The 11 Best Cocktails That Won't Leave You With A Hangover, Ranked

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While there are tons of easy cocktails you can make at home, you'll have to take a few precautions to avoid a hangover the next day. You don't have to splurge for premium products, though. Instead, warding off hangovers is more about which ingredients are best avoided. So, you can still make cocktails on a budget and reduce your risk of a hangover. If you follow Martha Stewart's cocktail rule and use fresh juice and cut out sugary mixers and artificial sweeteners, you'll already be on the right path. That's because minimizing sugar content is one of the three best ways to prevent hangovers.

Still, it's not the sugar by itself that's the problem. As Thrillist notes, the reason sugary drinks appear to lead to more hangovers is because all that sweetness helps us finish drinks more quickly, leading us to drink too much.

WebMD reports that congeners, compounds found in alcohol, are the element most likely to lead to hangovers, and darker spirits tend to contain more. Steering toward cocktails with light-colored or clear spirits like vodka and gin will keep your congener count lower. Finally, as Healthline reminds us, the only foolproof way to avoid a hangover is to skip alcohol entirely. But that will leave you without a cocktail, so consider lower-alcohol cocktails to minimize your risk. Need some more guidance? At the bar or home, these are the best cocktails that won't leave you with a hangover, ranked from good to best.

11. Sea breeze

This classic cocktail is essentially a vodka cranberry with the addition of some grapefruit juice. So, if your first thought is that there might be quite a bit of sugar in this one, you're not wrong. Still, some of us will always prefer a sweeter cocktail, so we've sourced the best option to satisfy that need. However, you'll note that it still ranks last on our list of the best cocktails that won't leave you with a hangover, due to all that sweetness

As the creator of the blog A Girl's Guide to Drinking Alone and author of the book "Cocktails in Color," Sammi Katz, told Mashed, "you can make it less sweet by using 100% cranberry juice as opposed to cranberry cocktail," and adds, "if you use freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, you won't be getting any added sugar." 

Since sugar is known to aid us in drinking our cocktails just a bit too fast and overindulging in repeat drinks, Katz suggests that, though it's not part of the traditional recipe, you can try adding some seltzer to your sea breeze. That will help to elongate the drinking time and help you slow down a bit. The sea breeze is certainly not the top choice of cocktail for preventing a hangover but it does utilize a clear spirit. What's more, with these suggestions from cocktail pros, it can be made into an ever better match for the cocktail enthusiast who can't completely ignore their sweet tooth.

10. Screwdriver

Continuing with vodka for its low congener count, the screwdriver is another classic cocktail that may help you ward off a hangover. While you may be less familiar with the origin story of the screwdriver cocktail, you're likely quite familiar with its simple makeup of vodka and orange juice and have more than likely enjoyed plenty of these in the past. And if, as with the sea breeze, you find yourself already balking at the sugar content of orange juice, rest assured that we have similar advice for the screwdriver to keep those hangovers at bay.

Jorge Centeno, bar director of the Deer Path Inn and mastermind of whimsical and sophisticated cocktails that have been lauded by outlets like Forbes and Fodor's Travel, told Mashed that using fresh squeezed orange juice helps to eliminate the added sugars found in bottled juices can help make a screwdriver an even better candidate for preventing hangovers. But if you really want to go the extra mile, Centeno says you can cut your orange juice with a half portion of water to reduce the cocktail's sugar content. This also works as an alternative if you don't have the time or means to juice your own oranges.

Centeno, whose pre-hospitality background is in agriculture and engineering, also recommends looking for a lower-alcohol vodka like Ketel One Botanicals, which carries only 30% alcohol by volume compared to the more typical 40% ABV. This will also add a more layered flavor profile to this otherwise basic cocktail.

9. Moscow mule

Even if you didn't know it, you've probably seen people drinking this one already. You know that cool cocktail with green garnishes spilling out over the top of a copper mug? That's the Moscow mule. The classic Moscow mule recipe consists of vodka, ginger beer, and lime, often garnished with mint and always served in a copper mug meant to keep the icy beverage perpetually cool. While that last bit may be not much more than a gimmick these days, there's no denying it's a fun touch and it certainly helps to keep us coming back to this visually pleasing cocktail.

While there are many great ginger beers for Moscow mules out there, Katz reminds us that ginger beer is a considerably sugary ingredient, and we're looking to minimize sugar consumption when scouting the best cocktails that won't leave you with a nasty hangover. To compensate for this without tossing the copper-mugged cocktail by the wayside, she recommends replacing ginger beer with an equivalent portion of fresh ginger juice, seltzer, and a bit of simple syrup. This way, she says, "you can control the quantity of sugar while still getting the punch from the ginger and bubbles from the seltzer." This will also help you customize the amount of ginger flavor in your mule, as some prefer this uniquely spiced ingredient a bit more than others.

