Swap Cream For Cold Foam For Lighter Cocktails

A rich, creamy cocktail always feels like a luxurious treat. But if you want to lighten things up a little at your next drinks party, it's worth trying a cold foam instead. Once associated with the molecular gastronomy movement of the early 2000s, cocktail foam is making a long-awaited comeback with all sorts of innovative variations. And a cold foam is a thoroughly modern way to take so many different boozy beverages to the next level.

Iced coffee fans will likely be familiar with the effect a cold foam can have on the drink. Made by energetically aerating skim milk or a dairy-free alternative without heat, it's less dense than regular whipped cream. This gives the drink an airy quality and fluffy, frothy mouthfeel, and brings smooth creaminess, without any actual cream. And it has a similar impact on cocktails in terms of adding an elegant velvety texture.

But it's not just about the consistency. A cold foam can also be a wonderfully versatile blank canvas for adding different flavors to drinks, too — whether it's sweet, aromatic vanilla, or a fruity simple syrup. And when it comes to cocktails and mixed drinks in particular, the possibilities are endless for elevating your creations with complementary or contrasting taste combinations that bring both depth and complexity.

How to make a classic cold foam for cocktails

There are several ways to create a cold foam at home, depending on the equipment you have, but they all start with the base ingredient. Unlike the froth which sits atop a gin fizz, for example, which is usually made by safely incorporating raw egg whites in cocktail foam, a cold foam starts with milk.

Skim milk works best as it produces a lighter, smoother texture; while you can use whole milk, its higher fat content means it can make the foam heavier, which means it doesn't retain its fluffy structure as successfully. If you'd rather use a nondairy option, look for milk varieties such as soy, oat, or almond that are specifically designed as a barista blend. This will mean they're able to withstand the foaming process, whether hot or cold, thanks to the thickeners they contain, and the end result will be more professional.

Cold foams can easily be made with a milk frother, either an electric version or a less expensive handheld model. You can even use a mason jar to shake by hand, though this is a labor-intensive option and may not produce such a fluffy result; a French press can work well if you have one — just add milk and plunge repeatedly. When making a foam, you can add any sweeteners and flavorings as desired before frothing, so try customizing the topping to the cocktail in question for the best and most unique results.

Try different flavored foams for bespoke cocktails

A cold foam could be used for many cocktails where you'd expect to see a traditional foam and works especially well with creamier-style drinks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, coffee-based drinks can also make a great place to start.

Try making an iced coffee with a shot of Irish cream liqueur such as Baileys, and then top it with a cold foam enriched with dulce de leche for a light yet still indulgent boozy treat; it makes a great change from the usual denser whipped cream. Top a great espresso martini recipe with a salted caramel cold foam sharpened up with a little salt to counteract the sweetness. Or go for a white Russian served with a fragrant vanilla syrup-laced cold foam to add a lighter touch to the creamy drink.

Alternatively, try incorporating foam in non-creamy drinks for a sensory twist and a boost of flavor. Adding ginger syrup to a cold foam and using it to top a classic Moscow mule recipe certainly gives the cocktail an extra kick. Or try a playful twist on classic dessert flavors. For example, if your drink contains peanut butter whiskey, try a strawberry-flavored foam; add a cinnamon foam to an apple-based cocktail to feel like you're drinking a slice of pie, or add mint simple syrup to the foam for a chocolate-based beverage. Cold foam is for much more than just coffee; the options for light, smooth, and delicious cocktails — without the cream — are limitless.