Creating Delicious Dairy Cocktails at Home

Orange Creamsicle Cocktail
The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

A luscious milk or cream cocktail is a nice treat every now and then, and the flavor possibilities are nearly endless. From chocolate cocktails to fruity dessert martinis, creamy drinks are a joy to sip and fun to shake up.

Creating the Best Creamy Cocktails

Not every dairy cocktail relies heavily on milk, cream, or half-and-half. In fact, many use just a small amount to add a rich texture to the drink.

There is, however, a set of drinks that are dominated by dairy; the white Russian is a perfect example. Many of these are served over ice in an old-fashioned glass, a style of drink often referred to as a lowball. In these, you can decide what type of dairy you want to pour:

  • Cream will produce a rich drink and is often used in small quantities.
  • Milk will create the lightest drinks, though this will vary from whole to skim milk. 
  • Half-and-half is in between the two. It is, after all, a mix of cream and milk.
  • Heavy cream is used on occasion to produce the richest drinks or as a topping.

Fresh Dairy, Always

The key to any dairy cocktail is, of course, freshness. Keep an eye on the expiration dates and when in doubt, give your milk or cream the sniff test. If something seems even a little off, don't mix with it. Sour milk may have its uses in baking, but you will be wasting perfectly good liquor if you pour it into your drink.

It's also best to serve these creamy cocktails immediately after mixing them. The cold drinks should be extra cold and the hot drinks should be nice and toasty, but not scalded. You can also keep them at the ideal temperature longer by matching your glass temperature to the drink.

  • 01 of 05

    Milk Cocktails

    Sombrero cocktail

     The Spruce

    Milk cocktails are some of the easiest to mix up at home because it's already right there in the fridge. Many of these drinks use milk for its creaminess and rely heavily on the ingredient. They are also quite diverse, ranging from lowballs to martinis, and they're fun to explore.

    A few of these recipes call for specialty milk products such as soy or evaporated milk. For the most part, the milk that is sitting in your refrigerator will do. Also, if you prefer, feel free to use an alternative such as rice, almond, or even cashew milk. You may need to make a few adjustments to the recipe, but they typically do a very good job.

    Milk on the Rocks

    Milk will most often be found in simple drinks served on the rocks. These lowballs typically use just one or two liquors and are topped with milk, though cream is always an option. They are the perfect casual drink when you want something easy and they make a fine nightcap.

    Among the best drinks are the classic brandy milk punch and the sneaky Pete, which mixes rye whiskey and coffee liqueur. If you're in the mood for a coffee flavor, try the sombrero or add a little cola fizz and mix up a Colorado bulldog. Fruits are not out of the question, either. The banana-chocolate mix of the banshee is a fun treat, as is the popular nuts and berries, which combines Frangelico and Chambord.

    Fancy Milk Cocktails

    Bartenders love to play with milk when creating liquid replicas of favorite desserts. It's the perfect ingredient that gives a drink that splash of sweetness without being too sweet.

    One of the favorites among fancier milk cocktails is the simple milk and honey, which only requires a bottle of Benedictine. The dulce de leche, with its rum, chocolate liqueur, and sweetened condensed milk. is another popular option.

    There are also milky cocktails for different seasons. For instance, when the autumn winds blow, you'll want to mix up a pumpkin fever with rum and pumpkin liqueur. Around St. Patrick's Day, it's hard to beat the shamrock shaker and its delicious combination of coffee and amaretto liqueurs.

    Winter-Worthy Milk Cocktails

    There are a number of drinks that are perfect for winter parties. Many, like eggnog and the Tom and Jerry, are traditional holiday cocktails. These are excellent for sharing the spirit of the season with friends and family. Others are warm, inviting, and perfect for a cozy night by the fire. The snow honey is one of those and it's a true comfort on a cold night.

    Warming milk takes patience and constant attention. Heat it gently and just enough so that it is steaming. Stir it continually and avoid boiling. If your milk ends up too hot and begins to curdle, the taste will be off, so it's often best to begin again.

    Blended Milk Drinks

    Milk is the perfect additive to create fresh smoothies with or without the booze. These are fun and tasty beverages that are perfect for summer entertaining.

    Among these are the popular nonalcoholic mango julius and orange julius. Either is a great choice for the entire family and kids will love being part of the blender action. For the adults, there is the fantastic rum-based bushwacker, with its tempting mix of coconut, chocolate, and coffee flavors.

  • 02 of 05

    Cream Cocktails

    Peppermint Patty Cocktail
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

    Cocktails made with cream can be some of the thickest, richest, and most luscious you'll mix up in the bar.

    For the most part, the recipes will say "cream" and you have a few options, including a light cream or half-and-half. The heavy creams are often, well, too heavy. A few will suggest a specific style of cream, though.

    Popular Cream Cocktails

    Cream cocktails include some of the best drinks ever created. If you're looking for a sure winner that has pleased the palates of drinkers for many years, any of these recipes will do the trick:

    Fancy Cream Cocktails

    Should a decadent and unique dessert cocktail be on your mind, there is a recipe that is perfect for you. Among the most tempting are the white chocolatinidark 'n fluffy, and talking monkey, each of which has at least a hint of chocolate and are nice and light. For something a little boozier, try the Barbary Coast, an interesting mix of gin, rum, scotch, and chocolate liqueur.