8. Martini

Ah, the legendary "shaken, not stirred" favorite of super suave secret service agent James Bond. While the classic martini recipe calls only for gin, dry vermouth, and a lemon peel, it's common to substitute vodka as the primary spirit in this sophisticated cocktail. That substitution would serve to reduce the congener count further as vodka is the clear spirit with the lowest level of congeners. As Katz tells us, "people love martinis because they are so customizable," and that includes the spirit base. Gin is still quite low in congeners, though, so there's no significant need to make this substitution if you prefer the original.

The caveat when it comes to choosing a martini as a cocktail candidate for preventing hangovers is that it's quite alcohol-forward, so we don't recommend ordering martinis all night long. If this will be your drink of choice, take it slow and sip on one or two martinis throughout your evening. It's a strong drink, so it shouldn't be difficult to remember to pace yourself, but if you know that you're a frequent sipper, this one may be a skipper. Or, take Katz's lead and have your martini in her favorite style, 50/50. This variation is a lower ABV martini that's comprised of half gin and half vermouth. Because that's much more vermouth than most are used to, she says, "it may be an acquired taste, but with good quality vermouth it's a delicious, lighter option for a martini lover."

7. Skinny margarita

By now you're well-versed in the idea that lighter-colored (or clear) liquors are lower in hangover-inducing congeners than darker liquors. So, of course, we have to inform you of the major exception to this rule: tequila. Despite its relatively light color, even in darker forms like reposado and añejo, tequila is a high-congener spirit. While there's absolutely no science backing the common notion that people may become drunker with tequila or make worse decisions under the influence of it versus other spirits, tequila hangovers may be worse. That's thanks to more congeners and the possibility that you'll end up drinking more of it. But we won't leave you without a single tequila option on our list, and that brings us to the skinny margarita.

A skinny margarita is a low-calorie and often a lower-alcohol version of the beloved fiesta cocktail. Though the terminology might perpetuate body image concerns (the drink may be more appropriately called a light margarita), this incredibly popular version is less likely to cause a hangover if you can't resist margaritas by the pool. If you're going this route, Katz suggests using agave nectar instead of white sugar. This substitute will lend more flavor with less sweetener. She also reminds us to be sure we're using pure agave tequilas, not mixto varieties of the spirit. Mixtos, she says, are only half natural agave and are supplemented with added sugars, driving down the quality and cranking up the potential for hangovers.

6. Paloma

Because it's such a popular spirit, we're going to give you one more tequila option on our list, and this one's a slightly better option than any type of margarita. Katz says that margaritas get all the attention in terms of tequila cocktails, but she loves a good paloma. "It's juicy, fruity, and super refreshing," she says. Similar to the Moscow mule, Katz points out that a paloma is traditionally made with grapefruit soda, which is high in sugar. "If you make yours with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, seltzer, and agave nectar, you'll still get a delicious drink without all the added sugar," she advises.

If you're enjoying cocktails at home and so have more control over the proportions, Katz says that you can change your recipe with each additional paloma you mix. For example, "if your first paloma has 1.5 ounces of tequila," she says, "try making your second one with one ounce, and add more seltzer and grapefruit juice." Keeping it real, she reminds us that, "the only real way to avoid a hangover is to drink less alcohol," adding in an earnest, "Sorry."

We also think this cocktail can work well as a potential hangover avoider because the tart and bitter flavor profile of the grapefruit (especially in fresh juice form instead of sweeter, more processed soda) may help discourage rapid guzzling of these cocktails and limit your overall alcohol intake.

5. Pink gin

There's a good chance that you've already heard of the majority of the cocktails on this list before, but a pink gin may be the exception. No, this is not just an artificially-tinted gin. Instead, pink gin is an actual cocktail, though it is admittedly a very simple one made up of only two ingredients. Like the martini, we've included the pink gin cocktail as an option for the drinks connoisseur who seeks an alcohol-heavy drink while attempting to prevent a hangover as best as possible. Here's why.

"Pink gin is essentially just gin and angostura bitters," says Katz. "If you're someone who enjoys their liquor straight, but you want something to help slow down your consumption, add bitters to your glass of gin." Bitters add a layer of flavor which Katz says helps to morph this spirit into one you'll want to sip rather than shoot. And even if you're already a practiced sipper of fine gins, the addition of bitters will add a bold sharpness that is likely to encourage you to take it even more slowly than usual. That makes this cocktail a top choice for those who generally prefer their spirits straight but don't want to have a hangover in the morning.

