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Mary Katherine Morris Photography
Mary Katherine Morris Photography

Why Do Bartenders Use Egg Whites In Cocktails?

Mary Katherine Morris Photography
Mary Katherine Morris Photography

Because it makes the cocktail so much better! Adding eggs to shaken drinks is a tradition that dates back more than a century. Besides novelty, the egg white gives your cocktail a rich, creamy texture and a beautiful foamy cap.

Unpasteurized egg whites are basically odorless and tasteless, so their contribution is almost entirely textural. Just as in a mousse or meringue, drinks that call for an egg white also include citrus juice and some sort of sugar syrup along with the liquor and egg. Agitating this mixture creates luxurious foam. While this element solidifies in mousse or meringue, the foam remains somewhat liquefied in cocktails because of the additional ingredient—the liquor.

Great Shakes

Egg whites are mostly water and proteins. When whipped or shaken, these tightly wound proteins start to unravel and stretch out. At the same time, tiny air bubbles are folded into and trapped in the egg white. As the foam begins to form, the proteins link up in new alignments that reinforce the bubbles’ walls.

Each of the other ingredients plays a role in building a smooth, creamy mouth feel. Acid from the citrus juice strengthens bonds between the protein strands while the sugar elevates the viscosity of the water in the egg white. Bartenders face two challenges that their pastry-chef counterparts don’t have to worry about: Preventing the spread of salmonella and avoiding excessive dilution.

Drink Safely

Drinking raw eggs is delicious, but can it be dangerous? According to the CDC, salmonella can enter an egg either through pores in the shell or during development by an infected hen. Luckily, the bacteria count in most eggs laid by previously infected hens falls well short of the threshold for causing illness.

Preventing clean eggs from becoming salmonella incubators is surprisingly easy. First, buy the freshest eggs available. If possible, purchase directly from a farmer—these eggs can be up to a few weeks fresher than their supermarket equivalents. The newer the egg, the less time bacteria have had to reproduce. 

Further, buying clean, unbroken eggs minimizes the risk that foreign contaminants have been introduced into your dozen. Refrigerating your eggs will keep bacteria from reproducing, and washing your hands before preparation will further prevent germs from ending up in your glass.

Be Cool

To ensure that drinks are mixed thoroughly without being watery, many bartenders employ a technique called the dry shake. In this stage, all the ingredients are combined in a cocktail shaker and shaken without ice. This step allows the egg proteins to begin to unravel and form foam without being diluted by melting ice.

Ice is then added to the shaker to more violently agitate the mixture. This second phase cools the liquid and strengthens the foam. When strained, these drinks will have a velvety texture and beautiful frothy cap almost like a latte. In fact, your bartender may even use a few drops of bitters to decorate the egg foam. 

Hit the Lab

Now that you know the science of using egg whites in a cocktail, it’s time to do some experimenting at your home bar by making an Americano Fizz. Originally, this drink was a play on a classic highball called the Milano e Turino. However, it became so popular with American tourists that it was lovingly renamed the Americano. Somewhere along the line, a creative bartender converted this simple recipe into a fizz by adding an egg white and the tiniest splashes of citrus and simple syrup.

Americano Fizz
1 egg white
1 tsp simple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
1.25 oz Campari
1.25 oz sweet red vermouth

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously without ice for 7 to 10 seconds, then add ice and shake until cooled through, about 12 to 15 seconds. Strain into a Collins glass over ice and carefully top with a splash of soda water. To avoid spillage, add soda water slowly; the carbonation will add a lot of volume to the egg foam. Enjoy!  

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What's the Right Way to Make a Sazerac?
iStock
iStock

If you pronounce New Orleans "New Or-leens," or if you can’t get enough of those Big Ass Beers sold on Bourbon Street, you’re probably not actually from New Orleans. But if you’re feeling adventurous and missing the Big Easy, a Sazerac might be just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Tails and Stories

A few hundred years ago, you might have actually gotten a doctor’s order for a Sazerac. One of the drink's origin stories claims that it was invented by New Orleans apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud. According to this tale, Mr. Peychaud mixed up the drink with his eponymous bitters and served it in an egg coupe in his shop. 

A more likely origin story states that the drink was invented by a different New Orleans resident (though in the same neighborhood). Around 1850, Sewell T. Taylor sold his bar to Aaron Bird and went into the import business. One of his products happened to be Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils brandy. While Taylor was importing, Bird renamed his bar the Sazerac House and began serving a house cocktail that featured Taylor’s brandy and, as the story goes, bitters made by his neighborhood apothecary, Mr. Peychaud.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Europe's grape crops were decimated by an infestation of American aphids. In just four years, French wine production was cut by 67 percent, and even the most dedicated cognac drinkers switched to whiskey. For New Orleans, that meant switching to rye whiskey that was shipped to the city down the Ohio River and through the Mississippi. Thomas Handy, who owned the Sazerac Bar during that time period, likely switched the drink's main ingredient. This take on the signature cocktail is the one that found its way into the 1908 edition of The World's Drinks and How To Mix Them, with the recipe calling for "good whiskey," not Sazerac cognac. 

