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Cocktails & Carbs! Top 10 most popular summer drinks

  • 7 min read

Four Cocktails lined up on a wall outside.

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The sun’s shining and the BBQ is ready to go, so it’s time to turn our attention to drinks.

Many of us like to indulge in a cocktail or two, despite diabetes healthcare professionals sometimes recommending otherwise, but these are often sugary concoctions with lots of carbs which will shoot glucose levels up rapidly.

In this blog, we take a look at the content of 10 popular summer cocktails, their history, and typically the carbohydrate (carb) content of one serving.

There are also some tips for drinking alcohol when you have diabetes and if you’re recently diagnosed and need more info on how to balance carbs with alcohol, please take a look at our previous blog here

Tips when drinking alcohol

  1. Know how alcohol affects your blood sugar. Sugary cocktails might spike your blood glucose, but levels can fall too low very quickly. Make sure you are checking these frequently.
  2.  Drink with friends. Ensure that those with you know you have diabetes and what the warning signs are for hypoglycaemia, and what to do in the circumstances.
  3.  Keep hydrated. Consider alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones, or water. Pacing your drinking will slow down the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
  4.  Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Glucose levels could fall very quickly and food helps the body to process alcohol so reducing the risk.
  5.  Ensure you have hypo treats (fast acting glucose) on hand but remember that the body will process alcohol first so their effect may be reduced.
  6.  Remember that hypos can appear very similar to being drunk and this can cause confusion not only for you but also for those around you.Consider wearing medical ID that identifies you as having diabetes.
  7.  Keep testing. Alcohol can affect your blood sugar for up to 24 hours.


1 serving | 40 calories | 1.2 grams of carbs

Pimms is considered a summer drink, strongly associated with many British events such as Wimbledon and the Chelsea Flower Show as well as a typical garden party drink.

It was the creation of James Pimm in the 1840s who invented and marketed Pimms as a health tonic, a gin-based drink that also contained a secret mix of herbs and other liquids and was used to aid digestion.  This was served in a small tankard style cup, known as the ‘No.1 Cup’.

Gin & Tonic

1 serving | 171 calories | 15.77 grams of carbs

It is claimed that Gin was invented in the 16th century in Leiden, Holland and originally prescribed as a medical treatment for improving circulation.

During the 30-years war, British soldiers drank a version of gin called genever, with their allied Dutchmen, and this is the origin of phrase ‘Dutch courage’. After the war the soldiers bought the drink back to England and it was consumed in large quantities. By 1750 over 11 million gallons were being consumed by Londoners annually!

At a similar time, it was found that quinine (an extract from the South American cinchona tree) could prevent and treat malaria. This had a bitter taste and so sugar and soda was added to make it more palatable. Soldiers going to India were given a daily dose to prevent malaria and this led to the name ‘Indian Tonic Water’.



1 serving | 168 calories | 10.67 grams of carbs

One of Mexico’s most iconic drinks but with disputed origins. Its history a mysterious one although all the stories occur around the 1940’s. 

Variations of the Margarita don’t stem too far from its basic ingredients; served frozen or iced in a rounded cocktail glass with a salted rim, it is a combination of Tequila, Cointreau, and lime.

Long Island Iced Tea


1 serving | 212 calories | 16 grams of carbs 

See recipe on BBC Good Food here.


A very high and potent alcoholic content of 22%, a Long Island Iced Tea is a medley of gin, vodka, rum, tequila and Cointreau with cola and lemon.

One theory on the origin of the Long Island Iced Tea is that housewives created the drink in an attempt to sip on an innocent-looking drink in front of their family and avoid judgmental eyes. 

This is an unlikely story and an alternative origin story is that it was created by Old Man Bishop at the start of the prohibition era in 1920. Bishop, from a local community called Long Island in Tennessee, is said to have combined tequila, vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, and maple syrup and called this the “Old Man Bishop.”  His son, Ransom, is said to have later refined this to the version of Long Island Iced Tea that we know today.


Expresso Martini


160 calories | 258 kcals | 25 grams of carbs

See recipe on BBC Good Food here.



Invented by the famous late bartender Dick Bradsell, as a peculiar request from a British top model in his London bar in 1983. 

