Up to a point, say diet experts and mixologists, but you have to keep a close eye on exactly what and how much is going into your glass.
"Just as in food be mindful of what you drink. Pay attention to the ingredients and the portion size," says Theresa DiMasi, editor-in-chief of WeightWatchers.com.
As with any other beverage other than water, alcohol comes with calories. One serving (1 ounces) of 80 proof distilled spirits contains about 97 calories, says Monica Gourovitch, senior vice president for scientific affairs of the Washington-based Distilled Spirits Council.
What you do next makes the difference. Have the spirits over ice or with no-cal soda and your calorie count is quite low. Add creamy, dairy-based mixers or sugary juices and syrups and the calories start to add up.
Better choices, said DiMasi, are drinks such as a bloody mary, a screwdriver or a gin and tonic.
And, of course, there's no room in a diet for over-indulging in alcohol, something that not only will add the calories, but also very likely impair your judgment about whether that plate of cheese fries or a second trip to the dessert buffet is a good idea.
Federal dietary guidelines allow up to one drink a day for women; two for men, points out Gourovitch. "You want to make sure that you're having your drinks with foods and you want to be smart about your foods," she added.
Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, authors of the upcoming "The Fire Island Cookbook," have a favorite diet cocktail trick: club soda and lime.
"Instead of rum and sugar-laden Coke - or worse yet, diet soda loaded with chemicals - we mix our rum with calorie-free club soda, and hit it with a squeeze of lime. If you're used to mixing your vodka or gin with tonic, you can substitute club soda as well. Over the course of an evening, you're talking about a significant number of calories.''
Andrea N. Giancoli, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, recommends keeping things simple. "I would say stick to either a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce serving of beer or one mixed drink with diet soda or seltzer as a mixer. Where you get into calorie trouble is with items like spiked eggnog."
At Bardessono, a luxury hotel, restaurant and spa in Yountville that emphasizes green design and local, seasonal ingredients, James Brownsmith, a food and beverage manager, likes to keep a light touch. "Our philosophy is very much about sustainability and healthy living in terms of the impact on the earth as well as on ourselves," he said. "Our philosophy with our foods is very much about making food that's not heavy, but very light on your palate. We take a very similar approach to our cocktail menu."
A signature drink is the Moscow mule, vodka with fresh house ginger syrup, mint, sparkling wine and fresh-squeezed lime juice. "There's a lot of drinks that you can make very complex and very appealing to the palate without having to make them sweet."
Brownsmith expected demands for drinks on the lighter side to go up in January, stoked perhaps by resolutions - or regret. Hot buttered rum tends to be popular in December and "don't ask me about the health benefits of it because there aren't any," he said with a laugh.
When going out with friends to a bar or party, DiMasi recommends deciding at the outset what your best choices are. Eat before you go to avoid scarfing down high-fat, high-salt bar munchies.
If you're having more than one drink, alternate with glasses of water or seltzer.
And gab, don't gulp.
"Going out is about chatting with friends, exchanging stories," DiMasi notes. "The more you talk, the longer it will take you to eat or drink."