The Basics Tips & Tricks

The Oddball Tool Bartenders Love to Use: Handheld Milk Frother

Whip, freshen and froth your cocktails with this multiuse tool.

The Dizzy Delight, created by Samantha Montgomery for Bardstown Bourbon Company
The Dizzy Delight, created by Samantha Montgomery for Bardstown Bourbon Company. Image:

 Samantha Montgomery

Kitchens are repositories of paraphernalia, equipped with an endless array of gadgets, gizmos and appliances that often have frustratingly specific jobs. It’s time to free those lonely kitchen tools and put them to work somewhere a lot more fun: your bar.

At your local coffee shop, it’s used to aerate milk or half-and-half, finishing your steaming cup of cappuccino or macchiato with a creamy dollop. But the handheld frother, essentially a slimmer, more streamlined version of the immersion blender, can also work the late shift, easily giving cocktails light-as-air foam or velvety texture.

1. Freshen and Froth

The frother can breathe new life into a batched cocktail that has been waiting around to be served, says Samantha Montgomery, the national brand ambassador for Bardstown Bourbon Company. “It’s an extremely useful hack to reintegrate all the ingredients if they have separated,” she says. “Or if you’ve already diluted your cocktail but want to add an ingredient, the frother can ensure that it gets completely emulsified in the drink without having to add more ice and shaking, which would risk overdiluting it.”

Montgomery also uses the tool for “fluffy citrus,” a tipple trend in which citrus juice is blended to achieve a light and airy texture, such as a Garibaldi. Finally, she recommends taking a cue from your local barista when wielding the gadget, being mindful of the angle at which it’s held. “There is a sweet spot that creates a perfect whirlpool, reassuring you that you’re blending all ingredients together equally with nothing resting at the bottom or the top,” she says. 

She recently created a bourbon drink that’s a nod to the Ramos Gin Fizz for which the frother produces luscious foam in a fraction of the usual time. The Dizzy Delight shakes Bardstown Bourbon Company Fusion bourbon, grapefruit juice, star-anise-infused honey syrup and Yellow Chartreuse; the ice is removed, cream is added, and the milk frother is used to build up a few inches of foam. It’s poured into a Collins glass with sparkling water, finished off with extra foam and garnished with star anise. “It’s incredibly beautiful, smooth and delicious, and you’ll spare yourself the 12-minute arm workout,” says Montgomery. 

2. Aerate Dry-Shaken Drinks

Likewise, cocktail consultant Jonathan Pogash, the founder and owner of The Cocktail Guru consulting service, uses a handheld milk frother for drinks with egg whites, aquafaba, milk and other dairy and nondairy products—drinks that would ordinarily require dry-shaking as well as shaking with ice. “It aerates ingredients, therefore emulsifying and creating added texture [and] can be used for both cold and hot drinks,” he says. 

Pogash’s Adult Raspberry Latte shakes Van Gogh double espresso vodka, Van Gogh Dutch caramel vodka, almond milk and raspberries, served over ice in a rocks glass, topped with a foam whipped with almond milk and vanilla syrup and garnished with skewered raspberries and a dusting of coffee grounds. For the frothiest results, he advises making sure the liquid has some thickness to start.

Yia-Yia’s Card Club at Hodges Bend
Yia-Yia’s Card Club at Hodges Bend. Zach Sapato

3. Whip Flavored Toppings More Easily

Making or holding whipped cream behind the bar is an inconveniently time-consuming and messy practice, according to Zach Sapato, a bartender at Hodges Bend in St. Paul. Using a shaker with a strainer spring results in milk-covered tools that are difficult to clean and pose a risk to those with dairy allergies or sensitivities if they aren’t kept separate, while iSi canisters too easily clog with particulates. He reaches for a handheld milk frother for what he calls “speckled whips,” whipped cream or foam with added flavor from a particle, zest or powder. 

The first whip Sapato created used ground chapulines and Tajín seasoning, as a sweet and savory topping for an adult milkshake. His Yia-Yia’s Card Club, a sip inspired by wig-donning Greek grandmothers at an afternoon bridge club with the ladies, mixes Sōmrus mango cream liqueur with Mastiha spirit, Idoniko tsipouro and Dashfire Mission fig fennel bitters and is topped with a speckled whip made by “buzzing” heavy cream, pomegranate juice and black lime powder with the frother.

“A speckled whip is a people-pleaser and stunning visual garnish,” says Sapato. “Handheld foamers are easy to clean, don’t take up a lot of space behind the bar and whip up whips quick as a whip.” He suggests a lemon and salt oleo saccharum whip as a Whiskey Sour adornment or a whip from blended mint solids left over from mint syrup to garnish an amaro-based Grasshopper variant. The handy tool is also perfect when guests request off-menu or Instagram-worthy drinks. “A quick speckled whip is gonna knock their socks off every time.”