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The Best and Worst Alcohol on Keto

The ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet followed by people who intend to lose weight and improve their well being.

This diet requires careful planning so that you can stick within your allowed daily carb intake and keep your body in ketosis. This can mean not consuming sweets, snacks, and other high-carb beverages like soft drinks and alcohol.

Luckily, there are many low-carb alcoholic drinks that you can enjoy in moderation.

It’s “in moderation” since alcohol doesn’t help with weight loss. The more alcohol you drink, the more challenging it will be for your body to burn fat. That’s because your enzymes will prioritize burning the alcohol.

Another effect of alcohol drinking is that you tend to eat more. Plus, alcoholic beverages vary in terms of how many net carbs they contain. Some won’t affect your weight loss journey, while some can kick you out of ketosis.

It’s common for people who do keto diet to drink since it has lower carbs than beer. Moreover, spirits like whiskey and vodka have zero carbs.

Watch out for sweet mixed drinks – they may have massive amounts of sugar. For more detail, check out the visual guide below.

Will Drinking Kick You Out of Ketosis?

Getting into ketosis and staying there is primarily driven by following a very low carb diet. So as long as you don’t go over your recommended daily net carb intake, the occasional drink likely won’t cause concern. 

Additionally, alcohol itself doesn’t mess with your body’s ability to produce ketones. The opposite may be true. Alcohol consumption has been associated with a decrease in blood sugar and an increase in ketone production.

However, this does not mean you should drink a lot on keto to increase ketone levels. 

Excessive alcohol consumption can not only lead to serious health concerns. It can also be deadly for people with diabetes because it can lead to alcoholic ketoacidosis (AKA).

It is also thought that being in ketosis can decrease alcohol tolerance. However, there is not much research to support this theory. 

According to medical professionals, if you do choose to drink, do so in moderation. Keep your intake below one drink each day for women and two drinks per day for men.

The bottom line, you are better off avoiding alcohol altogether. But If you choose to drink occasionally, here are the best and worst types of liquor for keto. 

What to Buy?

Wine

Even on a keto diet (below 20 grams per day), you can probably have a glass of wine reasonably regularly. And on a moderately low carb diet, wine is not a problem.

Dry wines usually contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per glass.

Fermentation byproducts in wine, like glycerol, should have a minimal effect on blood sugar or insulin levels.

Using 2 grams as an estimate of carbs per glass of dry wine is conservative. Fortunately, all dry wines fit nicely within a keto diet.

Sweet dessert wines, however, contain a lot more sugar.

White WinesServing SizeCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Sparkling White5 fl oz961.512
Brut Cava5 fl oz1282.512
Brut Champagne5 fl oz1472.812
Pinot Blanc5 fl oz1192.8512.5
Pinot Grigio5 fl oz122310.7
Chardonnay5 fl oz1233.113
Albarino5 fl oz1433.513
Riesling5 fl oz1285.59.5
Muscat (Muscato)5 fl oz1287.914.5
Red WinesServing SizeCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Pinot Noir5 fl oz1213.410.4
Merlot5 fl oz1223.710.6
Cabernet5 fl oz1223.810.3
Syrah5 fl oz1223.810.5
Zinfandel5 fl oz1294.211.1

Beer

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.”

For this reason, most beers are bad 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.

Low-carb BeersCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Greens Trailblazer1190.54.7
Budweiser Select 55551.92.4
Miller 64642.42.8
Rolling Rock Green Light832.43.7
Michelob Ultra952.64.2
Budweiser Select993.14.3
Beck’s Premier Light643.22.3
Miller Lite963.24.2
Busch Light953.24.1
Natural Light953.24.2
Michelob Ultra Amber1143.74
Miller Chill10044.2
Coors Light10254.2
Amstel Light9553.5
Keystone Light10454.1
Budweiser Light1106.64.2
Heineken Light996.83.3
Yuengling Light998.53.6

Vodka

Vodka is usually made from a grain base such as potatoes, rye, or wheat, and runs around 35 – 50% alcohol by volume. When you’re grabbing a bottle from the liquor store or ordering at a bar, try to take a straight vodka – nothing flavored.

If you must have flavored, there are a number of them that are zero carbs, but do your research online first! Many of the flavored vodkas have syrups and sugars added to them.

