Q: Fiona – I recently heard that wine often contains casein. Is this accurate? Are beer and spirits the same? What are some good dairy-free drinks for parties?
A: Alisa Fleming – Most of the celebrations for this year have passed, but for many, the biggest party of the year lies ahead. And while everyone is expected to drink responsibly, free-from dieters must take extra precautions. Some beverages look clear as water, but may have utilized casein (dairy) in the production process. Other liqueurs bear the title “creme” but are no more than thick sugary concoctions that have zero relation to dairy.
It is a confusing libation world, but over the years I have put together several articles, recipes, and tips to help you “safely” enjoy some dairy-free drinks for the New Year and other joyous gatherings:
Article: “Dairy-Free Alcohol: A Quick Guide to Wine, Beer and Mixed Beverages” – Basic tips and links for choosing wine, beer, and mixed dairy-free drinks.
Article: “Barkeep, There’s Milk in my Stout Beer” – A quick note on beers that actually contain milk (usually in the form of lactose).
Article: “Holiday Beverages: Look at What’s Available!” – A list we update annually of dairy-free holiday drinks sold in stores, like nog, chocolate mint, and pumpkin. All are sold virgin, but are ready for spiking, if desired.
Recipes: “Numerous Nog Delights for Dairy-Free Diets” – Going well beyond milk-free, this brief offers recipes for vegan, soy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free egg nog drinks, too. Includes recipes and store-bought options.
Recipes: “Four Warm Winter Beverages to Take the Chill Off” – Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic bevies to help your guests defrost from the outdoors.
Recipes: “Homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream” – Step by step tips for converting this dairy-based drink into a rich, yet milk-free pleasure.
Recipes: Some other recipes for dairy-free drinks that you might enjoy include this Orange Vodka Dream, Vegan Iced Coffee and Kahlua, Bahama Mamas, Sparkling Cranberry Pomegranate Cocktail, or Cranberry Fizz Cocktail (pictured below).
More Tips and Recipes for Dairy-Free Drinks:
Many liqueurs begin with the title “crème de …” In recipes and on store shelves you may spot it as crème de cassis, crème de menthe, or crème de cacao. Believe it or not, the “crème” in this case refers to the consistency and not the ingredients, as these liqueurs do not contain dairy. However, these must not be confused with cream liqueurs, which typically contain dairy cream.
Also, though that crème de menthe may not contain milk itself, it is often used in both beverage and food recipes that are rich with dairy. Always inquire when served with a mixed beverage as you may be surprised where a splash of cream or a foam of egg white has been added (yes, those with egg allergies must use great caution too!). To give an example, here some “crème” recipes that we have modified to be dairy-free drinks.
This is an easy classic.
- 1 ounce crème de cacao
- 1 ounce crème de menthe
- 1 ounce coconut milk beverage (this is the fluid milk alternative sold in cartons, such as So Delicious brand), light canned coconut milk, or your favorite milk alternative)
Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.
Eskimo Kiss Martini
- 1 ounce coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua®)
- 1/2 ounce crème de menthe
- 1 ounce light or dark crème de cacao
- 1 ounce coconut or cashew cream (typically made with dairy cream; use the coconut cream tip in the Kokomo recipe above, use the cashew cream recipe in Go Dairy Free, or try a splash of MimicCreme)
- finely ground Oreo cookies, garnish (yes, Oreos are dairy-free and vegan, and you can even find some “healthier” brands as well as some gluten-free ones)
Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled martini glass rimmed with finely ground Oreo cookies.
A retro drink from the food network (pictured below).
- 1 ounce vodka
- 1 ounce amaretto
- 1 ounce crème de cacao
- 1 ounce cream of coconut (a sweetened coconut cream that is dairy-free and usually sold by the liquor)
- 1 ounce coconut cream (let a can of regular, canned coconut milk settle, and skim off 1 ounce of the thick cream from the top)
- Toasted shaved coconut, for garnish (optional)
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add the vodka, amaretto, creme de cacao, cream of coconut and coconut cream. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with coconut, if desired.
Always remember to drink responsibly!!