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To the cocktail beginner, it might seem a bit alarming to watch your bartender crack an egg, add the whites to a shaker tin, shake away, and then serve you that drink – without any cooking whatsoever. After all, didn’t your mother tell you not to eat raw cookie dough because it has raw eggs in it? Well I can’t speak to your mother’s advice (I’ve been known to sneak some cookie dough in my day…) but I can tell you a bit about egg whites in cocktails, and why it’s worth giving them a chance!
Before I get cracking (see what I did there?) you might enjoy listening to our podcast episode on this very topic. It’s a good overview and a great place to start!
Why use Egg Whites in Cocktails?
First of all, there must be a good reason that egg whites are used in cocktails at all – otherwise, why bother? In short: yes, there’s a very good reason. They add a rich, silky smooth texture and body to cocktails and also act to calm down intense flavors. That’s why you often see them in “sour” drinks, because they help calm down the acidic bite of the citrus.
Don’t believe me? Waaay back when, we did a comparison video demonstrating the difference. Check out what happens when you make the same cocktail two ways: once with egg whites and again without!
The Pisco Sour: With and Without Egg Whites
Our test cocktail is a Pisco Sour, and we created one with and one without egg white to compare the results.
|Without Egg Whites||With Egg Whites|
|Texture & Appearance||No foam. Cocktail is all the same color & less interesting in appearance.||Beautiful white foam on top of the cocktail which can also act as a canvas for “drawing” with bitters or spraying stenciled images.|
|Taste||The cocktail is OK, but not very balanced. The citrus has a strong bite and would need to be reduced (or more sweetener added) to balance out the drink.||The protein in the egg white balances out the citrus. It reduces the sharpness of the citrus and evens the cocktail on the palate.|
Beautiful Garnish Options
Disregarding their delicious texture and taste, there’s another reason to consider adding egg whites to your cocktails: it creates a beautiful white palate for a whole world of garnish options.
- Create or use a Cocktail Stencil to spray designs on the top of your cocktails
- Float rinds, flower petals or fruit skins on the top to form a design (Look closely at that cocktail above – Chris used lemon rind and grape skins to form a ‘bee’!)
- Drip drops of colored liqueur or (most commonly) bitters on the egg white and run a toothpick through it to create a “heart shape” pattern
How to use Egg Whites in Cocktails:
Now that I’ve convinced you that it’s worth trying, how do you actually egg whites in your drinks? There are a few things you’ll definitely want to keep in mind:
To get a great foam with egg whites, you’re going to have to shake a little differently than normal. Typically you’ll see bartenders “dry shake” (shake the cocktail without ice) first, then add the ice and shake again. This double-shaking method gives the egg whites extra shaking time to develop their signature velvety texture.
Recently I’ve been seeing quite a few bartenders picking up a slight variation of this method – the “Reverse Dry Shake“ – where you shake the cocktail normally first, then strain and shake again “dry” without the ice. The result? Supposedly a foamier, more delicious cocktail. In our experience, neither method is “better” – the result is just different. The traditional “dry shake” yeilds a more velvety, thick and smooth texture, whereas the reverse dry shake will give you larger foam that’s made up of larger bubbles. Neither is better – it just depends on your preference and what you’re looking for in a cocktail.
By the way, another technique we’ve used to help build up foam is to add one of these to the shaker. It expedites the process but definitely makes your shake louder (and kind of springy sounding.) So it may not suit every bar… but it definitely makes your shake faster!
Health & Safety:
Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about your mother’s concerns. She’s right – after all, an egg white cocktail has never seen a frying pan and is certainly being served raw. So how can that be safe? The short answer is, using raw egg whites is a risk. Just like eating steak tartare or eggs benedict, any undercooked food brings some risk. But by carefully ensuring you are working with fresh, clean eggs, you can drastically reduce the risk.
- When serving raw eggs, always ensure the eggs are clean and fresh. If you don’t know how old they are or where they came from, they should probably go in a scramble, and not a Pisco Sour!
- Cocktails with raw eggs should always include both citrus and alcohol, which both act as sterilizers.
