Back in 1996, soy milk was the first of plant-based milk introduced to the public. However, the trend of using plant-based milks really took off in early 2010 and since then, it’s only gained more popularity.
Currently, about 10% of the market is taken by plant, grain, and nut-based types of milk. This share is expected to increase in the coming years. The main reasons for people switching from dairy to plant-based options are lactose intolerance and milk allergies, sustainability and animal welfare, health and wellness, as well as taste preferences.
What does this rise of plant-based milks mean for the hospitality industry and especially restaurant owners? One thing is for sure - plant-based milks should be incorporated in food and beverages to adapt to the changing customer behaviors.
With this article, we what to help incorporate more plant-based options in your bar drinks and also transform the coffee experience in your restaurant. Let’s get started!
5 Plant-Based Milks to Use in Cocktails and Coffee Drinks
There’s a variety of plant-based milks. The ones considered to go best in most coffee and cocktail drinks, however, are coconut milk, oat milk, almond milk, cashew milk, and soy milk. Each type has its own unique flavor profile and consistency, so choosing the right one depends on the desired taste and texture of the vegan drinks you are creating.
Key Takeaway: Plant-based milks are more than a trendy alternative to dairy milk. They add a nice twist to different drinks and offer benefits for restaurants that owners can’t neglect if they want to appeal to health-conscious customers.
1. Oat Milk
Oat milk has a creamy and slightly sweet flavor that works well with coffee and also in cocktails. It froths easily, making it a good option for latte art or to use in a White Russian recipe or Mudslides.
2. Almond Milk
Almond milk has a subtle nutty flavor and a light texture. It pairs well with coffee and is commonly used in cocktails like the Amaretto Sour or Almond Joy Martini. It also complements flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and fruity liqueurs.
3. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk has a rich and creamy consistency with a tropical flavor. It is often used in tiki cocktails, such as Piña Coladas or Painkillers, to add a creamy and exotic touch. It also pairs well with flavors like pineapple, mango, or rum.
4. Soy Milk
Soy milk has a mild and neutral taste, making it versatile for various great cocktails and coffee recipes. It's commonly used in classic drinks like the White Russian or Espresso Martini, which are some of the best vodka cocktails. It blends well with a range of flavors and can add a creamy texture.
5. Cashew Milk
Cashew milk has a creamy texture and a subtly sweet and nutty flavor. It works well in both coffee and cocktails, adding a smooth and rich element. Cashew milk pairs nicely with flavors like caramel, vanilla, or spiced liqueurs.
For the best results, make sure you consult with an experienced cocktail expert that has been working with plant-based milks to create various vegan drinks. They will be able to recommend to you great alternatives to dairy for the cocktails you already have on year-round and seasonal menus. In addition, they can propose some other options you can add to your menu for dairy-free customers. These can include vegan non-alcoholic drinks, vegan wine, non-alcoholic gluten-free drinks, gluten-free cocktails, gluten-free beer, and more.
Why Restaurants Should Use Plant-Based Milks in Drinks
Let’s start off by saying that nothing is mandatory. If you don’t want to incorporate plant-based milks in your cocktails and coffee drinks, that’s completely fine. But you should make the decision after you have all the proper information about it.
Catering to Dietary Preferences
Many people follow a plant-based, vegan, or lactose-free diet, and offering cocktails made with plant-based milks provides options for those customers. By accommodating various dietary preferences, you can attract a wider range of customers and boost customer satisfaction.
Plant-based milks are often perceived as healthier alternatives to dairy milk. By incorporating plant-based milks in cocktails, you can cater to health-conscious customers who seek lighter beverage options.
Introducing New Flavors
Plant-based milks come in various flavors, which can add unique and interesting taste to cocktails. By using different plant-based milks, restaurants can create diverse and flavorful beverage offers that stand out to customers.
Keeping Dietary Restrictions in Mind
Sometimes it’s not about a dietary preference but rather a restriction. Some people experience lactose intolerance and dairy allergies. So by using plant-based milks in cocktails and coffee drinks, you can provide alternatives to these people and allow them to enjoy a delicious drink without health consequences.
Plant-based milks have a lower environmental impact in terms of production when compared to dairy milk. By incorporating plant-based milks into the beverage menu at your restaurant, you choose to be more sustainable and this will appeal to environmentally conscious customers.
Innovation and Differentiation
Using plant-based milks in cocktails can be seen as a creative and innovative approach. It allows restaurants to differentiate themselves in a competitive market, offering unique and trendy beverage options that appeal to customers seeking new and exciting experiences.
Increased Market Demand
The demand for plant-based options, including plant-based milks, is on the rise. By incorporating plant-based milks in cocktails and coffee drinks, you can tap into this growing market and meet the evolving preferences of customers who are seeking plant-based alternatives. This is a great way to improve customer experience without investing a lot of money.
It's important for you, as a restaurant manager or owner, to make it clear to customers that you have plant-based beverage options and that they can go for alternative milk. Make sure everything is marked properly on the menu and that your bar staff is well aware how to handle the plant-based milk options.
Frequently Asked Questions about Plant-Based Milks in Cocktails and Coffee Drinks
If you are interested to learn more about the use of plant-based milks in cocktails and coffee drinks, this section will be useful for you. We will answer some commonly asked questions that will give you more insight into how to create a great beverage program with the use of plant-based alternatives!
Which is the Best Plant-Based Milk for Cocktails?
Coconut milk is the plant-based alternative that’s most commonly used in cocktails. If you are not a fan of coconut milk, you can try changing it up for soy or oat milk or another alternative.
Coconut milk is considered the best alternative to dairy milk, as the milk is typically used in cocktails to add thickness. The other options lack that thickness but as long as the cocktail is according to the consumer’s taste, it’s fine to use whatever alternative you prefer.
Which Type of Plant-Based Milk Is Best to Use in Coffee?
The best type of plant-based milk for coffee completely depends on personal preferences. Some people say it’s almond milk because it’s considered to be the healthiest vegan milk, others say it’s oat milk because it blends seamlessly with the coffee.
You can choose to use coconut milk for the sweetness it can add to any drinks or soy milk if that’s what you like. For that reason, it’s best for restaurants and coffee shops to offer different types of plant-based milks for coffee and let the customers choose what they like.
Which Type of Plant-Based Milk Tastes Most Like Dairy Milk?
Soy milk is the alternative closest to dairy milk, both in taste and nutritional value. It contains more protein than other types of plant-based milk.
Most soy milks are also fortified with calcium, which makes it even closer to cow’s milk. The best part is that it can be used in a wide variety of cocktails and coffee drinks.