Drinking Dairy and Dairy Free Hot Buttered Rum with Alisa

Hot Buttered Rum with our favorite Koloa Rum (Image credit Koloa Rum Company)

In keeping with our holiday cocktail theme Alisa from godairyfree and I decided to do a blind taste test on the podcast of the well known Hot Buttered Rum. She provided five dairy free options for us to try and I supplied two butters one unsalted and one salted. For our rum we used one of my favorites that I’ve been purchasing over and over, Koloa brand. I don’t know what it is about their rum, but I’ve loved every one of them that I’ve tried. I know I could buy some rums that are a bit cheaper, but Koloa has never let me down. The non-dairy butters we used were Earth Balance, Flora (salted and unsalted), Country Crock, and Miyokos. Alisa mentions that Earth Balance is probably the easiest spreadable non-dairy butter to find and when I went to get it from the store there were quite a few flavors to choose from. I bought original for our recipe. The dairy versions of butter that I used were just a generic Safeway brand salted and unsalted butter.

Koloa Kauai Spiced Rum

Hot Buttered Rum Recipe (Adapted from Food Network’s Recipe)
Makes 4 Servings
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 Stick) butter of your choice at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup spiced rum (Koloa if you can find it)
2 cups boiling water
cinnamon sticks for garnish.
* we left out a pinch of salt because some of the butters were salted.
Mix the dry ingredients, honey and butter together using a mixer and then add the rum and boiling water.

Alisa, Tony and I dove in and set up the 1/2 servings of each buttered rum and while I completely had no idea which was which, Alisa knew which ones were real butter and which were not. The outcome of all three of us basically came out the same. Neither Tony or I liked any of them with real butter. Alisa obviously couldn’t try due to her allergies, but she pretended to try so we wouldn’t have an indication which butte they might be. Our top four choices starting in reverse order:

Butters used for our taste test (not pictured: Country Crock)

4. Earth Balance (non-dairy): Easy to find and with a mellow flavor, Earth Balance is a good choice if you can’t find the others in our top 3.
3. Flora Unsalted (non-dairy) : Found around the world and new to the US, Flora was a great option, but we’re not quite sure where to find it in Hawaii.
2. Miyokos hint of salt (non-dairy): One of Alisa’s top choices for non dairy butter overall, this option did not separate like the rest of the butters, but had a great overall flavor.
1. Flora Salted (non-dairy): This was a unanimous decision by all of us. It was mellow yet flavorful, maybe the salted added just a bit of what was needed to put it ahead of Miyokos.

No matter what you decide to use when making a hot buttered rum, be prepared for a cookie in a glass. This drink isn’t necessarily one that I’ll recreate every year, but I’m glad I tried it. The Wikipedia article that I read of this drink stated that early colonial settlers believed rum to be nutritious and a strengthener of the body. I’m going to go along with that thought process and keep drinking rum. Listen to the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, don’t forget to rate and subscribe! You can find me at drinkingsensei on Instagram, drinkingsenseipodcast on Facebook or send me an email at


Drinking and Hiking the World with Mandie

Mandie and I together at the Oregon Brewer’s Festival

In this episode of Drinking Sensei, I am joined by Mandie, my friend of many years. I had just moved to Hawaii to take a break between undergraduate and graduate school and didn’t know anyone. Out one night, I happened to meet Mandie’s friend Lisa at a bar, I introduced myself since I was new in town and she in turn introduced me to her group of friends which included Mandie. After I ended my first time living in Hawaii and moved back to Oregon we made a point to keep in touch. She’s been in my life through my various highs and lows and she’s always there to share a drink with me! The shenanigans that we’ve gotten into throughout our time knowing each other is vast, wild, and should not be discussed in front of impressionable people. Mandie is joining me on this episode to chat about her various trips, mostly hiking related and the booze that she tried along the way.

