Don’t be chicken about using
egg in your next cocktail.
Story by Paul Clarke
Photo by Stuart Mullenberg
Rocky wasn’t so tough. Not to belittle his ability to go 15 rounds in the ring and his habit of sparring with sides of beef, but drinking raw eggs? That’s old hat.
Not to mention old school. For centuries, bartenders have utilized the fruit of the fowl to enhance the texture, body and appearance of drinks. Whole eggs provided richness to Colonial-era flips and eggnogs, and a frothy egg-white head lent finesse to sours and fizzes through the 19th and early 20th centuries. Changing tastes and salmonella scares nearly eliminated the egg from the barroom, but thanks to today’s classic-cocktail renaissance (and modern food-safety practices), many bartenders are rediscovering the egg.
Foamy, bitters-topped Pisco Sours are popular at bars ranging from Nopa in San Francisco to Eastern Standard in Boston; at The Violet Hour in Chicago, the Miraflores is a riff on this classic, made with grapefruit juice and honey syrup. For the past two years, Green Street in Cambridge, Mass., has celebrated Easter with a menu of egg-based drinks, such as the Pink Lady. And in New York, Flatiron Lounge owner Julie Reiner is so fond of cocktails made with eggs that she named her new bar in Brooklyn after a classic gin-and-egg drink, the Clover Club. Many bartenders aren’t stopping at the white: At Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Ore., the cachaça-based Rio Flip is emboldened with a whole egg, and the rich and aromatic Colleen Bawn—a mixture of rye whiskey, a whole egg and herbal liqueurs that dates to 1903—is an off-menu winter drink at Seattle’s Zig Zag Café.
At Arnaud’s French 75 Bar in New Orleans, bartender Chris Hannah occasionally uses egg whites to lend extra body to margaritas and sidecars but says his favorite egg-enhanced drinks include the Absinthe Suissesse—a classic New Orleans eye-opener made with egg white, crème de menthe and absinthe—and the Ramos Gin Fizz, a fragrant mixture of gin, egg white, orange-flower water, cream and citrus, vigorously shaken until the drink has a thick, “ropy” texture. “It’s like making a meringue when you’re cooking,” Hannah says. “You just shake it until it has that nice, frothy consistency.” This egg-enlivened quality is prized among cocktail fans—and is several stages of elegance above Rocky’s viscous breakfast.
Mixing With Eggs
When mixing with eggs at home, freshness is a must. The danger of food-borne illness, while remote, can be minimized by washing eggs and taking care to prevent contact between the shell’s exterior and the edible portion within; removing the yolk further reduces the risk. For those who still harbor concerns, pasteurized whole eggs and egg whites are available in many supermarkets. To maximize the froth when mixing with egg whites, many bartenders first perform a “mime shake,” shaking the liquid ingredients for 10 to 20 seconds without ice (putting the spring coil from a Hawthorne cocktail strainer in the shaker helps whip the drink into a foam), then adding large pieces of ice and shaking again, very hard, for anywhere between 10 seconds and—for a classic Ramos Gin Fizz—several minutes. For less of a workout, you can instead use a battery-operated milk frother, such as that from Aerolatte (available on amazon.com), to whisk the liquid ingredients before shaking with ice. When mixing for a group, one typical egg white is sufficient for two or three drinks.