It might surprise some people, but there is more to milk-based cocktails than White Russians and Grasshoppers. Some of Australia’s top bars and restaurants are taking cues from cafes and using ingredients such as almond milk, clarified milk and even Yakult in their cocktails. Here’s an introduction.

Yakult at Calabur Cafe & Diner, Sydney

On the menu at Sydney’s Calabur Cafe and Diner is the Sakura (which means cherry blossom in Japanese). The cocktail is made with Yakult (a sour, fermented milk drink), Japanese plum wine, lime juice, elderflower liqueur, a slice of orange and egg white.

Calabur’s co-owner, Thananon “Bank” Vatcharasuksilp, says the cocktail was inspired by a popular Korean combination that mixes Yakult with soju (a Korean rice spirit). For his version, he wanted to replace the soju with something softer and sweeter. He found plum wine to be the perfect complement.

“I find a milk-based sweet-and-sour drink is a nice, smooth way to end a wintery night,” says Vatcharasuksilp.

Almond milk at Maker, Brisbane

Just as cafes around the country are offering almond, soy and even coconut milk in coffee, Brisbane’s Maker is offering almond milk in cocktails.

The unnamed cocktail, created by Maker’s World Class bartender Edward Quatermass, is a riff on the classic Brandy Alexander. It’s made using Australian brandy, almond milk, house-made wattleseed liqueur and egg white to give it a light and fluffy texture.

“I wanted to create a dessert-type cocktail that wasn’t too creamy, but still had the smooth texture of milk,” says Quatermass.

All the elements are placed into a soda siphon and whipped to a fluffy mousse. The drink is finished with a dusting of vanilla.

Custard at Earl’s Juke Joint, Sydney

Although not technically milk, Pasan Wijesena, owner and bartender at Earl’s Juke Joint, made a custard-based cocktail for his World Class Top 100 competition entry. Wijesena started with a base of Ketel One Vodka and Talisker Scotch whisky, and then added egg yolks, sugar and spices to make a rich and creamy custard. He used this custard to make his version of a Fluffy Duck for the competition, using Tanqueray gin, grapefruit vinegar, orange bitters and egg white.

It’s not on the menu at Earl’s anymore, although Wijesena still uses milk to “wash” spirits – a way of adding a creamy flavour and mouthfeel. He says that, in general, milk-based cocktails are “an underrated class of drink”, and that using milk or dairy in cocktails is a great way of adding texture.

Clarified milk at the Black Pearl, Melbourne

The lurid green Grasshopper is a retro cocktail classic traditionally made with crème de menthe, crème de cacao and cream. But there’s nothing traditional about Will Sleeman’s version. Sleeman, World Class bartender at the Black Pearl, created the Long Hop for the World Class Top 100 competition. It’s made with Don Julio Blanco tequila, white-chocolate liqueur, crème de menthe and clarified milk.

It’s a bit of a process to clarify the milk, but it’s worth it: once clarified, the milk looks like water, but tastes and feels like milk.

“There can be a stigma towards creamy textures and flavours combined with alcohol,” says Sleeman, “which is a shame because milk brings such a great texture that coats your mouth and transports flavour.”

The Long Hop is the best of both worlds.

Will Sleeman’s Long Hop
Makes one. Approximately 1.5 standard drinks.

45ml Don Julio Blanco tequila
30ml clarified white-chocolate milk
30ml cucumber, mint, coriander seed and dill “superjuice”
5ml Pastis

Rinse a chilled, stemmed glass with pastis. In a mixing glass combine all the remaining ingredients over ice. Strain into the chilled glass and garnish with pink peppercorn leaves.

To make the clarified white chocolate milk
300ml milk
100ml crème de menthe
100ml white cacao
2 tsp of citric acid powder

In a saucepan bring milk to the boil. Meanwhile, combine crème de menthe, white cacao and citric acid powder in a separate mixing bowl or jug. Pour the boiling milk into the citric-acid solution. Leave the mix in the fridge overnight then strain through a fine muslin or clean Chux cloth.

To make the “superjuice”
300ml crème de menthe
½ cucumber, roughly chopped
2 tbsp crushed coriander seeds
4 sprigs dill leaves

In a food processor combine crème de menthe, cucumber, crushed coriander seeds and dill leaves. Blitz until smooth, then strain through a fine muslin or clean Chux. Refrigerate until required.

This article is presented in partnership with World Class.