Recording and drinking station

When I record episodes of the podcast, I always ask guests what they’ll be drinking as I want to be able to drink the same thing with them. It often takes people a while to come up with their drink of choice, but Mandie had it ready. As soon as I asked her what she wanted to drink during our recording she instantly responded with Cinnamon Toast Crunch shots and dirty martinis. I’d never had either so it was bound to be an interesting drinking experience. Her recipe for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a bit different than the ones I found online, and typical for Mandie, includes more alcohol.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Shot
1 oz Vanilla Vodka (We used Stoli)
1 oz Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
2 oz RumChata
dash of ground cinnamon
Mix everything into a shaker with some ice and strain into a cinnamon sugar rim coated shot glass. (The cinnamon sugar was really just for looks, this shot is already sweet.) We doubled this recipe for the two of us and it made WAY too much. So you could probably make this with the measurements listed and share between two people.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch shot ingredients

As the name indicates it tastes ridiculously close to the cereal with the same name. It’s an easy shot to take and a great way to get the conversation started since it was basically a double shot. As we got to drinking our next drink, dirty martinis, Mandie told her many stories of drinking around the world. One of the numerous reasons why I love her so much is her adventurous spirit. She decided a few years ago that on or around her birthday she would do something epic every year. This promise to herself has resulted in hikes to the top of Mt. Fuji, Machu Picchu, and so many more amazing places. We’ve hiked Hale’akala on Maui, Napali Coast on Kaui, Waipio to Waimanu Valley and back on the island of Hawai`i and so many other places they’re too numerous to write about here. She taught me which drinks are light to carry, taste okay when you drink them warm, and are strong enough to knock you out so you don’t feel how sore you are after crazy a difficult day hiking.

Mandie’s martini recipe is in her brain and she pours without measuring. I asked her to write it down for me, but couldn’t do it. I found a dirty martini recipe on and asked her if this was close enough. She said it looked pretty close, so here’s Mandie’s “close enough” recipe.

Dirty Vokda Martini
2 and 1/2 oz of Vodka (We used Pau Vodka made on Maui)
1/2 oz of dry vermouth
1/2 oz olive brine
Garnished with 3 olives
We added ingredients into a shaker with some ice and shook. Poured into martini glasses.

While I love all things boozy I’m going to be honest and say I probably won’t be drinking another martini in the near future. I’m glad I got to try it and as Mandie mentioned, martinis are a great drink to have in the event of a celebration. Mandie’s dad appreciated a good vodka martini and I’m glad I got to share one with her. Listen to the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, don’t forget to rate and subscribe! You can find me at drinkingsensei on Instagram, drinkingsenseipodcast on Facebook or send me an email at


Dairy Free Coquitos With Alisa

In this mini episode of Drinking Sensei I am joined by my housemate and friend Alisa. This podcast started as something to do to keep my spirits lifted while drinking during this crazy pandemic. Something else I decided to do, since I wasn’t already stressed enough, was move into a new apartment. Moving may have been hard and the worst idea at the time, but it allowed me the opportunity to meet Alisa and learn more about her dairy free lifestyle. Since we live in the same house (different apartments) we have spent considerable time together eating, drinking and kayaking the shores of east Oahu. I’m so thankful for her and her husband Tony for our late night chats, drinks, and often them feeding me dinner! One afternoon while kayaking, Alisa asked me if I’d ever thought about doing any mini episodes, maybe ones where I would taste test something and talk about it to my listeners. That started the wheels turning in my head for update mini episodes and holiday inspired cocktail minis. I had also asked Alisa if she’d ever made any dairy free cocktails and a few days later she came to me with the idea of trying a Coquito. “Little coconut” is what Coquito means in Spanish and it definitely tastes like a little coconut! This Puerto Rican holiday drink has many variations but is often made with coconut milk, dark spiced rum (I used Koloa Dark Rum, YUM!), sweetened condensed milk, cream of coconut (was told to ONLY use Coco Lopez), coconut milk, evaporated milk (since it was only a bit, I used almond milk), ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon and vanilla extract. There are many people that argue that eggs should be added to this as well, but an equal amount say that eggs are a no go. We decided not to include eggs in our recipes. While I was making the dairy version of this drink Alisa was working on her own non-dairy version for me to try.

