Drinking our Calories

coming next week... L.A.

coming next week... L.A.

January 28, 2013

There is something that has been bothering me and I must address it, therefore,  “The Thirsty Girls’ LA Reconnaissance” post I had originally planned for this week will be postponed until next week.

I recently founded Spirited Sirens, both the blog and the tasting series, because I have great interest in, and some issues with, the world of spirits.  At the core I have a desire to educate and be educated, while bringing women imbibers together. 

I wanted to focus on women; both to reveal the community of women already interested in artisan spirits, but also to grow that community.  However, in order to grow, we must overcome an obstacle, that comes in the form of CALORIES.   I think its safe to say women are more concerned with their calorie intake than men and I think this concern prevents some from exploring spirits and stick with those touted to be ‘low in calories’.

A question I’m often asked is, “What spirit has the least amount of calories?”.    To which the inquirer, or someone else in the room, often rhetorically answers (with another quasi question) “Vodka?”.  The short answer is “no” and the long answer is interesting.

How alcohol gets in the bottle (a GENERAL synopsis):

The copper pot still @ Victoria Spirits, BC, Canada

The copper pot still @ Victoria Spirits, BC, Canada

Alcohol is produced through fermentation, whereby a base of carb-rich ingredients such as fruits (e.g. grapes) or grains (e.g. corn) or vegetables (e.g. potatoes), in liquid form, is mixed with yeast.  The yeast then feeds on the sugars and when all the sugar is consumed and the yeast dies off.  What results is, in part, alcohol.  Beer and wine come from this stage. 

To make spirits, the fermented juice is distilled, which means using heat to separate the alcohol from the other liquid (mostly water) in a column or pot “still” and thereby concentrating it.  

Once distillation has taken place, the distillate is either, put in a cask, redistilled for purification purposes and/or infused with botanicals.  However, at this stage, spirits are very concentrated and have a VERY high ABV percentage (Alcohol By Volume).  Therefore, they are often are diluted or “proofed down" to lower the ABV.  This is done for a few reasons but one is to make them lighter to drink.  

The minimum allowable level of alcohol in spirits is 40% ABV or 80 proof and is the most common on shelves.  However, it's not impossible to find spirits (mostly whiskies) bottled at Cask Strength, which can be up around 65% at times.  While usually pricey, they are quite a treat, but beware of their strength.

An example of a Cask Strength Whisky.

An example of a Cask Strength Whisky.

Calories

The higher the ABV in a spirit, the more calories it has. There is little to no sugar in most distilled spirits and if there is, it is then called a liqueur.   Therefore, when pouring the same measurement of a “neat” spirit - (that means no ice or mixer added) of equal ABV - there will be little caloric difference whether it’s a rum, vodka, tequila, gin or whisky.  

That means, generally speaking, one fluid ounce (29.6 ml) of a 40% ABV rum, vodka, tequila, gin, or whisky, that is not flavoured or mixed into a cocktail, will have approximately 65 calories per fluid ounce.

Why watch the calories?  Because a beach awaits somewhere...

Why watch the calories?  Because a beach awaits somewhere...

How do calories add up?  

A few ways include the obvious - sheer quantity consumed; the not so obvious - if you are drinking a higher proof spirit; or the most common by mixing the spirit into a cocktail and adding juices, syrups, sodas, etc.

Above, I used the measurement of one ounce (35ml) = ~ 65 calories, as an example, so, be mindful of how much liquor is poured into your glass.  Then, depending on whether your drink is made with 1 ounce, a jigger (1.5 oz) or 2 ounces, you will have to calculate accordingly. 

In addition, I used the standard, 40% ABV or 80 proof above when providing calorie equivalents.  However, as we now know, when the ABV/proof increases, so do the calories.  This is not where I tell you to beware, because there is great beauty in and creative pleasure from trying over-proof spirits; more on that in a future post.

Finally, the calories also begin to add up in cocktails.  Many cocktails are made with juices, sodas, liqueurs and syrups all of which can carry a substantial sugar content. 

Dubbed the 'Beatrice'.  A tequila, vermouth & kumquat cocktail.  YUM

Dubbed the 'Beatrice'.  A tequila, vermouth & kumquat cocktail.  YUM

The bottom line here is, don’t be reluctant to try different spirits for fear they carry more calories than those touted to have the least amount.   The truth is they rarely do and, if they do, the amount is negligible.  If you are concerned with calories then be mindful of the strength of the spirit, what you mix it with and of course the quantity you consume.

So, all in all, I resolve that these CRAFT SPIRITS have distinctive tastes all their own which you may find pleasing without wanting to mix them into a cocktail, thus keeping the calories down.

Coming soon...Spirited Sirens' The Tasting Series, in Miami.

Coming soon...Spirited Sirens' The Tasting Series, in Miami.