The field of cocktail foaming agents, it seems, grows broader by the day. But few entrants to the category satisfy the criteria to supersede the rest. Egg whites are tricky to measure and even trickier to clean out of cocktail shakers. Aquafaba, while vegan, is hindered by its odoriferous reputation. (The aroma is sometimes described as “wet dog.”) But there’s another option that Nightmoves bar director Orlando Franklin McCray believes deserves a little more attention: milk powder. The shelf-stable ingredient offers an unorthodox way to add a creamy froth to cocktails without extra dilution.
While McCray admits that each cocktail emulsifier, or frothing agent, has a time and a place, he turns to milk powder to create full-bodied cocktails evocative of cream- or milk-laced recipes without the addition of either. “Why would I use egg white, or aquafaba in a creamy cocktail, when I can use milk powder?” McCray says.
In his Push-Pop cocktail, a frothy sour that calls for a full bar spoon of milk powder, McCray draws inspiration from the popular Japanese melon cream soda—carbonated melon juice that’s been served over a scoop of vanilla ice cream. “We paired [muskmelon] eau de vie with fresh melon juice that we adjusted with lactic acid,” explains McCray. “This gave the cocktail the acidic pop needed to balance the drink, but it also tastes slightly sweet and creamy.”
McCray notes, however, that not all milk powders are created equal. “A lot of milk powders on the market are sold as protein supplements,” he explains. “With these powders, many of them can taste kind of chalky; so it’s important to find one that’s really fine and doesn’t gum up when moisture hits it.” McCray uses a whole milk powder that lends a viscosity and richness that low-fat versions do not. When adding the powder into the cocktail, he suggests using a dry bar spoon, and shaking as soon as it’s added; otherwise you risk the powder clumping together.
To ensure that the Push-Pop—a drink that’s shaken, and served down and neat—has its signature frothy head, McCray combines the milk powder with the whip shake, a technique that calls for shaking with a small handful of pebble ice, or just a few ice cubes, to increase aeration.
For applications beyond the melon milkshake–inspired Push-Pop, McCray notes that milk powder is a great way to add a creamy texture to other sours, Collins renditions and fizz-style cocktails. He’s even given it a whirl in an Espresso Martini. “It’s a pretty standard recipe, with roughly one bar spoon of milk powder per cocktail,” he explains. “Most importantly, though, it won’t froth up right unless you whip shake it.”
Given its ability to add both a subtle creaminess and a substantial frothiness, it’s only natural to wonder what milk powder would do in the creamiest, frothiest drink of all, the Ramos Gin Fizz. “It won’t make up for the volume of cream used in a Ramos,” says McCray, “although you could add it to a Gin Fizz instead of the egg white for a hybrid of sorts.”