Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Eggs Are Not The Enemy: A Few Facts About Egg Cocktails You Should Know

So this week the sun shone for a whole eight seconds in Manchester and I was just gearing up to talk about drinks for spring.  Unfortunately before I had found my stride I was drawn once again into a lengthy debate about the use of eggs in bars.

This is by no means a new thing.  I have spent many painful hours over the years explaining to customers how use of egg in cocktails is perfectly safe and indeed essential in certain cases.  So here is a few interesting facts to shed some light on a much misunderstood ingredient;

Why use egg in the first place?

The main reason we use eggs in mixed drinks is to change the texture or ‘mouth-feel’ of a drink. Egg white is essentially just protein that, when shaken, particularly under the differing pH conditions attained from the citric acid in fruit juice, stabilizes and binds air into the liquid. This creates not only a very appealing foam but also a smooth, silky and more viscous mouth feel that can be very appealing with certain flavours.

Egg Yolks can be used in the same way and thick and creamy texture to classic drinks like 'flips' used in conjunction with sweeter flavours and often cream.  These drinks are some of the oldest mixed drinks in existence, easily pre-dating the martini or sazerac.

Differing Opinions

Not all people in the industry, however, feel that this is the case.  In a recent BBC online interview Alessandro Palazzi, head barman at the Dukes Bar in London, claimed that “…people use them to hide the taste of cheap, bad ingredients...The only difference is the longevity of the froth. If you know how to shake a cocktail properly and use the right ingredients you can create the same effect.”

I will say about the first point that I do not think the use of egg will hide bad flavours. It may help smooth and emulsify certain flavours together, but it wont hide bad craft. I certainly can’t think of a bar-person that would use egg in that way to mask a poorly balanced drink.

As to the second claim, I am open to persuasion. As I enjoy egg in drinks, I haven’t tried many drinks normally requiring egg without its inclusion. Certainly I can see sours could be just as tasty, possibly the lack off protein allowing for a tangier drink. I will say though that I’m am incredibly skeptical that certain drinks that rely on egg can be satisfactorily re-created. A flip without egg yolk is basically just an Alexander and I can’t imagine a Ramos Fizz having that same silky mouth feel or beautiful frothy finish.

Should We Worry?

The risk that concerns people with the use of unpasteurized egg is the chance of contracting salmonella.  The fact of the matter however is that as about 90% of our eggs are Lion stamped.  Even without this declaration of safety cases of salmonella are incredibly rare and are much more likely to affect children, the elderly and those expecting a child.

I’m guessing young children don’t drink a lot of cocktails. As for pregnant women I would say I would be more concerned about the alcohol content than the egg in a cocktail she might order. Although I would certainly advise caution in this instance.

While there is a small risk when using ingredients the same it could be argued that eggs in drinks is no more hazardous than allowing a child to lick a bowl of raw cake mix.
Here's a recipe for the Ramos fizz; an incredible classic that uses egg to give it the texture of cloud, or so it is said.

Image from Stuart Webster's photostream under
the CCL.
Ramos Gin Fizz (serves one)

Combine in a Shaker:

  • 50ml Jensons Old Tom Gin
  • 25ml double cream
  • 1 egg white
  • 25ml sugar syrup (or two tea spoons of superfine castor sugar)
  • 12.5ml Lemon Juice
  • 12.5ml Lime Juice
  • 1 drop vanilla extract
  • 10 drops orange blossom water (be careful with this, too much and the drink will taste like soap!)

Shake it!

1. This lot needs to be shaken really hard.  I mean REALLY hard for as long as your arms can take.  Shake with only a couple of ice cubes to start with as it will control dilution and act as a whisk for the other ingredients.

2. Once a lovely frothy texture arrives add a splash of soda (no more than 25ml) and strain into a highball glass.

Are you still put off by egg whites in cocktails? Why/why not? Tell us in the comments!

Top collage taken from PV KS's photostream (top), and (left to right) Two Helmets Cooking, rick and Lindblom's photostreams, all under the Creative Commons License. 

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