Any well-stocked bar has a place for heavy cream, because it's a fundamental ingredient in classic drinks like Irish Coffee or a White Russian. It's not exactly the healthiest of ingredients, though, with over 100 calories in every ounce and most of them coming from fat.
The good news is that you don't need to use heavy cream to enjoy drinks with that comforting creaminess. Switching to drinks built around regular milk will save you a ton of calories, even if you use whole milk: It has just 19 calories per fluid ounce, or less than a fifth of what you'll get from heavy cream. You'll still enjoy the smooth, creamy flavor you get from adding dairy to your drink, but without the fatty richness that can make cream-based drinks so heavy.
Milk-based cocktails are more versatile than you might think, too. They range from very light to rich and sweet, so there's something for almost any taste. You don't even have to stick with dairy, if that's not your thing. Your favorite non-dairy alternative will usually work just as well.
The Mark Seven is a perfect example of a simple milk-based cocktail made with healthier ingredients. Blueberries are well known for their high antioxidant content, and they're used here in syrup form and fresh, as the garnish. To keep the calories down, use - or make! - a sugar-free, low-calorie blueberry syrup.
If you're partial to White Russians but like to shake things up every once in a while, this might just be your go-to "Plan B" cocktail. The Pink Russian adds Tequila Rose to the basic ingredients of coffee liqueur and vodka, for that creamy, strawberry-milkshake flavor, and gets a fresh berry for garnish. It's childhood nostalgia with a grownup twist.
It's nice to have the kind of well-stocked bar that lets you approach complicated cocktail recipes with confidence. It's even nicer to have a few favorites that don't take dozens of exotic and specialized ingredients. With only two simple ingredients - milk and bourbon - the White Plush definitely falls into the second category.
There's a chocolate lover in every crowd - usually more than one - and that's who the Lumumba is made for. Many recipes call for chocolate milk or even hot chocolate, but this subtler version uses plain milk and chocolate liqueur along with the cognac. You can shed a few more calories by using low-fat milk or a milk alternative like oat milk or cashew milk.
The Panda Bear is another milk-based drink that'll appeal to chocolate lovers. It's another spin on the basic White Russian pattern, with coffee liqueur and white creme de cacao added to the milk. You could think of it as an adult iced mocha, without the fatty whipped cream topping.
Spiced Rum Milk Punch
The Spiced Rum Milk Punch has the look of something you'd drink at bedtime to help you sleep, but it's not. Instead, shake the milk and spiced rum with ice and enjoy it chilled in the sun. To cut calories even more, use your favorite non-sugar sweetener instead of the simple syrup called for in the recipe.
If you need an excuse to get out your martini glasses, the Chocolate Princess is it. Milk only plays a supporting role here, smoothing out the flavors of the rum, creme de menthe and creme de cacao. If you're a big fan of a certain slender cookie that's sold door to door, this might just be the drink for you.
Grand Cafe Latte
A lot of milk-based drinks take their cues from the White Russian, but the DNA for the Grand Cafe Latte one is straight out of your neighborhood coffee shop. You just need instant or regular espresso and hot milk, and a shot of Grand Marnier to give it some adult oomph. Or just buy your favorite skinny soy latte and add the shot.
Finally, here's the White Russian's lighter, skinnier sibling. With the Brown Cow, you'll skip the added punch of the vodka and go with just Kahlua and your milk of choice. Without all that high-fat cream and extra alcohol, you've got a simple cocktail you can sip all evening without worrying what it'll do to your hips.
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.