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Healthy festive cocktails

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When Charles Darwin referred to the ‘survival of the fittest’, he didn’t have Christmas party season in mind – here, it is survival of the least hungover. But, as you begin construction on a reinforced mantelpiece to accommodate the sheer weight of invites, it’s worth remembering that a few damage-limiting precautions can be taken. While Puerto Ricans may rub lemon juice on their armpits to prevent a hangover, we prefer to simply drink smarter. Here, nutritionist Lauren Eyre explains how, with the help of our (relatively) healthy tipples, you can raise a glass without completely parking your gym routine. Welcome to the world’s healthiest happy hour…

ULTRASLIM VODKA TONIC

Key ingredient: Voli light vodka, which has 25-40 per cent less calories than a standard vodka. (That does not mean you can drink 25-40 per cent more of it.)

Plus: Slimline tonic water, lemon or lime slice.

The science behind each sip: “Vodka and slimline tonic is renowned as the ultimate low- calorie alcoholic drink [typically 59 calories]. It also has a low congener content – the toxins that contribute to a hangover. Top up with plenty of tonic as alcohol has a diuretic effect, meaning more water is needed to filter out acetaldehyde – a toxic metabolite that causes nausea and vomiting.”

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‘BRAINFOOD’ CHAMPAGNE COCKTAIL

Key ingredient: A berry-flavoured sports drink such as NeuroSonic, which contains L-Theanine to boost cognitive function.

Plus: Champagne, Amaretto, Campari, fresh cranberries.

The science behind each sip: “Replacing fruit syrup with a mixer full of antioxidants is a good way of countering some of the negative side effects of alcohol consumption. Antioxidants seek out and destroy free radicals that damage healthy cells. But be warned: while champagne is one of the lowest calorie-containing alcoholic drinks at 100 calories per glass, it’s highly carbonated, so will be absorbed quickly. Pace yourself.”

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VITAMIN-BOOST GINGER MARTINI

Key ingredient: Fresh ginger acts as a circulatory stimulant and improves the delivery of blood to the liver for increased detoxification.

Plus: Vodka, dry vermouth, lemon twist.

The science behind each sip: “The good news is that dry vermouth is extremely low in calories – 32 calories per 30ml – but make sure you avoid the fruity martinis packed with fructose. Choose a gingertini with a generous twist of lemon. The high vitamin C content helps reduce inflammation and protects cells against free-radical-induced damage from the build-up of acetaldehyde – an occurrence that’s caused by alcohol consumption.”

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NUTRIENT-PACKED RUM ICED TEA

Key ingredient: Lemongrass, which is rich in vitamin C and counteracts inflammation of the gastric lining caused by alcoholic irritation.

Plus: White rum, ginger beer, water, rosehip tea, guava juice, passion fruit pulp, lychees and strawberries.

The science behind each sip: “Like vodka, rum has a low congener content. Drink an iced tea with lemongrass and rosehip-infused water to defend against alcohol-related nutrient deficiency. Lemongrass leaves and stems are high in zinc, potassium, calcium and B-group vitamins, which are essential for the liver to break down the harmful metabolites from alcohol.”

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LOW GI MOJITO

Key ingredient: Agave syrup – it’s 1.5-times sweeter than sugar, but has a low GI score (27) compared to that of honey (83) and sugar (92).

Plus: White rum, lime juice, soda water, mint.

The science behind each sip: “The metabolism of alcohol is an intricate procedure that demands most of your body’s energy and attention, which leaves little room for other important processes to occur,” says Eyre. “One of the main functions affected is glucose production, which leads to low levels of blood sugar. A significant drop causes the fatigue and cravings associated with a hangover. A low-GI, unrefined sweetener stabilises your blood glucose levels, preventing those undesirable effects.”

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DETOXIFYING SOJU BLOODY MARY

Key ingredient: TY KU Soju, a clear Korean spirit distilled from barley, tastes like vodka but contains half the calories.

Plus: Tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce,

salt and pepper to taste.

The science behind each sip: “A glass of tomato juice may not sound appetising when you feel delicate, but a recent study by Asahi and Kagome showed tomato juice lowered blood alcohol levels three times more than water. And subjects returned to un-intoxicated states 50 minutes sooner, as tomatoes make the liver produce more alcohol-processing enzymes.”

(Image 3 right)

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