The origins of the Sazerac’s name is vague. It’s possible that it was a nod to the fact that it was the bar's house cocktail, but it’s also possible that it’s a reference to the brand of brandy. In those days, “cocktail” referred to a specific alcoholic drink format. As put forth by The Balance and Columbian Repository in 1806, a “cock-tail” is “a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” If you wanted this type of drink with whiskey in it, you would ask for a Whiskey Cocktail. If you wanted Sazerac brandy (until the aphid plague, at least), you'd ask for a Sazerac cocktail.

Hit the Lab

Sazerac Recipe:

2 dashes Peychaud's bitters
.25 oz simple syrup (or a sugar cube)
2 oz good rye whiskey (use the good stuff)
lemon peel for garnish

Place the sugar cube into an absinthe-rinsed rocks glass. Dash the bitters onto the cube and muddle. Add whiskey and one large ice cube and stir to combine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

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Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
What’s the Right Way to Make a Caipirinha?
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0
Flickr User Janice Waltzer // CC BY 2.0

The Rio Olympics start in just a few weeks, and all eyes are on Brazil. To celebrate, we decided to focus on the country’s most famous cocktail creation: the Caipirinha.

In form, the Caipirinha is pretty much a Brazilian Daiquiri. It’s made from sugar, lime, and cachaça. Cachaça could be considered a cousin to rum, but it is altogether unique. While most rum is made from molasses, cachaça is made from fresh sugarcane juice.

Unlike rum, which can be made anywhere, cachaça can only be made in Brazil. Though it’s often sold unaged, it is usually matured in woods that are native to Brazil, like peanut and balm. As with wine, beer, and whiskey, different kinds of wood affect the product inside differently.

The classifications of cachaça aren’t based on the type of cask in which it’s aged. It can get a bit confusing: Spirit that is not stored in wood or is kept in stainless steel vats before it’s bottled is often called branca (white). But cachaça aged in wood that doesn’t color the liquor may also be labeled as branca. This category goes under several other names, including prata (silver) and clássica (classic).

Cachaça that’s stored or aged in wood is usually labeled as amarela (yellow), in reference to its color. These may also be labeled as ouro (gold). Envelhecida (aged) cachaça, a subtype of amarela, is a bit more involved: it’s considered aged if more than 50 percent of the content of the bottle has been aged for at least a year in a barrel that’s 700 liters or smaller.

Cachaça is the “third most produced distilled drink in the world,” according to Alcohol In Latin America: A Social and Cultural History. Though more than 5000 brands existed in 2008, it was relatively ignored outside of Brazil until the recent resurgence of craft cocktails. In fact, until 2013, it had to be labeled “Brazilian rum” to be imported into the U.S. As a result, it’s often mistaken by many people for being a type of rum.

Unfortunately, we don’t really know anything definite about the origins of the Caipirinha. Like the Mojito and the Old Fashioned, the formula was perhaps first used in folk medicine. Carlos Lima, the executive director of IBRAC (the Brazilian Institute of Cachaça) told Casa e Jardim that a mix of lime, garlic, and honey with a pour of cachaça was probably used in São Paulo around 1918 as a remedy for the Spanish Flu.

As the story goes, someone eventually decided to skip the garlic and honey. Then, to balance the acidity of the lime, sugar was added. Over time, the drink spread into bars, ice entered the equation, and it became the Caipirinha we know today.

HIT THE LAB

Like the Mojito, the classic Caipirinha recipe is quite simple, but it’s also been the subject of many, many variations. We’ve included the International Bartenders Association (IBA) recipe as well as a modern take on the drink.

Caipirinha
Modified from the IBA website.

2 ounces Cachaça
1/2 of a lime
1 tablespoon sugar

Muddle lime and sugar in an Old Fashioned glass. Fill with ice and pour cachaça over it. Stir and enjoy.

Prata B. (Puerto Rico Asta Ah Brazil)
Recipe by Luis Ramos, bar manager of Bourbon and Branch in San Francisco.

1 3/4 ounces Avua Prata Cachaça
3/4 ounce lime juice
3/4 ounce pineapple gomme syrup
1/2 ounce Pedro Ximenez sherry
1/4 ounce Punt e Mes
Grated nutmeg, lime zest, lime wheel for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a Collins glass. Add crushed ice and stir until glass frosts. Top glass with grated nutmeg, lime zest, and lime wheel.

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