Valanni’s “Skinny Cocktails” Cut the Calories From Happy Hour

Another margarita? Go ahead!

Valanni's guilt-free, calorie-saving cocktails // Photo courtesy of Valanni

Let’s face it, a drink minus the guilt is a lot more fun than kicking yourself all night over the one Mai Tai you threw back at Happy Hour. Fortunately, the crew at Valanni crafted nine new “Skinny cocktails,” all touting a calorie count of under 170. (Your favorite bar drink could contain as many as 1,000 calories.) Inspired by his weight-conscious patrons who don’t want to sacrifice taste, mixologist Ed Kaye reinvented favorite standbys like the margarita, mojito and white-wine spritzer, all the while carefully counting calories.


“Sour mix is a killer,” Kaye explains. “Liquor is usually about 90 calories and in a drink like the Long Island Iced Tea, there are four different liquors.” That’s 360 calories right off the bat! Kaye also urges calorie-counters to stay away from creams like Baileys: “They’re full of calories and tons of sugar.”

So last Wednesday, I passed up my usual Center City Sips spot and hoofed it over to the Gayborhood to taste these guilt-free cocktails with a few girlfriends in tow. And they weren’t just any girlfriends; I strolled into Valanni with a soon-to-be bride and a few of my fellow bridesmaids. Who better to judge a low-cal cocktail than a bridal party just a few months away from squeezing into dresses?

The group favorite was the Perfect 10 Mojito with Bacardi Rock Coconut Rum, fresh lime, Splenda, and topped with club soda. Normally the concoction’s made with simple syrup and two cups of sugar, but Kaye substitutes Splenda along with coconut rum for a nice sweet flavor. For only 136 calories, I ordered another. Be honest: We’ve all blown that many calories on lesser-deserving foods and felt immediately bad about it.

Valanni’s new spin on the margarita was another hit with my group. Normally packing a 500-calorie punch (sounds more like a throw down to me), the Hot For Herra Margarita clocks in at a measly 139 calories. “The trick is in the Agave Nectar,” says Kaye. “It’s really sweet so you don’t even realize you’re missing all that sour mix.” With this recipe, you can drink three and a half Hot For Herras for the same calorie-price of one traditional margarita.

By the way, since we’d all spared ourselves so many meaningless drink calories, we did what any giddy group of girls would do: treated ourselves to a few plates of chicken empanadas. Guess what: We didn’t even feel guilty about it. – Kelly O’Shea