Slim Chance: Taste-testing low-cal cocktails at Le Colonial

Egg foams, creams, drizzles, syrups: Sampling craft cocktails can feel like a bigger calorie fest than falling off the wagon at Sprinkles. And since loading up on who knows how many carbs before even glancing at a dinner menu is no way to stick to a New Year’s resolution, I’ve been wondering why no Chicago lounge that serves these 20-minutes-in-the-making concoctions had addressed the diet issue. Yet…

Low-calorie cocktails at Le Colonial
No worries, clockwise from front center: Mekong Sunset, Le Coco Tropique, Guava Bellini, Ha Long Fizz.

Egg foams, creams, drizzles, syrups: Sampling craft cocktails can feel like a bigger calorie fest than falling off the wagon at Sprinkles. And since loading up on who knows how many carbs before even glancing at a dinner menu is no way to stick to a New Year’s resolution, I’ve been wondering why no Chicago lounge that serves these 20-minutes-in-the-making concoctions had addressed the diet issue. Yet.

Today marks the launch of the new Sans Soucis (roughly “no worries” in French) cocktail menu in the bar at Le Colonial. The drinks, each clocking in at 150 calories or fewer, seem aimed at the restaurant’s svelte Gold Coast clientele. After a taste-test yesterday afternoon (just sips, mind you; I wasn’t there to gulp down 600 calories of skinny cocktails), I think they’ll be a welcome option for those who can’t stomach too-sweet drinks at any time of the year—dieting or not.

The four varieties—Guava Bellini, Ha Long Fizz, Le Coco Tropique, and Mekong Sunset; each $12—are made from recipes developed by Le Colonial’s wine and spirits director, Valerie Cao. Her calorie-busting tricks? Lots of muddling (mostly basil, mint, pineapple, and lime) to up the flavor factor without using sugar-laden fruit juices, naturally lower-calorie rum and sugar-free Belvedere vodka, and just-brewed tea as a mixer. The results are fresh and light and bring a note of summer to this woebegone month we call February. If you go, start with my top pick, Le Coco Tropique (Bacardi Coco with muddled pineapple, basil, and lime, topped with club soda), which reminded me of an easier-to-swallow Mint Julep and looked like a little slice of vacation.

Red Heart martini at Potter's Lounge
Potter’s Red Heart Martini

Just watch out, drinkers: These babies can go down deceptively fast, but they contain standard pours of alcohol. Know of any other Chicago bars offering low-cal creations? Tell me! I’m holding out hope that skinny cocktails will be the next big (slimmer) thing.

Valentine’s P.S.: Taking your S.O. out on the town this weekend? Here’s an option. Last night, while having a girl summit with two friends in the rosy Potter’s Lounge at the Palmer House Hilton, I felt like I was sitting inside a Valentine’s Day card—or at least a vintage SATC episode. As “Tainted Love” played in the background, we covered such hard-hitting topics as: appropriate V-Day gifts (“Chocolate? Please. We look at it and see cellulite. Try spa treatments,” was my friend Amy’s advice for men), possible singles nominees for Chicago’s July issue, and whether or not marabou slippers from Frederick’s of Hollywood constitute sexy bedroom attire. All the while, I was sipping a Red Heart Martini, the bar’s special cocktail for February (POM Wonderful juice, Finlandia vodka, St. Germain, and Champagne, with a flower-petal garnish; $10). Fifty percent of sales through the end of the month benefit the American Heart Association, so order it. That’s one surefire way to be sweet.

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