Oat milk is the latest trend for forward-thinking bars

By / Wine + Drinks / December 31st, 2019 / 8
Oat Milk cocktails from Robin Goodfellow

Got oat milk? More and more forward-thinking craft cocktail bars do. Oat milk currently seems to be winning the contest for best alt-milk and cocktail bartenders are enthusiastic about it. They use it not only in cold weather classics like eggnogs and Tom & Jerry punches, but also in some signature cocktails.

Why oats? For quite a few excellent reasons, according to Robin Goodfellow, owner of Toronto’s Bar Ravel and Pretty Ugly, where oat milk is the sole alt-milk on offer for both barista drinks and cocktails.

“Not everyone can have a plethora of alternative milks because once open they start to go bad,” explains Goodfellow. “Most bars can only choose one, so it needs to be the easiest and most allergy friendly. Oat milk turned out to be a great choice. Most people ask for it and we rarely get requests for soy or almond anymore. [The popularity of] oat milk went from zero to a hundred in no time. It’s crazy.”

Oat milk is also vegan friendly and generally considered one of the most sustainable options for Canadians: oats thrive in cold weather. On the other hand, almonds are usually imported from California, where the crop is controversial as it puts strain on the region’s already taxed water resources. Cashews come from even further away, generally southeast Asia. Oat milk is highly affordable and works nearly perfectly in place of milk in coffees and cocktails.

“I think it works identically to milk,” Goodfellow says. “It doesn’t impart a lot of flavour, which is important because cocktails or coffees aren’t milk drinks as such. It hits all the marks: it works in hot and cold drinks, it’s sustainable, it’s decent quality and has a good shelf life. And it’s not cow’s milk, which is a plus in my opinion.”

It is even viscous and rich enough to stand in for a cream in a lot of drinks, although it might need a little steaming, whisking, or running through an iSi whipper to create a frothy top for a cocktail or a cappuccino. Goodfellow thinks it only falls short when it comes to making an old school Irish coffee — the kind with the thick cream spooned on top.

Well, you cannot have everything. But you can have a glass of Hall and Oat Milk, a cocktail from Pretty Ugly that Robin Goodfellow has shared with us.

Hall and Oat Milk

45 ml Bonal Gentiane Quina Aperitif*
30 ml Bacardi Ocho
30 ml oat milk
15 ml birch honey
5 ml Fernet Branca

Shake all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker for 45 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass.

*Bonal is a bitter aperitif made from gentian. It can be hard to track down but easily substituted by Suze and Liqueur de Gentiane des Pères Chartreux.


Christine Sismondo is a National Magazine Award-Winning drinks columnist and the author of Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History as well as America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops.

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