The 15 Best Low-ABV Cocktails to Try During Your Damp January (Or Anytime You Need a Break from Booze)

Take it easy

best low abv cocktails: mimosa bar
Photo: Christine Han/Styling: Katherine Gillen

Whether you’re having a Damp January or just looking for a lighter, more session-friendly drink than a negroni or martini, there’s plenty to love about low-alcohol cocktails. With ingredients like sherry, amaro, vermouth and spritz-y mixers, they’re lively and easy to sip, plus they won’t leave you flat on your back after two drinks. From amaro spritzes to mimosas and vermouth spritzers, here are the 15 best low-ABV cocktails to try.

What Is ABV?

ABV stands for “alcohol by volume,” and it’s a standard measurement of how much alcohol is in a given amount of a beverage, written as a percent. You’ll find the ABV of alcoholic beverages written on the label. The higher the ABV, the stronger the drink—a typical beer is about five percent ABV, wine is around 13 percent and most liquors range from 30 to 50 percent. And if you can’t locate the ABV, it’s half of the drink’s “proof.” (For example, an 80-proof vodka is 40 percent alcohol by volume.)

What Is Considered a Low-ABV Cocktail?

There’s no set definition for a low-ABV cocktail, but typically they have about ten to 15 percent ABV. Think spritzes, highballs and drinks that rely on aperitifs or low-alcohol spirits like vermouth and sherry. By contrast, a high-ABV cocktail will feature mostly alcohol with low amounts of non-alcoholic ingredients, and that alcohol will likely be full-strength liquor (think 40 percent ABV).

1. Amaro Spritz

  • Typical Ingredients: amaro, prosecco, soda water
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 14 percent

This sipper is like the oh-so-popular Aperol spritz, but with a less sweet aperitif. (In fact, Aperol is a type of amaro.) No need to get too fancy with your prosecco since it’s a background ingredient here.

2. Ruby Vermouth Spritzers

  • Typical Ingredients: red vermouth, soda water
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 4 percent

Red vermouth is like a sweeter cousin of the dry variety of vermouth used in martinis. Pair it with a can of seltzer and you’ve got a low-alcohol cocktail that also happens to be lightning fast to make. (Read: It’s ideal for serving at a dinner party.)

3. Moscow Mule

  • Typical Ingredients: vodka, ginger beer
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 11 percent

You might not think of a mule as a low-ABV beverage, but since it’s mostly ginger beer (which can be low to no alcohol), it’s surprisingly light. (Of course, you can also make them strong if you want to add more vodka to the mix.)

4. Gin and Tonic

  • Typical Ingredients: gin, tonic water
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 8 percent

Sure, gin is a high alcohol liquor, but in a classic G&T it gets watered down significantly. This version adds spices and orange to play up the alcohol’s naturally herbaceous taste.

5. Classic Aperol Spritz

  • Typical Ingredients: Aperol, prosecco, soda water
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 11 percent

You know her, you love her, she’s a summertime classic—and for good reason. Because Aperol is low in alcohol, this spritz is endlessly sippable. Add a squeeze of lemon if you want to balance the sweetness.

6. Mezcal Cider Spritz

  • Typical Ingredients: mezcal, apple cider
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 13 percent

If you aren’t yet familiar with mezcal, it’s an agave-based spirit that’s like tequila’s smoky cousin. Pair it with cider and a splash of soda water for a low-ABV cocktail that’s balanced and boozy but not overly so.

7. Ranch Water

  • Typical Ingredients: Topo Chico, tequila
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 5 percent

Ranch water is a Texas treat that’s delightful easy to mix up. Simply add a bit of tequila and lime to a bottle of Topo Chico and cheers. (Sure, you could use another sparkling water, but the Topo Chico really makes the drink, no?)

8. Kir Royale

  • Typical Ingredients: crème de cassis, Champagne
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 11 percent

You had us at berry liqueur, which gives this French cocktail its sweetness—use crème de cassis or Chambord if you prefer raspberry to blackcurrant. This tipple is traditionally made with Champagne, but prosecco also works just fine—just make sure you choose a dry one.

9. Gin Fizz

  • Typical Ingredients: gin, soda water, lemon, egg white
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 13 percent

You can think of the gin fizz like a festive cousin to the Tom Collins, with an optional egg white for that signature frothy head. (Technically, that makes it a silver fizz, but we digress.) Since it’s mostly soda water, it won’t lay you out after one drink.

10. Mimosa

  • Typical Ingredients: orange juice (or another fruit juice), Champagne
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 12 percent

Mimosas are brunch bevs for a reason: They’re not too boozy for a 10 a.m. celebration. They’re traditionally made with orange juice, but we like to switch things up with pineapple and mango, strawberry-basil or grapefruit.

11. Paloma

  • Typical Ingredients: tequila, grapefruit soda
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 11 percent

Speaking of grapefruit, the paloma is a tequila cocktail that’s typically made with grapefruit soda—here, that’s swapped for passionfruit, which adds a tart, tropical vacay spin to the low-alcohol drink.

12. Hugo Spritz

  • Typical Ingredients: elderflower liqueur, prosecco
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 10 percent

This delicate and refreshing mixture of elderflower, mint and citrus has seen a resurgence since it gained steam on TikTok. Think of it like a sweet, botanical version of an Aperol spritz.

13. Spaghett Cocktail

  • Typical Ingredients: Aperol, beer
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 5 percent

Like Ranch Water, this is a build-in-a-bottle cocktail that couldn’t be easier to make. Take a swig of beer (Miller High Life is a good choice, but any lager works), add in a splash of Aperol and enjoy. It’s fizzy like a spritz, but lighter and less sweet thanks to the beer.

14. Campari Spritz

  • Typical Ingredients: Campari, prosecco, soda water
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 11 percent

Campari is a low-alcohol aperitif like Aperol, but since it’s much more bitter, it makes a very different spritz. If you don’t like sweet drinks, you might like this one better.

15. Tom Collins

  • Typical Ingredients: gin, lemon, simple syrup, soda water
  • Estimated Alcohol Content (ABV): 7 percent

A classic highball, the Tom Collins is a low-ABV cocktail that any bartender will know how to make. With gin, a touch of simple syrup and lemon juice, it strikes the ideal balance of sweet, sour and herbal.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...