How to use dairy in cocktails

Ramos gin fizz 

The first time I experienced dairy in a cocktail was at the marvelous Velvet Tango Room in Cleveland, in 2008. The cocktail renaissance was hitting full stride, although I was just beginning my journey into the world of mixed drinks. I ordered a Ramos gin fizz, not sure what to expect from what seemed like an odd combination of ingredients. In my mind, it was either going to be fantastic or a complete bust. Lucky for me it was the former rather than the latter - this single drink propelled me into a decade of cocktail exploration. 

If you have ever experienced a properly made Ramos gin fizz, you understand how adding elements like egg white and cream can transform a drink by creating a smooth, rich - and dare I say it, unctuous - texture to a cocktail. Notice that I said 'properly made': done poorly, you end up with a gritty, curdled, and altogether unpleasant experience. That's because dairy and acids tend to not play well together (that is, unless your goal is to make cheese). 

The folks at Team Lyan, writing for Punch Magazine, are here to help. They have written a concise guide on how to use dairy in cocktails. In addition to providing tips on how to successfully incorporate items like milk and cream into drinks, they explore using other dairy items such as kefir, whey, butter, and cheese to add new dimensions to your drinks. 

Using high fat items like cream can help "coat the palate and suppress alcohol perception; this lends not only a luxurious mouthfeel, but holds flavors on the palate, too," says Team Lyan. They provide an example, explaining that "a Brandy Milk Punch is a version of a shaken Old-Fashioned, but the addition of dairy lifts more fruitiness from the spirit, rather than the butterscotch-spice of the stirred, dairy-free version." 

The idea of adding dairy to drinks is not new - some of the earliest cocktails include the family of milk punches - but only recently have cocktail enthusiasts keenly dived into the science behind the concept. This article provides a firm foundation for you to do your own dairy-infused cocktail exploration. 

Photo of Ramos gin fizz from Ruhlman.com by Michael Ruhlman

1 Comment

  • Cubangirl  on  9/10/2017 at 10:03 PM

    The best cocktail I've ever had was a milk one at Menton's Bar in Boston. It was great, though you would not guess it had milk in it.

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