One of my fellow prairie dog scribes, Aidan Morgan, wondered in an earlier post (part of his excellent series on the evolution of the Drunken Lime) if whether the inclusion of egg white in cocktail recipes was evidence of a sadistic impulse among bartenders. A pair of commenters (myself being one) offered examples of eggs in action and this led Aidan to remark, “Looks like egg whites are an accepted part of a healthy drunkmaker.”
Part of, yes. Accepted? Not really. Even though some egg-based drinks have become more popular of late — most notably, the Pisco Sour — there is still much public distrust of such concoctions. Whether out of disgust at egg white’s mucal texture or fears of a raw poultry product going off in the time it takes to mix, serve and swallow any drink it inhabits, it seems likely egg will remain an ingredient on the drinking fringe.
And that’s too bad because egg white has a lot to offer the open-minded alcoholonaut. It smooths out a cocktail’s flavours, mellowing even the most merciless of spirits. The foam it forms when properly shaken adds a pleasing texture to a drink’s surface, one that endures all the way through to its terminal sips.
An ingredient worthy of a defence, so I will write, therefore, of the dreaded egg….
Raw egg white was a much more popular cocktail ingredient in the early part of the last century. An ironic fact, that, as back then health regulations, poultry handling practices and refrigeration were all quite primitive. Food poisoning was a far more plausible danger in those days and thus every time our drunken ancestors ordered a Pisco Sour, they were seriously risking a dose of salmonella. Did they quake at the thought? Quaver at the possibility? No. They tossed the drink back then went out and fought the Bosch.
Ours is a more timid age. But we can at least take some consolation from the fact that our eggs are bigger than our grandparents’.
Much bigger thanks to advances in the agricultural sciences. And though you may marvel at the size of our eggs, they do pose a problem for the mixologist seeking to revive classic cocktail recipes that call for them. Many an antique barguide, when it calls for one egg white, is really calling for a quantity that’s roughly half what you get out of a large egg purchased from today’s supermarket.
There are a couple ways to cope with this. First, you can crack an egg into a bowl and then spoon half of it into your cocktail shaker. Sounds easy, but once you’ve tried this a couple times, you’ll see why it’s a suboptimal solution. Egg whites are slippery and viscous things and that makes them difficult to portion.
The simplest solution, then (and, as a byproduct, most convivial), is to always make egg-based drinks in pairs. Or, better yet, larger multiples of two.
Another trick rarely mentioned in bar guides is how to properly froth egg-based drinks. Mostly, you are told to “shake vigorously” and while it’s true that these drinks will give your forearms a workout, the best way to go about forming an egg froth is through a double shake method. The first shaking is done without ice — this creates an emulsion between the liquors and the egg white. The second shaking is done strictly to chill the drink and it’s then that you add the ice.
Now, if after all that you’re willing to give an egg-based cocktail a try, here’s one of my favourite recipes….
1 oz gin
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz cream
1/2 oz grenadine
1/2 egg white
Shake well in a cocktail shaker without ice. Add ice then shake well again. Strain into a pre-chilled cocktail glass.
Yes. A Pink Lady.
I know. At this point I’m supposed to make some obligatory comment about it being a “girly” drink but oh, ha ha, I’m still a “real man” despite recommending a froofy girl cocktail. But you know what? Screw it. The Pink Lady is brilliant. (If you use a homemade grenadine, that is. It’s barely passable otherwise.) I will happily kick back with a frothing pink goblet of the stuff any day. Anywhere. At home. In a bar. I don’t care. In fact, I like the Pink Lady so much I want to have sex with it.
Is there anything more manly?