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In the Glass: Winter Warmth

There comes a point in the depths of winter (*cough* now *cough*) when only something hot will do. A warm drink can certainly make anyone feel cozy, but what about options for those who may be lactose intolerant or are eschewing dairy? 

Many people are moving toward dairy alternatives for myriad reasons, including better health or to reduce their impact on the planet. However, a struggle that many people face when giving up dairy is what to replace it with. Fortunately, there are many delicious dairy-free options available to enrich your comforting winter warmers. 

Check out these winter warmers with dairy alternatives to stay toasty until spring.  

Soymilk Eggnog

The most well-known dairy alternative is soy. Originating as a broth in China around the fifth century, soy milk has become a staple around the world due to its similar appearance, taste, mouthfeel, and nutritional value to animal milk.

Yield: 5–6


4 beaten eggs
½ cup sugar
4 ½ cups unsweetened soymilk
½ cup soy-based cream or creamer
2–3 tsp vanilla extract
Nutmeg or cinnamon, to taste and garnish
5 or 6 cinnamon sticks
Optional alcohol: brandy, bourbon, whiskey or dark rum


  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender; blend until smooth.
  2. Add spices a little at a time until you get desired flavor. 
  3. If warm eggnog is desired, put in individual microwaveable mugs, microwave until warm. If warming in a saucepan, add to medium saucepan, heat over medium until warm. Be careful not to use high heat or eggs might curdle.
  4. If alcohol is desired, add before serving. Options: brandy, bourbon, whiskey, or dark rum
  5. Garnish with a dusting of nutmeg. Cinnamon stick is a great swizzle.

Winter Warmer Horchata

Rice milk tastes sweeter than other dairy alternatives. It is also more watery than other options but comes in many varieties and can be a great replacement for milk in cereal.

Yield: 10


1 tsp chipotle powder
500 ml añejo tequila or reposado tequila, such as Herradura añejo
2 cups uncooked long-grain brown rice, ground to powder in a spice grinder
1 cup lightly toasted almonds, ground to powder in a spice grinder (see note, below)
Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
3 cups hot (not quite boiling) water
1 cup cold water
13 oz rice milk
1 ½ T vanilla extract
4 oz turbinado syrup (see below)


  1. Infuse the tequila. Dry-roast the chipotle powder briefly in a small, dry skillet until it’s fragrant. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool. Add the tequila, stirring to blend well. Allow the mixture to sit for 1 to 3 minutes, tasting it frequently to assess the spice level—the infusion will happen quickly. When it’s spiced to your satisfaction, strain the liquid through a coffee filter into a jar or bottle and reserve for the beverage.
  2. Combine the ground rice, ground almonds, and cinnamon sticks in a large bowl and cover them with hot water. Stir the mixture, then cover and allow it to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
  3. Strain the rice/almond/cinnamon mixture through a cheesecloth into a blender jar, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids. Add the cold water, coconut milk, vanilla extract, and turbinado syrup; blend on high speed until well incorporated; the yield of the horchata is about 5 ½ cups, and should have the consistency of heavy cream.
  4. To serve cold, fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add 4 ounces of the horchata and 1 ½ ounces of the infused tequila (for a single serving). Shake well, then strain into a cocktail (martini or coupe) glass.
  5. To serve warm, punch-style: Heat the horchata gently over medium-low heat. Add 1 ½ ounces infused tequila to each small mug, then ladel in the horchata.

To make turbinado syrup

  1. Combine 1 cup turbinado sugar with ½ cup of water in a pan, and heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cook for a few minutes; cool completely before using.

Note: Toast the almonds in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan as needed to prevent scorching, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely before using.

Rich & Boozy Hot Chocolate

Coconut milk is naturally very fatty, which helps it provide the same texture as cow’s milk. Many people use coconut milk in their coffee because of its creamy texture.

Yield: 6


2 T unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder (alkalized)
3 cups (two 13.5 oz cans) unsweetened, full fat coconut milk
2 T brown sugar
Generous pinch kosher salt
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 oz milk chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup VS cognac, plus more if desired
Whipped cream, for topping (optional)


  1. Place cocoa powder in a small saucepan. Add a splash of coconut milk and whisk to make a paste. Gradually pour in the rest of the coconut milk, whisking to combine to prevent lumps. Whisk in brown sugar and salt.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking to prevent scorching. Remove from heat, add the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in vanilla extract and the cognac. Taste and add more cognac if desired. Top with a dollop of whipped cream if using, serve immediately.

Almond Hot Toddy

Almond milk is a popular alternative because it is easy to make, cheap to buy, and many find it delicious. Almond milk does not have the strong flavor that some other plant-based milks may have.

Yield: 2 


2 cups vanilla-flavored almond milk
2 oz spiced rum
1 oz brandy
¼ tsp almond extract
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg, plus more for garnish
Light whipped cream to garnish
Slivered almonds to garnish


  1. Over low heat, combine almond milk, rum, brandy, almond extract, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly with a whisk until very warm.
  2. Pour into large mugs, leaving an inch of room to the top.
  3. Top with whipped cream, almonds, and a sprinkle of nutmeg. 

Amber Kispert

Content Producer

Amber is the Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Communications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of food and beverages, and is excited to help share the stories of Catersource and the world's caterers.