How to make “creamier” cocktails without cream

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Photo: Claire Bass

With the exception of corn milk punch, creamy cocktails aren’t really my thing. Adding whole dairy to a cup of ethanol can cause curdling issues, but it’s the heaviness of the half and half and cream that makes it hard for me to enjoy them. Still, there’s no denying that a hint of creaminess can give a cocktail a more rounded and satisfying viscosity.

There are two ways to add a little richness to your drink without resorting to real cream: powdered lactic acid and leftover burrata water. The former may need to be specially ordered (but is not hard to find), while the latter is a great way to use up something that would otherwise go down the drain.

Add cultured flavor with lactic acid

Lactic acid is a byproduct of fermentation, and it’s what gives cultured dairy products like yogurt and kefir their tang. It’s mostly sour, but sour in a way that reminds your mouth of those cultured dairy products you usually find it in.

According PUNCH, dissolving lactic acid in simple syrup is the best way to create a creamy mouthfeel without any cream. The most popular versions are often made with vanilla bean. PUNCH offers two recipes for vanilla lactic syrup: a simple you can do with a whip and a much more elaborate it involves an immersion circulator and good effort.

Syrups pair particularly well with fruity acids — think orange, strawberry, and pineapple — creating creamy vibes and rounding out more acidic fruit flavors.

Add body with burrata water

I wrote about adding burrata water to acids before, and this has got to be one of my all-time favorite party tricks (drinks category). As I explained before, the leftover packing water not only makes your cocktail round and creamy, but not heavy at all, it creates a super stable eggless froth:

I added the suggested ounce of burrata water to this simple gin sour recipe from PUNCH, and shake it all together, first without ice (known as a “dry shake”), then again with ice. The foam was incredibly stable – it held up for 20 minutes! – and the whey added a pleasant creamy texture and a slight salty taste.

Making your own creamy, frothy, egg-free cocktail is easy. Just use this plug-and-play formula:

  • 2 ounces of alcohol (gin and whiskey are classics here)
  • 1 ounce burrata water
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounces simple syrup
  • Mix everything in a shaker and shake without ice for 30 seconds. Add ice – I like to use a giant cube – and shake vigorously until the shaker becomes very cold. Strain into a coupe glass, marvel at the froth, and enjoy.

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