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Basil Tom Collins Cocktail – a low-cal summer cocktail

Basil Tom Collins cocktail

Getting dressed for the pool last weekend convinced me that it was time to go back on a diet. What a drag. When I’m watching my weight, giving up alcohol is one of the first things I have to do. It’s not like I drink a lot, but I have to watch the weekly alcohol consumption that tends to creep up – the extra glass of wine with dinner, the beer with my slice of pizza. It’s easier just to ignore alcohol and switch to unsweetened ice tea or water for most of the week. But, after being “good” all week, I want to have my Friday cocktail treat. In order to not go too far off the rails on Fridays, I switch to light, skinny cocktails. One of my favorite low-calorie drinks is the Basil Tom Collins cocktail. 

Where do those cocktail calories come from?

Depending on the proof, a shot (1.5 oz) of gin can have anywhere from 96 to 115 calories. All things considered, that’s not a lot of calories. It’s when you start adding the mixers that the calories start piling on.  A shot of tequila is only about 100 calories, but once you add in the sugar-laden mixers, that fishbowl-full of bright green liquid that you order at your local Mexican restaurant can start topping off around 700 calories. And If you have more than one round, you can see where this quickly becomes a problem. You can find lots of sites online that will give you a calorie count for each cocktail.

Where do those calories come from? 
Multiple shots of liquor per drink: (Long Island Tea, Mai Tai, French 75’s, etc.)
Sugary Mixers: orange or pineapple juice, sodas, prepared cocktail mixes such as pina colada or margarita mixes or sweet & sour mixes.
Dairy: adding cream or ice cream to your cocktail (White Russians, Mudslides, etc.) 

What makes a skinny cocktail?

Stick to one shot of liquor, with the addition of fresh lime or lemon juice and top with club soda, diet soda or diet tonic water. Add taste by using fresh herbs and fruit. I do use a bit of simple syrup or agave nectar to my cocktails, but it’s only a couple of teaspoons at a time. This adds about 40 calories. Also, using diet teas and lemonades as your base keeps your calorie count low. Or, if you’re really being good, just drink some club soda with lime. Boring, but zero calories.

So… a Tom Collins cocktail

Tom Collins is just a grown-up lemonade. Fresh lemon juice and sugar, served over ice with sparkling water. The addition of gin makes it a Tom Collins. If you add bourbon instead, it becomes a John Collins. You can also make Vodka Collins and Rum Collins.

Old Tom gin is the traditional gin used in this cocktail, because it is a bit sweeter than a dry London-style gin. I’ve used both and enjoyed them. You can vary the flavor by using lavender, basil, thyme in your simple syrup or by crushing fresh fruits in your glass. Blueberry and lavender is a great combination, for instance. In this version, I use fresh basil leaves from the garden.

Fresh Basil and Lemon
Fresh Basil and Lemon

Basil Tom Collins

1 1/2 gin – I use Hayman’s Old Tom gin
1/2 oz simple syrup or agave nectar
juice of 1 lemon
4-5 fresh basil leaves
3 oz. club soda

In a tall glass, add the basil leaves and simple syrup. Using a muddle or wooden spoon, crush the basil leaves to release their flavorful oils. Squeeze in your lemon juice then add the gin. Stir to mix. Add ice cubes and top with club soda. Stir and garnish with a fresh basil leaf. Enjoy!

Calories: 152

Cheers! Happy Friday!

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