    If you have a bottle of the golden liqueur, Galliano in stock, cream is an excellent pairing for it. Try it in either the golden Cadillac with crème de cacao, or mix it with coffee vodka for a golden cappuccino martini. Another fun recipe is the orange- filled golden dream.

    For a unique combination of flavors with cream, give one of these recipes a try:

    Cream on the Rocks

    Many of these lowballs can be made with either milk or cream. They are among the easiest drinks you can mix up and there is a great variety of flavors to choose from.

    • Coffee liqueurs are quite popular and make an appearance in the vodka-based dirty bird and brandy-based separator. Add an ingredient or two and you can have a Smith & Kearns or a toasted almond.
    • Chocolate is no stranger to this style, either. Give the brilliantly blue frostbite a taste with your favorite tequila or go all out with the fun Snickertini.
    • In the mood for mint? Mix Irish whiskey with crème de menthe for an Irish eyes.
    • On the fruitier side, try the orange-melon-pineapple combo of the vampire's kiss. For something a little less involved, the peachy-orange of the white carnation is a delight.

    Creamy Shooters

    There are also a few party shots that require a dollop of cream. While some shooters leave a lot to be desired when it comes to taste, these are actually really good. Maybe just a little too good.

  • 03 of 05

    Heavy or Double Cream Cocktails

    Cafe Brasileiro - hot coffee cocktail
    Kris Timken / Photodisc / Getty Images

    Heavy cream is used to either create super-rich cocktails or as a topping in the glass. These recipes are fun to mix up and almost over the top on the delicious scale.

    The peach cobbler is one of those, with its simple mix of peach vodka and hazelnut liqueur. The pink squirrel is another fruity treat that has a bit of a vintage cocktail feel.

    Some drinks are cozy delights for those cold winter nights as well. If you're in the mood for hot chocolate, try the Hennessy hot cocoa with Cognac.

    Add a Fresh Whipped Cream

    A fun twist to cream is found in the café Brasileiro recipe. The cream is infused with vanilla and used as a float to top off the coffee cocktail. Flavored creams are easy to make and can be used in many other drinks, especially as an alternative to a whipped cream topping in hot chocolate and coffee drinks.

    To flavor cream, begin with heavy cream because it's best for whipping. Add your flavoring ingredient of choice and whip it until everything is mixed. 

    Creams can be flavored with almost any ingredient in the bar and many in your kitchen.

    • Add a dash of vanilla extract or another flavor extract like almond or peppermint.
    • Use those flavored liqueurs in your bar to customize the cream flavor. Just a dash will do, to begin with, as you can always add more if needed.
  • 04 of 05

    Half-and-Half Cocktails

    Orange Creamsicle Cocktail
    The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

    Some drink recipes call specifically for half-and-half. Traditionally, it is half cream and half milk, though modern standards do not adhere to this exact ratio. Half-and-half adds a richness to drinks that milk cannot, but it is lighter than even the lightest creams, so it's a perfect balance.

    Fancy Half-and-Half Cocktails

    Delicious and tempting, half-and-half cocktails are perfect for dessert. You might not even need any food for the course because these drinks will take care of everything.

    For instance, the floating on cloud 9 is an interesting mix of whipped cream vodka and strawberry liqueur. In contrast, the retro angel's tip mixes chocolate and maraschino liqueurs.

    Chocolate appears once again in recipes like the holiday-worthy candy cane and holiday hopper. And, while the spiced pumpkin cocktail is perfect for your autumn pumpkin cravings, the chocolate margarita is a year-round delight.

    Casual Half-and-Half Drinks

    Similar to the milk and cream drinks on the rocks, half-and-half lowballs are good for a nice, casual drink. In fact, you might even find that half-and-half is the better option for many of those other recipes because it is a nice balance of the two elements and creates spectacular drinks.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Cream Liqueurs

    Easy RumChata Lemon Cake Cocktail

    Photo from RumChata Liqueur

    While we are on the subject of cream, let's take a brief look at cream liqueurs. There are a number of options available and these are just a sampling of what you can find at the liquor store. The majority of cocktail recipes will specify a brand (or style, as in the case of Irish cream) to use.

    • Amarula Cream: A creamy, fruity liqueur made with a South African fruit. It's used in cocktails like the Amarula & Eve and the pink elephant.
    • Irish Cream Liqueur: A staple in any bar, Irish cream is used in countless drink recipes. Though Baileys is the best-known brand, do yourself a favor and explore all the options.
    • RumChata Cream Liqueur: One of the newest cream liqueurs, RumChata quickly took over this category when it was released. Pour it into any drink that calls for a cream liqueur and enjoy.
    • Tequila Rose: This pink, strawberry-flavored liqueur has been around for a long time. It's fun to mix into drinks like the black rose shooter and the strawberry kiss.

    Rum Cream

    You may come across some recipes that call for "rum cream," such as the voodoo shooter. This is simply a cream liqueur with a rum base. There are a number of options including Cruzan Rum Cream, Trés Leches, Rumchata, Sangster's Original Jamaica Rum Crema, and El Dorado Rum Cream.