Feeling adventurous? Use egg whites in your next cocktail
Used to be that drinking raw eggs was the province of tough guys, like Rocky Balboa or Hulk Hogan trying to bulk up in preparation for a big match. The rest of us regular folk were generally content to just scramble ’em.
But with the revival of drinks from days gone by, eggs have been making a comeback in craft cocktail joints, where bartenders are taking a cue from old cocktail recipes that frequently called for eggs. Some of these recipes demand carefully separated egg whites, but others actually make use of whole eggs, yolks and all.
If this sounds odd, consider egg nog, a delicious and hearty drink that, every time the weather starts to take a turn for the worse, many of us quaff back with no thought whatsoever as to ingredients. Even in the summer months and/or tropical climes, if you’ve ever had a proper Peruvian Pisco Sour or a New Orleans-style Ramos Gin Fizz, you were almost certainly drinking a bit of egg white, given it’s a traditional ingredient in both.
Why eggs? “It’s mostly about the texture,” explains Mélanie Aumais, bar manager at Maison Sociale in Montreal, who uses egg whites in a few of her signature cocktails. “It doesn’t really taste like much, so it doesn’t add much in the way of flavour but, if you use it properly, it can add an amazing amount of foam to a drink.”
In addition to the foam, which makes for a lovely visual impact, the increased viscosity of the drink can help round out the sharp edges and tame twangy tart-and-sour flavours, bringing all the disparate accents together. A culinary comparison might be making a roux for a sauce or a soup. As an added bonus, some bartenders find that cracking an egg behind the bar can spark a dialogue with curious patrons, something that cocktail bartenders are keenly trying to do as much as possible in beer- and wine-centric Montreal.
“A lot of people stop me when I go to add an egg white and want to know what I’m doing, and why,” says Aumais. “I’ll explain it and then when people try it, they think the whole technique is really neat.”
When using egg whites, Aumais shakes a cocktail such as her Cherry Gin Sour twice: once with ice, then a second time without. The idea is to get as much air as possible into the drink — a technique called the “reverse dry shake.” “If you shake with ice the second time around, the foam falls faster,” explains Aumais. “If you do shake it ‘dry’ the second time, the foam will stay on top of the drink.”
cherry gin sour
1 1/2 oz Hendrick’s gin
3/4 oz Heering cherry liqueur
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 egg white
2 sprigs of rosemary
Reserving 1 rosemary sprig for garnish, shake all the other ingredients with ice rigorously for 60 seconds. Remove ice and “dry” shake ingredients — again for another full minute. Strain into chilled glass, discarding the bruised rosemary. Garnish with a fresh sprig.