Popular Vodka BrandsServing SizeCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Burnett’s1.5 oz96040
Smirnoff1.5 oz97040
Absolut1.5 oz100040
Svedka1.5 oz103040
Grey Goose1.5 oz103040
Stolichnaya1.5 oz103040
Ciroc1.5 oz103040
Skyy1.5 oz105040

Whiskey, Scotch, and Bourbon

Whiskey is made from fermented grain, usually combining rye, wheat, corn, or barley, and comes in around 35 – 50% alcohol by volume.

Even though it’s a dark liquor, all whiskeys do not have any carbs (or sugars) added – making it an excellent drink for someone on a ketogenic diet. Barrel-aged whiskey has higher phenols and ellagic acid (combats free radicals) than red wine.

Depending on where the whiskey is from is where the name is derived. Scotch, whiskey, and bourbon have the same form of alcohol. Some don’t like the taste of whiskey for the pure harshness.

If that’s the case, it may be better to use milder alcohol like vodka.

Some popular brands of whiskey are Jack Daniels, Crown Royal, Jim Beam, and Seagram’s.

Popular Whiskey BrandsServing SizeCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Crown Royal1.5 oz96040
Jack Daniels1.5 oz98040
Jim Beam1.5 oz104040
Seagram’s1.5 oz104040
Dewar’s1.5 oz104040
Wild Turkey1.5 oz104050
Chivas Regal1.5 oz105040
Johnnie Walker1.5 oz105040

Tequila

Most tequila is made from the agave plant and is commonly made at 40% alcohol per volume. There are not too many flavored tequilas on the market, so you don’t have to worry too much about added sugars or carbs. 

Note that some tequila producers do mix the drink with some other alcohols. So try to getting tequila that is derived wholly from the agave plant.

The agave plant is grown in many places. But depending on where it is grown will affect how the tequila tastes. In highland areas, you may have a sweeter and more aromatic form of this alcohol.

Popular Tequila BrandsServing SizeCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Don Julio1.5 oz96040
Tres Agaves1.5 oz102040
El Jimador1.5 oz102040
Patron1.5 oz103040
1800 Tequila1.5 oz103040
Milagro1.5 oz103040
Cazadores1.5 oz103040
Sauza1.5 oz104040

Rum

Rum is generally made from sugarcane or molasses and comes in a variety of styles. It’s also zero carbs and zero sugar, but you need to watch out for flavored rums and rums with additives.

Usually, the darker the rum, the richer the flavor is, and the older it is. Usually, rum comes in at about 35% alcohol by volume.

When rum is first distilled, it comes out as a clear liquid. It’s then typically placed in bourbon barrels to pick up the oaky flavor and dark color you’re used to seeing.

The flavor and color from the barrels do not add carbohydrates.

Popular Tequila BrandsServing SizeCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Malibu Island Spiced1.5 oz72030
Captain Morgan Spiced1.5 oz860.435
Bacardi Superior1.5 oz96040
Myer’s Original Dark1.5 oz97040
Castillo1.5 oz97040
Sailor Jerry1.5 oz103040
The Kraken1.5 oz1051.540

Gin

Gin is made from a grain base and typically covers about 35% alcohol by volume. It is usually made with citruses such as lemon, orange, or lime – but be aware of flavored or sweetened versions.

Sloe gin is a commonly flavored gin that’s made in England and flavored with sloe drupes. These have added sugars, and therefore added carbs in them.

Most people think of a gin and tonic when they hear gin, but tonic and most common mixers do have carbs, so you need to be careful.

Popular Gin BrandsServing SizeCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Gordon’s1.5 oz96040
Seagram’s1.5 oz103040
Bombay1.5 oz114047
Beefeater1.5 oz115047
Tanqueray1.5 oz116047.3

Brandy

Brandy is made from the mash, juice, or wine or grapes.

There are many types of brandy, but the most common is Cognac – a brandy that’s made in the Cognac region of France.

Brandy typically varies from 35-60% alcohol per volume, and is sometimes aged in barrels.

Some companies add caramel colorings to their brandy instead of letting it age in the barrel. So be careful of added food dyes, as they can add extra carbs.

Popular Brandy BrandsServing SizeCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Honey Bee1.5 oz103040
Courvoisier1.5 oz104040
McDowell’s1.5 oz1040.140
Martell1.5 oz1260.440
Hennessy1.5 oz103140
Remy Martin1.5 oz103340

Low-carb Cider

Cider is the result of fermenting fruit juices like apple juices into apple cider.

After the fermentation and filtration process, most manufacturers will add ingredients in the cider. They would usually add juice or sugar to give the cider a distinct flavor.

While there are no low-carb ciders, there are many brands that are delivering flavored seltzer water mixed with alcohol. These are typically as close as you’ll get to cider.