The ingredients I used. Recipe adapted from The Novice Chef Recipe

While Alisa adapted her dairy free recipe from this recipe found on The Novice Chef I did the same but changed things a bit. For my recipe I didn’t use evaporated milk, but instead switched it our for almond milk which I would probably use up as opposed to evaporated milk which I never use. We both used Koloa Kaua`i Rum and decided it was the best that we could have used. I’ve been trying to buy local spirits and this is one that’s an easy choice. I usually never use an entire bottle of liquor very quickly, but this one is empty after just a few short weeks. I’ve decided my next trip to Kaua`i will include a trip to their tasting room in Lihue.

Koloa Dark Rum (Photo by Koloa Rum Company)

Alisa adapted hers with her own dairy free evaporated milk recipe and a few other tweaks to ensure the taste would be similar to the standard cocktail. Check out Alisa’s dairy free version here. For my recipe adapted a bit from The Novice Chef, see below.

  • 1 1/2 cups dark rum
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (15 oz) can cream of coconut (Coco Lopez)
  • 1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk
  • 4 oz Almond Milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

I’m not a mixologist, so I just threw all of this in the blender, which was almost completely full and hit the on button. Some of it ended up on the counter since it was practically overflowing before I blended it, but I still got quite a bit of product. The original recipe calls for nutmeg, but I didn’t have any so it didn’t end up in the drink. If I make this again, I’ll try to find some and see if I like it better with the spice added. The recipe indicates that once mixed it’s good in the fridge for close to a month. I found that it separates a bit after a while and if you know you’re going to keep it for longer periods of time it’s best to add the alcohol once you’re ready to drink it so it doesn’t run the risk of curdling. All in all this was a fantastic drink. I found myself craving it during the day and had it three nights in a row as a dessert after dinner. Alisa used it to make ice cream and said it was even more delicious that way. I’m down to try it, cause really….who doesn’t love a boozy ice cream.

Check us out on this week’s mini episode and don’t forget to rate and subscribe!


Drinking Beer with Gray at Deschutes Brewery

Gray and I when I was living in Portland

On this episode of Drinking Sensei I’m chatting with my friend Gray. We met when I was living in downtown Portland, Oregon in the fall of 2009. I had just moved into the city after finishing grad school, a terrible breakup and a year living with my dad to save money. Suffice it to say, I was ready to be on my own and doing whatever the hell I wanted. At that time in my life I was also working a job that wasn’t the most fun and had a boss who liked to have three hour meetings about absolutely nothing. This caused me to have to work much longer days than I wanted. All of this to say, life was not much fun, so I started going out on the town. Cue to me ending up within walking distance of my apartment at Deschutes Brewery in the Pearl Distract. I would go, sit at the bar, chat with the employees and people around me, drink a few, then stumble (or ride my skateboard) home. I usually tried to make it as long as possible during the work week before I went to the pub, but was often frustrated enough by Tuesday to get me headed that way. On many of those nights Gray would be working. He always had kind words to say, would tell me what I should try, get me to laugh a bit, and send me on my way home a little drunker and happier than when I arrived. I looked forward to my weekly trips to Deschutes and often worried that I seemed like a weirdo for going so often. Gray and the rest of the staff always made me feel welcome. I guess this could be a good commercial for the pub, so if you ever get a chance please try a Deschutes beer or visit their locations in Portland and Bend, Oregon. Anyway, I’ve gone on a tangent back to the podcast!

