Aquafaba: the hot new vegan cocktail ingredient
Beans and booze, together at last. Said nobody ever. But aquafaba (chickpea water), the hot new emulsifier currently being touted by pastry chefs and ice cream makers as the perfect substitute for egg whites, is starting to change the way bartenders look at legumes.
It’s still a little bit of a hard sell, since … well, the idea of adding bean-water to cocktails sounds strange. To some, though, it doesn’t sound any more strange than the idea of drinking raw egg whites — a common cocktail ingredient that, for a range of reasons, many people still avoid. To them, aquafaba is a welcome change.
“If somebody says, ‘I’m a vegan but I want to try a whiskey sour,’ that’s truly the best use for it,” says Nick Kennedy, bartender at Toronto’s Civil Liberties and one of the city’s biggest aquafaba boosters. “It’s not even just vegetarians, either. There are people with allergies, as well as people who are just squeamish about raw eggs.”
Kennedy is well known for being a bit obsessive about the science of taste and texture and, as such, has developed some pretty solid working ideas about how, when and why to use it. He still actually prefers to use egg whites for some recipes (tall gin fizz cocktails, especially), since he finds eggs are still a better emulsifier. Aquafaba, on the other hand, is a next-level fluffer.
“It makes an incredible foam — that lasts,” says Kennedy. “One of the awful things about egg whites is that they die really quickly, so if you’re making a big batch of whiskey sours, by the time you’ve poured the last one, the first one is already dead. Whereas with chickpea water, two, three, four hours, no difference.”
This secret foam weapon also freezes well (unlike egg whites), has a long shelf life (two to three weeks, refrigerated) and can safely sit at room temperature a lot longer than egg whites. It can stand the heat, too. Kennedy says that, if he had to do an outdoor summer catering job, he wouldn’t even think twice about switching to bean-water.
With all of these advantages, it’s a wonder anyone uses egg whites at all. But bean-water does have a downside — a slightly funny odour. That kept Kennedy from using the ingredient for nearly a year, until he learned that all you have to do is make your own. Never canned.
“I never thought I’d be the guy talking about chickpea water,” says Kennedy. “But now I make it all the time.”
“And as an added bonus,” he adds, “you get hummus.”
vegan whiskey sour
2 oz whiskey
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
1 oz aquafaba
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
To make aquafaba, soak chickpeas overnight or until they “bloom” (you should be able to easily split one in half with your hand). Boil in water (two parts water to one part chickpeas) at a high heat for 25 minutes. Turn off, strain out the solids and simmer, until about one-quarter of the liquid has evaporated.