Cheers to Fall: Healthy Recipes for Festive Fall Cocktails

By Alison Lewis

Is there such thing as a healthy cocktail? I believe cocktails don’t have to be unhealthy, and with the right combination of ingredients, you can actually enjoy a slimming cocktail that is bursting with flavor. With the excitement of fall holiday parties, tailgating parties and Halloween parties upon us, these creative ideas and recipes are great examples on how to create “healthier” fall cocktails.

I recently created a survey on Facebook asking, “What are your favorite fall ingredients?” My social media friends’ answers included what you would imagine: cinnamon, cranberry, pumpkin, pomegranate, nutmeg, allspice, apple pie spice and ginger. Now, how fun to try them in some festive fall cocktails! These favorite fall ingredients can actually kick up the flavor of fall cocktails without adding fat and calories.

Fall Cocktail Pairings

Here are some great pairing combinations using fall flavors:

  • Wine, limes, lemons, apples, oranges
  • Champagne and fresh grapefruit juice
  • Bourbon and apple cider
  • Champagne and fresh fruit purees
  • Vodka and low-sodium vegetable or tomato juice
  • Brandy, honey and water
  • Brandy, cider and cinnamon
  • Rum, fruit juice and fresh fruit
  • Vodka and light cranberry juice, apple, or pomegranate juice, light orange juice or fresh grapefruit juice (can you say Appletinis?)
  • Brandy, Wine, cloves, allspice and ginger
  • Apple cider and ginger

A Note on Calorie Count

A key thing to remember is that the higher the alcohol content, the higher the calories. For example, a one-ounce serving of 100 proof vodka has 82 calories, but an 80 proof vodka only has 64 calories. Most glasses of wine contain 125 to 150 calories, and beers range from 60 to 198 calories per 12 ounces.

Try to avoid dessert cocktails (the beverages that turn a cocktail into desserts) such as chocolate martinis. These are loaded with calories. Also, sugar- and salt-rimmed glasses should be avoided to reduce calories. Some low-calorie mixer suggestions include lemon or lime juice (10 calories), light pomegranate juice (75 calories), light cranberry juice (40 calories), light orange juice (50 calories), water and sparkling water (0 calories), diet soda or diet tonic (0 calories) or sugar free syrups (0 calories).

Mocktails: Nonalcoholic beverages shouldn’t be frowned upon, and every party host should plan on serving a festive nonalcoholic option. See my Tangerine Pomegranate Cider recipe below that can be served warm or chilled on ice with a sprig of mint.

Tangerine Pomegranate Cider

When you brew a batch of this nonalcoholic beverage, your house will smell of holiday aromas.

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 35 minutes

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredient list

  • 7 cups apple cider
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh tangerine juice
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Garnish: tangerine slices


1. Combine apple cider, tangerine juice, pomegranate juice, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and cloves in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook 30 minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks and garnish with tangerine slices.

Other great nonalcoholic options:

Warm Apple Drink with Herbs and Spices from Melangery

This nonalcoholic mixture screams fall with a mixture of apples, water, sugar, cinnamon, herbs and spices. Love this served in a mason jar.

Apple Ginger Sparkler from Martha Stewart

This simple recipe from Martha Stewart is cider laced with ginger and cinnamon.

Alcoholic Cocktails

Now, for some great fall cocktails.

Pumpkin Spice Margarita from Discovery’s Planet Green

This is a great way to use fall ingredients such as fall puree, brown sugar, cinnamon mixed with classic margarita ingredients and topped off with allspice and cinnamon.

Sparkling Pear and Cranberry Cocktail from Martha Stewart

This pretty cocktail is from Martha Stewart made with dried cranberries, pear nectar, wine and fresh rosemary.

Gingered Pear and Brandy Cocktail from My Recipes

I love the gingered sugar syrup in this recipe with pear juice for a sure taste of fall.

Amaretto Cranberry Kiss from Epicurious

This highly rated recipe from Epicurious uses cranberry juice (I would use light), vodka, amaretto and orange juice.

Pomegranate Cocktail from My Recipes

I love this cocktail, a mixture of pomegranate juice, vodka, grenadine, lime juice and blood orange juice is 171 calories and 0.1 grams of fat.

Mulled Wine from Martha Stewart

This warm cocktail is filled with red wine, brandy, cinnamon sticks, cloves and more.

Blood Orange French 75 from Epicurious

This recipe from Epicurious received a 100% rating review and is filled with blood orange juice, gin, and a touch of sugar, bitters and champagne. It’s a great way to use blood oranges.

Holiday Sangria from Sprouted Kitchen

From the Sprouted Kitchen blog this sangria recipe is filled with fall ingredients besides wine using Granny Smith apples, oranges, persimmons, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.

Cranberry Mimosa from In Good Taste

DIR’s resident foodie created this festive cocktail with three simple ingredients – champagne, cranberry juice, and fresh cranberries.

Alison Lewis is a nationally known Cookbook Author, Recipe Developer, Television and Social Media Food Spokesperson, Nutritionist, Food Educator, and Owner of Ingredients, Inc., a Food Consulting company in Birmingham, Alabama. She is known for creating healthy, family-friendly recipes that are easy to prepare and sharing information about healthy living on her blog,

Cranberry mimosa image via Maris Callahan/

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