4. Americano

While the martini is little more than gin (or vodka) and vermouth, the Americano is similarly simple. In most varieties, it's just Campari and vermouth, though it can be made sparkling with the addition of club soda and lemon. If you're not familiar with the Americano cocktail, it's an Italian botanical aperitif with a bitter flavor profile. While the recipe for this liqueur is top secret, it doesn't hurt to brush up on Campari liqueur if you want to expand your repertoire of cocktails that won't leave you with a hangover.

The Americano places relatively high on our ranking because it hits all three major criteria of attempting to avoid hangovers. The flavor profile is far from sweet, it's low in congeners, and the alcohol content of this cocktail is considerably low as there's no strong spirit forming its base. Katz loves low-alcohol cocktails because "you still get all the enjoyment of having a fun drink while easing off the booze." Specifically, she appreciates the Americano because it's a "dynamic lower-proof cocktail," adding that, "because it's lower in alcohol content, you can have more of them!" 

We love the enthusiasm and while this claim can certainly be true in many situations, we encourage you to stay on the responsible side and not increase your intake too much if you want to reduce your risk of hangovers. You do have some wiggle room with this all-around hangover prevention champ of a cocktail, though, so one or two extra shouldn't hurt.

3. Clover Club

Rounding out our top three cocktails that won't leave you with a hangover, the Clover Club is the other drink on our list that you may not have heard of yet, but you're about to be glad you've just encountered it. A personal favorite of Katz, she describes this classic as a "perfectly balanced gin sour." As A Couple Cooks details, a sour is any cocktail that's made with a spirit, a citrus, and a sweetener. A sour may also contain an egg white topper. In a Clover Club, Katz explains, "gin, raspberries, lemon juice, and egg white all come together harmoniously" in the cocktail named for the Philadelphia club where it was invented.

Not only is the Clover Club's only alcohol component gin, which you'll recall is a low-congener spirit, but Katz adds that the egg topper may provide additional hangover prevention benefits. "There's reason to believe that the proteins and amino acids in egg whites can help slow the absorption of alcohol by breaking down toxins," she says. This can lead to better pacing and less chance of reaching a drunken state likely to induce a horrible hangover. "I'm not a scientist," she adds, "but I'm ready and willing to believe this." So are we. The original Clover Club inside a Philadelphia hotel is gone now, but Katz notes that there's a Clover Club in Brooklyn today and fewer things make her happier than drinking a Clover Club at Clover Club.

2. Negroni

Remember that Campari we just talked about when discussing the Americano? This liqueur is back, and in what is surely its most popular incarnation, the Negroni. And speaking of the Americano cocktail, a Negroni is just an amped-up Americano, adding a healthy dose of gin to the vermouth and Campari recipe we're already familiar with. Many recipes will also call for an orange peel in the mix. The origin of the Negroni cocktail actually begins with an Americano and a count (by the name of Negroni, of course) who wanted a stronger version of the bitter drink.

Because the Negroni cocktail is already well-positioned to help you avoid a hangover after enjoying a drink or two, there isn't much you can do with one to reduce the risk further. However, Centeno offers an alcohol-free version using Seedlip, a non-alcoholic distilled spirit. Calling it his NO-groni, Centeno's recipe calls for one ounce of Seedlip 94, one ounce of Seedlip 42, 1.5 ounces of hibiscus syrup, a quarter ounce of wormwood tea, and half a spoon of verjus. That's all served over a giant ice block and garnished with an orange peel. Casual sippers are unlikely to have all of these specialty ingredients on hand, but they're worth the investment for serious home bar carts. That can be especially handy when you'll be entertaining non-drinkers or want to ease off on your alcohol intake toward the end of a cocktail party.

1. Gin and tonic

The absolute best cocktail that can help you avoid a hangover is inarguably the classic gin and tonic. While the pink gin was recommended for gin lovers who want to slow down consumption a bit without taking away from the gin-forward flavor and impact of the cocktail, the gin and tonic is better suited for those who aren't as determined to taste straight gin. It's essentially a presentation of diluted gin, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

It's not plain water that dilutes a gin and tonic, of course. Centeno points out that tonic water is one of the bar mixers with the highest levels of sugar, which could undermine your efforts to avoid a hangover. To counter this, Centeno suggests that you seek out a lower-sugar variety of tonic water if you're mixing G&Ts at home. He says that he uses low-calorie London Essence tonic water at Deer Path Inn.

If you don't want to spring for a premium tonic, Centeno recommends cutting half of your tonic water with club soda to reduce sugar without sacrificing carbonation or completely forgoing the signature bitter flavor of the tonic's quinine. And if you're at a bar and can't make any substitutions, you still have little to fear. Thanks to the bitter flavor profile of the gin and tonic, you won't likely detect much of a sugary sensation despite tonic's high sugar content. As a result, you're unlikely to indulge too quickly or too often with this cocktail.