I’ve been teaching people about the Keto diet for years, and people often wonder if it’s ok to have a drink at the end of the day. My brother-in-law likes gin and he asked me specifically if gin is keto friendly. I’m not a gin drinker, so I looked into it and found lots of information to share with you.
So, is gin keto friendly? Gin is a distilled spirit and like other distilled spirits, unsweetened gins have zero carbs, therefore gin is keto friendly. Some gins are “infused” with botanicals and flavors, and these are also zero carb. Flavored gin liqueurs, however, have added sugars and are not keto-friendly.
Knowing the difference between unflavored gin, infused gin and gin liqueurs will help you stay Keto while enjoying your gin cocktail. You’ll also want to choose your mixers carefully, as mixers can be very high in sugars and you’ll want to choose keto-friendly options. As with all alcohol, that gin cocktail can affect ketone production and understanding how it affects ketosis will help you make good decisions that will not hinder your weight loss efforts. Let’s dig in!
Identifying Zero Carb Gins
Gin is one of the broadest categories of spirits, with lots of flavor profiles to choose from. According to the U. S. government, to be called gin, this spirit must “derive its main characteristic flavor from juniper berries and be bottled at not less than 80° proof.” (See the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations here.)
You may see any number of types of gin, which are differentiated by the basic process of how they are made:
- London Dry (most prevalent)
- Old Tom
- International Style (or New American Style. These usually have any number of included infusions.)
As long as the main flavor is juniper, any other plant aromatics and infusions can also be used while making gin, giving us the wide variety of gin spirits that are on the market today. When you’re on a ketogenic diet, you’ll want to know if those infusions of fruit, flowers, leaves or other plant materials will add any carbs.
When you infuse any liquid, whether it be water, oil or alcohol, what you are doing is soaking a solid material in the liquid for a period of time in order to extract the soluble compounds like tannins, flavonoids, saponins and others. These lend their flavor and aroma to the liquid but their solids are drained off after the extraction.
So with an infusion, you get the flavor but not the carbs!
Since by definition all gins must have that characteristic juniper flavor, all gins are infused gins. So don’t be confused if you see “infused” on the gin label. Every distiller can add other ingredients during the infusion process, giving their product its own unique complexity.
These infused gins are all zero carb, and therefore are a good alcohol choice when on a Keto diet. Where you’ll need to be careful is watching for gin liqueurs and sugary mixers.
Avoid Sugary Gin Liqueurs
Gin liqueurs are much different, though. A “liqueur” is different from “liquor”. By definition, liqueurs are sweetened. Their alcohol content is lower but their sugar content is high. That means you’ll want to avoid gin liqueurs when eating a ketogenic diet.
The most commonly known gin liqueur is sloe gin. Like many liqueurs, it is made with fruit or fruit flavoring, as “sloe” is a small fruit related to the plum. In today’s market, though, you can find gin liqueurs in just about any fruit flavor. You’ll want to stay away from all of them because they will have added carbs.
A better way to flavor your gin cocktail and stay Keto is to use keto-friendly mixers!
There are some mixers for cocktails that are naturally low carb, though many are not keto-friendly. Since gin itself has zero carbs, these mixers are often where people get into carb trouble.
Tonic water: Gin and tonic is one of the most iconic ways to enjoy gin. However, most tonic waters are not keto-friendly, as they contain large amounts of sugar. If you love gin and tonic, don’t despair. There are keto-friendly tonic options available now! If you want to learn more about low carb tonic water, I’ve written an article all about keto-friendly tonic.
Lime juice and lime slices: Naturally low carb, limes are a great complement to gin and are used in numerous gin cocktail recipes. The juice from one whole lime has 4 grams of carbs, but you’ll most likely be using 1/4 of a lime or less. That’s just 1 gram of carbs!
Dry Vermouth: This mixer is not actually a mixer in the traditional sense. It is a fortified wine. It’s a vital part of a gin martini, though, so I wanted to mention it here. Carb counts vary by brand, but generally, you can figure one ounce of dry vermouth has 1 g of carbs, and a standard recipe for a martini only uses 1/2 an ounce. That’s only 1/2 of a gram of carbs in one cocktail!