By the way: it should go without saying, but remember that you should always inform your customer if raw egg is present. Not only is it just common decency, but it’s an ingredient that non cocktail nerds may not know is even an option – so they may not think to inform you of an allergy or other condition that prevents them from safely enjoying their raw egg whites. There are lots of ways to do this – from explicitly mentioning it on the cocktail menu to quickly asking the customer when they place their order.
You may also be legally obligated: depending on your local health department, you may be required to also inform them of the potential health risks of consuming uncooked eggs. To be sure, check with your local health department or with your Restaurant’s chef, who may also know.
Of course, if you’re still not feeling like you want to take the risk, scroll down to the “Egg White Alternatives” section below for a few other options.
Avoiding Stinky Eggs
One last consideration: if you’re the kind of person who likes to drink cocktails slowly over a meal, or generally take your time…. egg white cocktails might not be your best choice. When cold, they are absolutely delicious. But as they warm to room temperature, egg white cocktails start to smell… well, eggy. It’s not terribly appetizing.
Help prevent this problem by spritzing your egg white drinks with citrus oil and rimming the glass with the citrus rind. The additional aromatics of the oil will overpower the egg smell for longer and buy you some precious time!
Egg White Alternatives in Cocktails
Still not feeling like putting raw eggs in your drink? Got a customer who’s vegan? Just flat out ran out of eggs? You’re in luck! There are other ways to get a great foam in your cocktail.
Powdered Egg Whites
OK, these are still made with eggs so they won’t work for your Vegan friend, but they are a good option if you want results as close to egg whites as possible, without the health risk. Powdered egg whites are relatively easy to buy, very inexpensive, and totally safe, because they are pasteurized. We did some experimentation and found that the resulting cocktail is virtually indistinguishable from the “Fresh” version as well. (Win win!)
Curious for how it went? Watch the video for the full test:
Here’s how to use powdered egg whites in cocktails:
- Buy your egg white powder. Make sure to only get 100% dehydrated egg whites. Deb El was the only brand available at the local Whole Foods, so this is what Chris tried.
- In doing my research for this post I used the recipe for rehydrating egg whites that I found at The Art of Drink. His recipe is 2 teaspoons for every ounce of water. (This will give you roughly one egg’s worth of egg white without any of that pesky salmonella.)
- Whisk the egg white powder and give them a few minutes to properly hydrate. There will be clumps in the beginning, but a little patience will pay off.
Aquafaba (Chickpea Brine)
Aqua-what? Yes, your vegan friend is in luck: there is a completely vegan option out there that (supposedly) creates an equally delicious foam for your cocktails. While this isn’t a technique I’ve personally tried, I know a lot of folks in the industry who have and who rave about its results.
- What is aquafaba? It’s the water (brine) that comes in a can of chickpeas.
- Does it really foam up? According to Bartender Keith Corwin, yes! You’ll still need to do a dry shake first and you’ll need to shake the cocktail roughly twice as long, but the end result is just as foamy and delicious.
- How does it taste? Again, I haven’t personally tried this technique BUT I’ve heard from quite a few bartender and blogger friends that it does NOT make your cocktail taste like beans. In fact, the same Keith Corwin in the article claims it adds a layer of complexity to a drink. Others claim it doesn’t quite mellow out sharp flavors as much as egg whites do.
- One more big plus: Aquafaba has another key benefit against egg whites: it doesn’t smell like eggs!
A bit old school, Versawhip is another vegan-friendly option as it’s made from soy proteins to act like eggs – but doesn’t actually have any eggs in it. There are two key downsides: first, it tastes a bit metallic and bitter, so if you use it, you’ll need to add flavor or sweetener to cover it up. Second, it needs to be whipped or placed in a foaming siphon to turn it into a foam – not something you can just put into a cocktail shaker. This adds a significant additional step if you’re trying to work with it behind the bar. Still, it’s been around since the 1950’s and it’s another good vegan option if you have the time / means to whip it up!
Safe, Silky & Smooth
I hope this post has alleviated any concerns you have for using egg whites in your drinks. They really can add a fantastic texture & balance to your cocktails, and if you haven’t already, I’d definitely recommend giving them a try!