But if you’re a true cider fan, then it may not be a great alternative. Instead, think of it as a crisp and refreshing drink.

Low-carb Sparkling AlcoholServing SizeCaloriesNet CarbsAverage ABV
Truly Spiked12 oz10025
White Claw12 oz11045
SpikedSeltzer12 oz14056
Nauti Seltzer12 oz11055

What to Avoid?

Most of us on a low-carb, ketogenic diet know that sugar is in just about everything you can find. This applies to mixers and chasers for alcohol, as well.

  • Port/Sherry. These are also known as dessert wines and include all types of port, sherry, and sauternes. They have very high sugar alcohol, usually over 13g carbs for just a 3 oz serving. Avoid these where possible.
  • Sweet Wines. Much sweeter than dry wines, these are typically enjoyed with dessert and are a bit lighter than port or sherry. These include Moscato, auslese riesling, tokaji, and Malvasia wines. They usually have around 11-18g carbs per glass, so you should avoid these.
  • Sangria/Margarita Mix. Typically sangria mixes and margarita mixes have over 10g carbs per 1.5 oz serving (a shot worth). Avoid these as much as possible.
  • Wine Coolers/Alcopops. The most common of these are Smirnoff ice – they’re essentially sugar-laden soda with alcohol in them. You should avoid these.
  • Liqueurs. Usually, a combination of alcohol and simple syrup (made from sugar) is too high in carbohydrates.

Some other things to watch out for when ordering drinks are the extra flavors that bartenders will commonly add.

Keep in mind that if you’re ordering from a bar, you can typically request your drink to be made or specially request a no-sugar drink from the bartender.

Some examples of things to avoid that are commonly added to cocktails include:

  • Fruit Juice. It’s very common for bartenders to make drinks with cranberry, orange, pineapple, tomato, and melon juices. Be very careful and try to stay away from cocktails as they commonly add these.
  • Syrups. Like the syrups at coffee shops, these are typically made with a lot of sugar content. If your drink has any sweet syrup added (fudge, whipped cream, fruit “flavoring”), try to choose something else.
  • Fruit toppings. Many drinks are topped with berries or have wedges of orange or pineapple in them. These aren’t too bad because you can pick them off – just make sure that the drink underneath the fruit does not have any added sugars.

A Word of Caution

When eating a keto diet, some people get intoxicated from significantly less alcohol. So be cautious the first time you drink alcohol on keto.

You may only need half as many drinks as usual to dig yourself. So keto may save you money at the bar. 

The reasons for this shared experience aren’t fully known. Possibly the liver is busy providing 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.

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 hurt liver health.

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.

Note: If you are on a ketogenic diet for weight loss, you may want to consider avoiding alcohol altogether.

While you can consume low-carb alcohol and stay in ketosis, the body will burn the ethyl in the drink instead of your stored fats. In other words, alcohol will slow down the fat loss process because a smaller amount of the free fatty acids will be converted into ketones.

Besides this, alcohol does affect hormone levels that are linked to belly fat and weight loss. So if you’re a heavy drinker, you can expect very slow or no weight loss at all.

There is also a condition called alcohol ketoacidosis, which can be deadly. It usually happens to people who haven’t eaten any food in an extended period and are drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period.

Moderation is Key

Although plenty of keto-friendly alcoholic beverages are available, that doesn’t mean that they should be part of your routine.

Even low-carb varieties of alcohol are still rich in empty calories, which means that they supply many calories with little to no essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, or minerals.

Not only can overindulging in booze increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies over time, but it may also contribute to gradual weight gain.

In fact, in one eight-year study in 49,324 women, consuming at least two drinks per day was associated with an increased risk of significant weight gain.

Alcohol can also suppress fat burning and increase body fat by storing extra calories as fat tissue in your body.

Excessive drinking may also contribute to other severe health conditions. This includes diabetes, heart disease, liver problems, and cancer.

For this reason, it’s best to keep alcohol intake moderate. One drink per day for women and two per day for men would suffice.

Final Thoughts

Even on a keto diet, there are lots of low-carb alcoholic beverages to choose from.

Wine, light beer, and pure forms of alcohol offer few or zero carbs per serving. You can also pair them with low-carb mixers like seltzer, diet soda, or sugar-free tonic water.

But regardless of your diet, it’s best to keep alcohol consumption in check to avoid adverse health effects.

As a rule of thumb, women should stick to a maximum of one drink per day, while men should stick to two or fewer.

Sources