Olive juice and olives: Green olives are a classic garnish in gin martinis, and the liquid in the jar they are packaged in is sometimes added to a martini. The juice itself is basically an olive infusion, so it has zero carbs. And green olives only have 1 total carb in 10 olives. However, they also have 0.9 grams of fiber. That makes their net carb count only 0.1 for 10 olives!
Simple syrup or fruit syrup: Here’s another high sugar cocktail mixer that you’ll want to avoid on a Keto diet. Simple syrup is just water and sugar. And lots of it. A fruit-flavored syrup, such as lime syrup, will also have lime juice or flavoring in it, but it will be just as high in sugar.
However, there are now keto-friendly syrups on the market. My preferred option is Swoon Zero Sugar Simple Syrup. (You can find it on Amazon with this link.) I prefer this brand because it is made with monk fruit, which is a natural sugar alternative but still has zero carbs.
You could also use Torani or Da Vinci brand sugar-free syrups. These are made with Splenda, which is an artificial sweetener. I avoid artificial sweeteners due to their potential for inflammation and harm to your gut microbiome. However, many people use them successfully on a Keto diet.
Torani and Da Vinci both have numerous flavor options, including Lime Simple Syrup, which you might want to use in some of these recipes. (You can find Torani Sugar Free Lime Syrup on Amazon with this link.)
4 Classic Gin Cocktails Made Keto
Gin and Tonic: Simple, casual and easy to drink, this is the go-to for most gin drinkers. Just follow my advice for keto friendly tonic water, pour over ice, and you’re good to go!
- 2 oz. gin, 4 oz. keto friendly tonic water, juice from 1/4 a lime.
Gin Martini: Sophisticated and classic, shake these ingredients with ice and then strain the cocktail into a tall martini glass.
- 2 1/2 oz. gin, 1/2 oz. dry vermouth, garnish with lemon peel or olives.
Gin Gimlet: – The classic gin gimlet is made with a combination of lime juice and simple syrup or sweetened lime syrup, both of which are high sugar options that are not good for a Keto diet. You can use Swoon Zero Sugar Simple Syrup, though, and stay Keto! Shake and strain or serve over ice.
- 2 oz. gin, 3/4 oz. keto friendly simple syrup, 3/4 oz. lime juice
Gin Rickey: Similar to a gin and tonic but without any added sugar or need for a keto friendly mixer alternative! Club soda is sugar-free and zero carb, and this refreshing drink is easy to pour over ice and enjoy.
- 2 oz. gin, juice from 1/2 a lime, club soda to fill your glass
How alcohol affects ketosis
As with all alcohol, you’ll want to enjoy your gin cocktail in moderation. Alcohol is actually a macronutrient, with seven calories per gram. It’s also a toxin, and your body will always process it first, before carbs, fat or ketones.
So while that zero carb gin might not knock you out of ketosis, it will put your weight loss efforts on hold. It is simply impossible for your body to burn fat and alcohol at the same time.
And we all know that alcohol lowers our inhibitions, which means it also lowers your willpower! More than one or two drinks sure makes it more difficult to say no to temptation. Stick to one drink, savor and enjoy it, and be confident that you are on track with your Keto lifestyle!
Make your own gin infusions
If you truly love gin and love to play with your own creations, check out this gin infuser kit we gave my brother-in-law for Christmas! It comes with all sorts of amazing spices and botanicals, like cardamom, hibiscus, lavender, pepper, laurel, orange peel, licorice and of course, juniper!
There’s no distilling involved, you just choose the flavors you want to try and infuse them into vodka or unflavored gin. It comes with instructions and suggestions, too, so making amazing gin infusions is super easy. The package is all in a beautiful box with elegant bottles to infuse with, and the botanicals are packaged in an appealing way. If you or a loved one are a gin lover, this makes a great gift!
Follow this Amazon affiliate link to check out this beautiful gin infusion kit and start making your own unique gin at home!