Booze and eggs. I've known that these things go well together ever since I snuck a taste of my grandfather's spiked eggnog when I was a boy. These days, you'll typically see eggs in use behind the bar only for cocktails that call for the albumen, or egg white, but there is a whole world of eggy cocktails beyond Whiskey Sours and Pisco Sours out there. In this post, we'll explore some of them and talk a bit about safely using eggs as well.
Why Use Eggs?
Eggs are used in cocktails to enhance flavor and texture. Egg yolks and whole eggs add richness and robustness as well as the flavor of the yolk to a cocktail. Egg whites add a silky, soft texture but don't contribute any flavor. If you're interested in testing out the difference an egg white makes, try making a Whiskey Sour with egg white and one without, and comparing them side by side. I promise you'll never go back to your eggless Whiskey Sour again.
Egg Cocktail Taxonomy
Egg cocktails are classified both by the part of the egg they use and also by the other ingredients found in the cocktail.
A flip is a cocktail that includes a whole egg and traditionally does not incorporate cream.
An eggnog is a cocktail that uses the whole egg and also includes cream. Although eggnogs historically spike the concoction with brandy or rum or both, a great many delectable nogs have been made using other spirits and liqueurs.
A sour is a cocktail that includes a base spirit, a sweetener, and a citrus juice. Sours may or may not include egg but when they do, only the white is typically used. A classic example is the Pisco Sour.
A fizz is a variation on the sour that adds some sort of carbonation (soda, soda water or effervescent wine) to the mix. Fizzes are traditionally served without ice and may or may not include egg. Fizzes that do have eggs are classified by the part of the egg used. A silver fizz uses just the egg white, a golden fizz uses just the egg yolk, and a royal fizz uses both the white and the yolk. One of the more popular silver fizzes in the world is the Ramos Gin Fizz.
Using Eggs in Cocktails
Except for eggnogs, which I typically make in a blender, most egg cocktails are made directly in your shaking tins. I always add the egg to my tin first, that way if I mess up a separation, I don't waste my expensive booze. I then add the rest of the ingredients, in ascending order of cost.
The process of separating an egg is not difficult but if you've never done it, I would practice a few times at home before attempting it in front of a guest. Simply crack the egg on a sanitary surface and split the egg in half, holding the yolk in place in one of the halves. Let the majority of the albumen kind of sloosh over the sides of the shell into your shaker tin. If needed, you can pass the yolk back and forth between the two halves of the shell until all the white is in the tin but don't worry about getting it all; eggs are larger now than they were a hundred years ago when egg white cocktails came into being, a little bit of egg white goes a long way.
Most egg cocktails, whether you're using the whole egg or just the white, benefit from a process known as a dry shake by which you shake the cocktail without ice first to froth things up, then add ice and shake again. I've already explained dry shaking in detail here, so check out that post if you have questions. Once you shake the cocktail, strain it into your serving glass. I always double strain egg cocktails just in case a tiny piece of shell made it into my shaker tin somehow.
Garnishes with egg cocktails can be tricky, anything too heavy will break the surface of the foam you worked so hard to shake into existence, and lots of things just look kind of silly perched haphazardly on the side of the glass or floating on the foam. I'll usually opt for some citrus zest expressed over the top of the foam or some bitters arranged artfully in the foam.
After you serve the cocktail to your guest, make sure to wash and sanitize your tins thoroughly. Most states' health departments require this, so mine go through the dishwasher every time I make an egg cocktail. It makes sense, even though the 24 year old gentleman at the bar is ok eating raw egg in his Trinidad Sour, the 78 year old lady you serve next may not be. I keep an extra set of shaker tins on hand so that I'm not missing my eggy set while they're being washed.
Finally, although this may seem obvious, aside from eggnog, eggs generally work better in cocktails that are shaken with citrus. I had a request for an egg white Old Fashioned the other day and had to turn it down. Gross!
Although most articles about using raw eggs in cocktails will prominently display the following information at the beginning, I suppose to avoid potential lawsuits or something, I'm reluctant to even include it. After all, I'm assuming since you're reading this blog, that you are an intelligent person with a fair amount of common sense. You know that (in the US) eggs should be kept cold and you likely know about cross contamination and all that. You may even know about the extreme unlikeliness of an egg in the US containing salmonella. But, just in case you still have some lingering doubts, here are some facts and best practices.
In the 1990's the CDC estimated that 1 in 20,000 eggs was infected with salmonella 1, and I see this figure all over the place when people are talking about egg white cocktails, even though it's total bunk. For starters, I'm reluctant to believe any statistic which seems to be rounding to the nearest 10,000, but besides that, egg handling practices and testing of flocks have really improved since the 90's. These days, the FDA knows which flocks in the US are infected with salmonella and those eggs are diverted to pasteurization facilities or destroyed as the flock is culled of infected birds 2. Even in cases where a chicken is infected, the statistical likelihood that an egg laid by that chicken contains salmonella is 0.012% 3. And even in cases where an infected egg makes it through the safeguards, if it is kept below 40°F (4.4°C) the bacteria can't multiply. Given the low levels of salmonella bacteria present in infected but well-handled eggs, for the average person with an uncompromised immune system, the bacteria will likely cause no more than a brief bought of diarrhea. Across all Americans, including those who are in greater danger of having serious complications from salmonella, the odds of dying from salmonella are 0.0375% 4.
So, even with the worst case scenario numbers from the 90's of 1 egg in 20,000 being infected, the likelihood of dying from a raw egg cocktail is around 0.000001875%, roughly the same odds as dying from a falling coconut. I don't worry much about coconuts, and I don't worry about eggs.
That said, to ensure your eggs stay safe once you get them home, keep them chilled, handle them with clean hands, and crack them on a clean surface. Always consume cocktails made with raw eggs immediately.
If you have a compromised immune system or just don't want to risk it, you can buy pasteurized eggs in the shell or boxes of pasteurized whites, yolks, or whole eggs. These tend not to froth up as much as fresh eggs do and they can have a bitter taste sometimes, but they work.
Cocktails with eggs are a joy to drink, so I hope you won't let the very unlikely threat of salmonella poisoning deter you from trying them at home. Happy mixing!