Legend says that when late bartender legend Dick Bradsell invented the Espresso Martini a super model walked up to him and said the famous words:“Can you please make something that will wake me up and then f**k me up?"

You can find the recipe here:




1 serving | 158 kcals | 4.6 grams of carbs

See recipe on BBC Good Food here.



The exact origins of the Mojito are not known but it is thought to have been a medicinal drink named El Draque, after Sir Francis Drake, who in 1586 gave it to his men to treat dysentery and scurvy.   

The drink combines rum and lime with mint, sugar syrup and soda water. In the 1800s it was promoted by the Bacardi company and became popular worldwide. Ernest Hemmingway is said to have discovered the drink on a trip to Cuba in Le Bodeguita del medio (a well-known historical place in the heart of Havana.   

It’s thought that the name “Mojito” comes from the Spanish word “mojadito” meaning “a little wet” or or mojado, which meaning “wet”.   

The Mojito appears in the James Bond film, Day Another Day, when Bond (Pierce Brosnan) appears on the beach with Jinx (Halle Berry).


Pina Colada





1 serving | 175 calories | 25.5 grams of carbs  

Piña Colada, meaning “strained pineapple.”, is a summer drink loved across the world although there is some controversy as to whether it was invented by pirates or bartenders.

One story is that it was created in the early 1800s, by Roberto Cofresí, a Puerto Rican pirate, who mixed together white rum, pineapple, and coconut milk and gave it to his crew for relief from heat and to boost their morale. 

However, it is widely accepted that a bartender named Ramon “Monchito” Marrero working at the popular Beachcombers Bar in San Juan, Puerto Rico, created the drink by blending rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice together in 1952.

Another bartender, Ricardo Garcia, working at the Caribe Hilton, has also claimed that he was the inventor. He is said to have improvised by serving the drink in hollowed out pineapples in 1954.

Pina Colada was designated the national drink of Puerto Rico in 1978 and National Pina Colada Day is celebrated there annually on 10th July.



1 serving | 232 kcals | 22 grams of carbs

Find the recipe on BBC Good Food here.

The Spanish wine punch has many variations as its history goes way back to Greek and Roman times. They made a drink called “hippocras,” by mixing wine with sugar, spices, and whatever was available.  Sometimes it was heated like mulled wine. 

There is no exact recipe for making Sangria - one of the reasons it's so popular as it allows flexibility - but it usually combines red wine, fruits, and various spirits and is served in a pitcher or punchbowl. Under current EU law, officially it must be made in Spain or Portugal and have less than 12% ABV to be labelled as Sangria. 

The name Sangria comes from “sangre” meaning “blood” in Spanish.


Sex on the beach

1 serving | 92 kcal | 8 grams of carbs

See recipe on BBC Good Food here.

Known by many for its provocative name as well as being a refreshing fruity drink. Sex On The Beach was a popular drink of the 1980s and 1990s.   

There are countless different recipes for serving this cocktail, but the standard one only includes Vodka, Peach Schnapps, orange juice and cranberry juice.   

The Vodka and cranberry juice represents the "sex" and the beach part of the cocktail, is represented by Peach Schnapps combined with orange juice and occasionally pineapple juice.


Champagne Cocktails





1 serving | 244 calories | 13 grams of carbs

The champagne cocktail appears in the first cocktail book published in 1862. It is a combination of champagne presented in a pre-chilled champagne glass with a sugar cube soaked in aromatic bitters at the bottom and containing a small measure of cognac.

Due to the high sugar content, of course it may not be the best choice for those with diabetes as it definitely has the potential to shoot levels high very quickly!


I hope you have found this article interesting. Whatever your choice of drink, Cheers to you!

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Details and data is correct to the best of the author’s knowledge at the time this blog is published. We do not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. Information is for guidance only.

Love My Libre is not associated or affiliated with any of the aforementioned medtech providers. Content here and on our website does not constitute medical advice or replace the relationship between you and healthcare professionals nor the advice you receive from them.

The author of this blog has type 1 diabetes and uses the FreeStyle Libre 2 which is provided on NHS prescription. We do not have any affiliate relationship with Abbott or FreeStyle Libre.


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