Deschutes Brewery Public House (Portland, Oregon)

We started our chat with shots and a Prost! We both decided that our drinks of choice this week would be whatever we could find in the backs of our respective refrigerators. Gray was drinking Old German brewed by Pittsburgh Brewing Company and I had found a Sierra Nevada Summer Fest that was leftover from a party a few months prior. I’m not going to say the Summer Fest paired well with the Jim Beam Honey Whiskey that I took a shot of, but it got the job done. Gray and I chatted about his twenty years spent working at Deschutes and the various positions he worked, from busboy to Brand Ambassador the guy has had many hats in the industry. As we worked our way through his story I came to realize just how much knowledge he has about the industry and those in it. What it taught me was that at any given point, the person that is waiting on your or walked you to your table at a brew pub may have a wealth of knowledge that you might not even realize. Speaking to him for just the hour we were on the phone I walked away with a notepad full of homework and people to reach out to. Paul Arney of The Ale Apothecary in Bend, Oregon is first on my list. Just looking at his website has me excited to see if I can get a tour of his brewery. Gray also could make a connection to an experience I had before I even met him. During a visit to what used to be the The Raccoon Lodge, now known as The Lodge at Cascade Brewing my friend Mandie and I were offered a tour around their facilities. This was after we’d mentioned that the day before we’d been to the Oregon Brewers Festival trying our best to get as drunk as possible on the highest alcohol content beers we could find. I don’t remember much of our tour (it was about 12 years ago) but I do remember being terribly excited to be given the opportunity to check out the facilities. My chat with Gray got me excited to head back to Oregon. To talk to more brewers and ask them questions about their craft. I’ll be happy to learn just a bit more and I hope you learn a bit from the podcast. If you have any suggestions of breweries to check out anywhere in the world leave me a comment in the comments section on this page, my Instagram @drinkingsensei, Facebook or email me at [email protected] (Links are below). Thanks for joining us and don’t forget to rate and subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts!


Drinking Holiday Cocktails with Kristen (Mini Episode)

In this mini episode we are visited again by Kristen, one of my favorite people in the entire world. Kris and I decided that we were going to try some different holiday cocktails in this minisode. I was super excited when she sent me a link to what I thought was ONE recipe for a holiday cocktail. When I clicked on the link there were FORTY-TWO holiday cocktail recipes. As I was scrolling through the recipes I saw quite a few that caught my eye. The one that I went with followed our theme of Moscow Mules from the first time that she was a guest on the podcast. For this episode we went with a holiday mule. Instead of lime juice, this recipe calls for sparkling cider. Considering how close we are to the holidays I was surprised at how many places do not carry sparkling cider. I ended up finding it at Target of all places and the mixing began!

Ingredients for the Holiday Cider Mule

The recipe I used is as follows:
2 oz. vodka
ginger beer
sparkling cider
Sliced apple for garnish
Cinnamon sticks for garnish

Fill a copper mug with ice. Pour 2 ounces of vodka over the ice. Fill 2/3 with sparkling cider and top off with ginger beer.

Fever Tree Ginger Beer at Costco

Any sparking cider and ginger beer will work, but I recommend Martinelli’s and Fever Tree Ginger Beer for this drink. Kris thought it might kick up a notch if the ginger beer used was a little spicier and I would agree that it was a smooth drink that could use a bit more heat for cold winter nights. Here in Hawaii, I don’t necessarily need that, but I am definitely down to try it. While I liked this drink, I don’t think it’s necessarily very festive. When I did a search after the podcast, I found some more mules that included cranberries and other more traditionally festive drinks. Maybe we’ll try that next time. My housemate Alisa loved this drink though. I think mostly because you can’t really taste the vodka, though there is quite a bit at two ounces. Alisa doesn’t normally drink a lot, but she drank this one a few times with me. It’s an easy drink to make and I’ll definitely make it again. Kris and I also discussed whether we could make our own mule! As I live in Hawaii and she lives in California we thought maybe we could have some sort of flavor match up. We came up with pineapple juice and maybe throw some jalapeño for some kick. What do you think? Comment below to tell us what you think a mash up would be! We would also love some more recommendations for holiday cocktails to try throughout the next few months. Hit me up on Instagram @drinkingsensei, my email at [email protected], or comment where you listen to your podcasts. Click the links below to find me on social media and wherever you find your podcasts. Don’t forget to rate and subscribe!