favorite rum neat in a small glass invariably won’t be as bad for your body as drinking the same amount of rum mixed in a classic daiquiri that comes loaded with a high dose of simple syrup. (A single ounce of the syrupy goop contains more than five teaspoons of added sugar. As we’ve reported in the past, too many added sugars will lead to more belly fat, raise your blood pressure, affect the way your brain functions, cause your skin to sag, and double your risk of dying from heart disease.)
It all begs the question: Is there a worst type of alcoholic drink you should definitely be avoiding? And, if so, what is it? According to at least one registered dietitian, there’s a clear answer. “Mixed drinks are way more problematic,” says Leslie Bonci, MPH, RDN, CSSD, LDN, a sports dietitian who works with the NFL’s reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. “They have more alcohol in them, the mixers will drive up the calories, and with the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans that was just released, we know that the new guidelines are one drink-a-day for women and two for men. Several mixed drinks contain the equivalent of five shots of alcohol, which is the equivalent of five drinks.”
Bonci singles out three specific drinks you should avoid, all of which, she says, are actively vying for the “worst alcoholic beverage” distinction, which entirely depends upon how they’re prepared and in what size: Piña Coladas, margaritas, and Long Island Iced Teas.
“A Piña Colada has more than 650 calories, which is more than a Big Mac’s 576,” reports Gizmodo. According to most recipes, a Piña Colada contains some combination of rum, coconut milk, coconut cream, pineapple juice, and lemon juice. In other words, they’re loaded with sugar. Overall, as we’ve reported in the past, the typical, garden-variety Piña Colada contains roughly 40 grams of sugar in a single eight-ounce serving, which is why it tops our list of the Worst Cocktails on the Planet. Making matters worse, that coconut cream comes with a healthy dose of saturated fat.
An eight-ounce margarita serving comes in at a staggering 274 calories and 36.1 grams of sugar. But as you’re likely well aware, margaritas aren’t the same everywhere, and it’s not unusual for people to exceed eight ounces when drinking them. The British Medical Journal once ranked the worst drinks in America and singled out the “traditional Lobsterita” from Red Lobster as a particularly bad actor. The researchers noted that the mammoth, 24-ounce cocktail clocked in at 890 calories and 183 grams of carbs—the equivalent of eating seven Almond Joy candy bars. “Of all the egregious beverages we’ve analyzed, the Lobsterita surprised us the most,” the researchers wrote and noted that simply “downgrading to a regular margarita on the rocks” will save you 640 calories.
A Long Island Iced Tea, meanwhile, contains vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, sweet and sour mix, lemon juice, simple syrup, and cola. “A single LIIT can have a whopping 780 calories,” writes Gizmodo. “Plus, all of that alcohol at once hits your system like a freight train. Plus, the only stuff diluting this drink just adds more sugar.”
If you’re turning over a new leaf in the New Year, consider taking an extra hard look at your favorite mixed drinks, and definitely put any variation of these three cocktails in the rearview mirror. And for more bad drinks you should avoid, see below because we’ve compiled some of the worst right here. And for more advice for consuming alcohol responsibly, make sure you know The Most Dangerous Age to Drink Alcohol, According to Experts.
Like many frozen margaritas and Piña Coladas, Mudslides are loaded with added sugar. “The Ultimate Mudslide from TGI Friday’s contains vodka, Baileys, Kahlua, cream, and ice cream and packs a whopping 740 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 86 grams of sugar,” Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, previously told Eat This, Not That. “That’s almost four days’ worth of sugar in one drink if you are following [the] American Heart Association guidelines.”
The average daiquiri contains around 40 grams of sugar, the same amount you’d find in four Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.
Whiskey sours are another popular cocktail that tends to be loaded with added sugar.
Have you taken up making cocktails at home during quarantine? Cheers to that! But steer clear of using ginger beer as a mixer. It’s loaded with sugar—you’d be better off with plain old ginger ale.
Spiked eggnog is a holiday classic, but it’s far from a health food. Milk, cream, and eggs make for a rich drink, but they also make for a cocktail with enough calories to rival a meal. No wonder eggnog is one of our 40 Drinks You Should Never Drink After 40.