The choices for lattes used to be whole or skim. Then came soy, almond and, now an expected commodity at nearly any Brooklyn coffee shop, oat.
Oat milk, made by soaking oats (the same type you see in oatmeal) in water and using their juice as a creamy dairy-free milk substance, is ubiquitous. But beyond coffee bars, chefs and mixologists are getting creative with the vegan-friendly beverage in cocktails, ice cream, breakfast bowls and beyond.
At Williamsburg’s hyper-trendy Sunday in Brooklyn, a chia pudding made with oat milk is topped with several other ingredients that Brooklynites may equate to wellness: coconut, smashed blueberries, Sorrento lemon, cashew and bitter chocolate.
Oat milk is used to flavor the bowl, but also to ensure that the morning item is gluten- and dairy-free, says executive partner and chef Jaime Young. Swedish oat drink Oatly, a staple at coffee shops across the neighborhood, is the brand of choice here as well.
“I think the flavor stands out a bit more than some of the other alternative milk options,” Young says. “It’s not too overwhelming and provides a nice supporting flavor in the background.”
Young believes that oat milk has soared in popularity due to sustainability concerns.
“With the amount of resources it takes to grow almonds and the amount of GMO soybeans that are being used on the market, oat milk is a great daily alternative for those who have concerns about sustainability and the quality of the food that they consume,” the chef says.
While boxed oat milk cuts it at most New York City establishments, at least one is going above and beyond by making its own. For its latest vegan flavors, artisanal ice cream shop Van Leeuwen is milking oats in its Greenpoint shop and soaking organic oats in filtered water for 36 hours to make the oat milk, which is then blended with coconut cream, extra-virgin coconut oil and single-origin cocoa butter to create creamy richness in the nut-free ice cream base.
“Oat milk works wonderfully in ice cream,” says co-founder Ben Van Leeuwen. “We decided we had no choice but to make our oat milk in-house since all of the oat milks on the market are watered down. The process of making our oat milk isn’t overly difficult, but it does require patience and specialized equipment.”
The first two flavors, which launched earlier this month at all NYC Van Leeuwen shops, are Oat Milk Latte, which mixes the base with organic fair-trade Colombian coffee and a housemade vegan fudge swirl, and Oat Milk & Cookies, which adds muscovado sugar (brown sugar in its most raw form) swirled with gluten-free oatmeal cookie crumbles and a vegan caramel swirl.
Following customer enthusiasm, a brand-new flavor, Oat Milk Chocolate Crunch, made with cookie dough and honeycomb (chewy caramel candy), is expected this summer.
Oat milk mixer
Oat milk is also making its way into beverages beyond lattes. At cocktail destination Broken Shaker, atop the Freehand Hotel in Flatiron, the brunch menu features a caffeinated cocktail with rum, port, fernet, Mr. Black coffee liqueur, cold brew, chocolate mole and oat milk. And at City Tamale in Hunts Point, chef and owner Israel Veliz is serving up oat milk champurrado, a Mexican hot chocolate flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, sugar and corn masa.
The recent menu addition was the result of vegan customer demand.
“We have a lot of vegan clients coming in for our vegan tamales — many have asked us to add vegan milk for our dairy drinks,” Veliz says. “We decided to go with oat milk because the flavor is subtle. Oat milk doesn’t overpower the drink as rice or almond milk does. You can tell you’re drinking champurrado.”
The creaminess of Silk’s oat milk, which Veliz uses per guest recommendations, is a near-perfect substitute for whole milk, and customers have responded positively to the new menu inclusion.
“A lot more people our community have been coming in for our vegan options,” he says. “It’s always good to serve everyone in the community.”
- Sunday in Brooklyn: Chia bowl, $13 (weekday breakfast and weekend brunch); 348 Wythe Ave., Williamsburg, sundayinbrooklyn.com
- Van Leeuwen: Oat milk ice cream, $5.75/one scoop, $7.75/two scoops, $9.75/three scoops; all NYC shops, vanleeuwenicecream.com
- Broken Shaker: Coffee cocktail, $16 (weekend brunch); 23 Lexington Ave., freehandhotels.com
- City Tamale: Champurrado, $2/small, $3/large; 1316 Oak Point Ave., Hunts Point, citytamale.com