6 min

Even though you’re committed to the keto diet, there will be times when you want to relax or celebrate with an alcoholic drink. It’s a myth that you can’t enjoy alcohol on keto, as luckily you can make low carb choices that mean you can still have a drink and remain in ketosis.

Here we will look at the common pitfalls to avoid, as well as the best alcoholic drinks and mixers to keep you in ketosis whilst you let your hair down.

Can you drink while on keto?

The rule of the keto diet is that to remain in ketosis, you need to be strict in limiting your carbohydrate and sugar intake. Effective fat burning only occurs in the absence of sugar or carbs, so if you drink anything too sugary, you risk losing your ketotic state.

It is important to be aware that being in ketosis may mean that you feel the effects of alcohol more quickly. On keto, you may feel merry on far fewer drinks than you are used to. This is because carbohydrates slow the rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream. On a low carb diet such as keto, you are likely to feel drunk more quickly, and may unfortunately be at risk of experiencing a bigger hangover, too.

Even if you stick to low carb drinks, enjoying alcohol in moderation remains key.

Keto-Friendly Alcoholic Choices

You may already be aware of the “empty calories” contained within alcohol. Empty calories are calories that do not contain protein, fibre, minerals, or vitamins. They are therefore not the best fuel for your body and still need to be burned off to maintain a steady weight.

However, for the occasional alcoholic treat that will keep you in ketosis, there are several low-sugar, low-carbohydrate and low-calorie options to consider in the table below.

Sugar content*
Spirits including gin, tequila, vodka, whiskey and rum
Light beer350ml0.3g
Red wine125ml (small glass)0.8g
White wine125ml (small glass) 1.2g

*Data from US Department of Agriculture.

Keto-Friendly Mixer Choices

Choosing a low sugar beverage is great, but if you mix it with high-sugar lemonade or soda you’ll risk losing your ketotic state. A standard can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar. This is more sugar than the NHS recommends an adult should consume in a day, and is certainly far more than should be consumed if you want to stay in ketosis. You can therefore very quickly upset your diet if you choose high sugar drink combinations.

The best mixers for a keto-diet are contained in the following table:

Sugar Content*
Sparkling water
Soda water
Low calorie or slimline tonic water
Diet drinks inlcuding diet lemonade or cola

* Data from US Department of Agriculture.

By combining a spirit such as gin with a low-calorie tonic, you can enjoy a delicious keto-friendly drink. However, it is worth remembering that although gin is low in sugar, one measure, or 25mls, still contains around 70 calories. If you are trying to lose weight on keto, as part of your diet plan you will also need to account for the calories in any alcoholic drinks you enjoy.

What to Avoid

Avoiding high sugar drinks is advisable when you are following a keto diet, but some alcoholic and soft drinks contain a huge amount of carbohydrate or sugar. In particular, cocktails often contain sugar to give them their deliciously sweet taste. Mixers can be partly to blame for this, with ‘healthy’ fruit juices containing a vast amount of natural sugar.

When ordering at a pub or bar, be aware that some “diet” options still contain sugar. It is therefore often safer to choose soda water or sparkling water as a mixer to be sure that you are not accidentally ordering a high-carb drink.

The following table shows some of the carbohydrate-rich alcoholic and soft drinks available.

Sugar content*
Standard beer
Orange juice350ml31g
Pina Colada130ml32g
Red Bull energy drink350ml37g

* Data from US Department of Agriculture.

Best Combinations

If you’re planning to enjoy a few alcoholic drinks, it can be worth having some keto-friendly drink ideas in mind before you start making or ordering. We’ve done the hard work for you with our list of tried-and-tested keto-friendly drinks:

1. Vodka, tonic and a splash of fresh lime for a fruity cocktail without cordial
2. Gin and slimline tonic – a low sugar version of this timeless combination
3. Vodka or rum with diet coke – easy to make and delicious to drink
4. Rum and bulletproof coffee – like a white Russian, but keto-friendly
5. Diet lemonade with vodka or rum for the perfect summer drink

If you miss the sweetness of a cocktail, adding your own sweeteners can give the taste of a classic cocktail without the sugar.

Moderation is Key

Although alcohol should always be enjoyed in moderation, this is even more important on keto. When you consume alcohol in ketosis, your body will prioritise breaking down the alcohol before it turns to burning fat. Not only does this mean that you might feel the effects of alcohol more quickly, but it also means that drinking alcohol will suppress your rate of fat burning, slowing down the speed at which you benefit from keto.

A study of almost 50,000 women aged between 27 and 44 found that heavy drinking led to significant weight gain compared to drinking moderately.

Drinking too much alcohol, or drinking regularly, can increase your risk of weight gain. Drinking heavily is also associated with other health complications including liver disease, cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

If you are committed to keto, you should give yourself the best chance of success by drinking low sugar alcohol and mixers in moderation.

Final Thoughts

It is possible to still enjoy alcohol when following a keto lifestyle. Choose spirits and pair them with low sugar mixers, or stick to a light beer or glass of dry wine. Be aware that you may feel the effects of alcohol more quickly, and drink alcohol only in moderation to remain in ketosis.