It's the time of year when every social engagement comes with swizzle sticks. Have your cocktail – and drink it too – with our expert guide to the smartest choices at the bar.

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Sangria

Although it can pack an alcoholic punch, a glass of sangria takes the benefits of the anti-oxidants in red wine and adds the filling fibre of fruit to make a reasonably healthy beverage. Upgrade your jug by asking the bartender to swap the lemonade for zero-kilojoule soda water, and when making it at home, add a selection of apples, oranges, lime and red berries for a bigger anti-oxidant boost.

Espresso Martini

This is one cocktail you don't want to mess with. Its potent combination of caffeine and alcohol will have you dehydrated quicker than you can say, "Over here, bartender." Not only will your hangover be worse – just one martini is the same as drinking five standard glasses of wine – but studies show that the false sense of alertness increases risk-taking behaviour, like drink-driving. Plus, says naturopath Annalies Corse, "An espresso martini will keep you awake due to the caffeine and theobromine, another stimulant," making sleep elusive when you finally hit the sack. Kilojoule wise? It's worse than a Mars Bar.

Low-Carb Beer

If you think low carb is a healthy option, think again – this drink has almost as many kilojoules as a regular beer and just as much alcohol, which is the real culprit when it comes to drink-related weight gain. Opt for light beer instead, which has fewer kilojoules and a high water content, and will keep you more hydrated than cocktails or wine.

Caprioska

Ravenous? This high-GI cocktail could be to blame. According to nutritionist Kirsty Lerm, the added sugar is what can leave you craving that kebab. If you're making this at home, use low-GI palm sugar or agave nectar instead. Just remember: that double shot of vodka means you'll reach your recommended alcohol intake with just one drink.

White Wine

A good choice, if you’re smart about your options. Skip sweeter versions, like moscato, and opt for a drier variety like chardonnay, which has fewer kilojoules. But sip slowly, warns nutritionist Julie Markoska, as a standard glass of white wine is far smaller in volume than your average vodka and soda, and could have you reaching for another drink sooner.

Cosmopolitan

If you can stop at one, this drink isn't too bad – cranberry juice is good for bladder health and a rich source of anti-oxidants and vitamin C. But an innocent-looking cosmo has the same alcohol content as two and a half standard drinks. And who can stop at one? "It doesn't contain much water, so it'll make you thirsty and want to drink more," warns Markoska, adding that a fruit-filled daiquiri would be more hydrating.

Vodka, Fresh Lime and Soda

Forget juice or lemonade: soda water is the nutritionist's mixer of choice thanks to its lack of kilojoules, says Markoska. Plus, the fresh lime helps to detox and alkalise the body, increasing its resistance to disease. It's also great for those bad-influence friends – you can substitute every second drink with sparkling water and lime and still appear to be drinking. Always opt for fresh lime, not cordial, which can up the kilojoule count.

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