One doesn’t normally think of low calories when one thinks of alcohol consumption. But for all the ladies (and men) who want to enjoy a nice cocktail after a long work week without packing on the calories, let us introduce you to Atlanta-based mixologist Tiffanie Barriere.

Barriere’s secret for reducing calories is to use fresh herbs and fruit as substitutes for fruit juices and other high-sugar mixers. Known as the “Drinking Coach,” Barriere talked to ESSENCE about her upcoming Empower U panel and her favorite low-calorie drink.

It’s always a good time when Barriere’s around. Don’t believe us? Read the interview below and get a little taste. (Spoiler alert: Her tips are really useful.)

ESSENCE: Without spilling too much tea about the tips you’ll share at your Empower U ESSENCE Festival panel, tell us: What’s the one tip you would give someone who wanted a calorie-conscious drink?

Tiffanie Barriere’: There are so many ways to get around calories without restricting flavor. Champagne is a great go-to. Four ounces (a little under a full flute) is fabulous to the body, with only 85 calories in a glass. That’s lower than a light beer AND a four ounce glass of wine!

Gin is the official flavored vodka, and it adds character to soda, tonic, and even juices. It has outstanding flavor and it’s great in the calorie category. For my vodka cranberry drinkers, try substituting the cranberry for grapefruit. You’ll get some protein AND lower your calories.

ESSENCE: What do you think is the biggest misconception about alcohol consumption as it relates to health and weight gain?

TB: Some drinkers think that a certain liquor will get them more drunk than another. But it’s not the proof that gets you buzzed — it’s the sugar content, along with what you add to your drink that effects your body. Sugar will not only give you a rush, but it will also give you more calories, so stay away from sugar. Also, clear liquor has a distillation process that strips away most of the stuff you don’t want hanging around, so that’s a better choice than dark liquor.

ESSENCE: What are your favorite herbs to use in drinks? And why?

TB: Basil, rosemary and thyme empower a cocktail. These herbs have the most Essence (no pun intended). I like my cocktail to not only taste good and get me to that point, but I also want it to have an aroma that keeps me coming back. These herbs are like cocktail perfume.  

ESSENCE: What’s your favorite low-cal recipe?

TB: Tequila and soda! The flavors are epic. The spice of the tequila are incredible with the soda. Add a squeeze of lime, and I’m sipping 100 calories of fun. Champagne is my second choice. It’s taste great every time.

ESSENCE: Scenario: It’s Tuesday at 8 pm. It’s been a long day and you need a good, strong drink, but you don’t want to go overboard on the calories. What do you make?

TB: Funny question! This is asked of me every day. There’s only one solution for drinking when you’re calorie watching after a long day: doubles and soda. This is otherwise known as a highball, which is your choice of spirit combined with soda in a tall glass. It’s light and refreshing. When you have a long day, gulping it down on the strong tip isn’t always the safest idea. Stretch it out, sip it slow and then start to vent. Then allow your double to make you forget all about your long day!