Not so long ago, I had my doubts about bringing egg white cocktails into our bar repertoire, unsure of people’s reaction and dreading the lengthy shakes they often require, which were passed along to “shaker boys” in New Orleans in the late 19th century.
After demystifying these rumors for myself and seeing how easy and enjoyable this genre of cocktail can be, I want to do the same for you. This goes for the bartender and consumer alike, to make the egg white cocktail another staple feature in our city.
As with many cocktails we have talked about, this particular style of drink was very popular in the pre-Prohibition era. There is an entire family of cocktails that use not only the whites, but the yolks or even the whole egg. Classic sours, such as a Whiskey Sour or Pisco Sour, use an egg white. Another popular family of egg white cocktails is the fizzes of the world, including the most popular Ramos Gin Fizz and the classic Morning Glory Fizz.
So, why the hesitation today? I’ve seen people both intrigued and repulsed as I have cracked into an organic, local farm-raised egg, separating white and yolk into a cocktail tin. “Is that safe?” “Why are you doing that?” “What on earth are you making?” People are always curious to know but not always pleased with what they hear.
So, let’s address the No. 1 concern I am faced with from guests: Is it safe? Yes. The 80-, 90- or 100-proof spirit, along with citric acid (present in every egg white cocktail I’ve seen), will kill any lingering bacteria that could harm you. You’re just getting a protein-enhanced version of happy hour. Another misconception is that the egg white will lend flavor to the drink. Ironically, it can actually weaken the drink when too much is used, and it is only there to add texture. It should make your cocktail light and frothy, adding a tactile sensation rather than another flavor component.
And now, the No. 1 concern from bartenders: How long do I need to shake? After hearing stories of the shaker boys I mentioned earlier, who were hired to keep up with demand for the popular Ramos Gin Fizz that required 12 minutes of shaking, it is a legitimate concern. However, a method known as dry shaking, attributed to Christy Pope of the famed Milk and Honey in New York City, has cut our time and found a way to emulsify the egg white without killing your arms. The idea here is that you can add all of the ingredients to a shaker and shake for 10 or so seconds before adding ice and diluting the cocktail. This allows air into the cocktail before adding water content, creating the frothy texture that you desire.
When prepared correctly, these cocktails are a decadent treat. There are a few that are menu staples around town, including the Into the White at The Social and the Fulton County Flip at Elemental. Our bartenders have had fun creating new egg white cocktails to introduce people to, but my favorites are still the classics that you can wow people with when they are perfectly round and balanced. Next time you have an opportunity, give one a try.
Laura Kelton is a recent graduate of UTC and currently runs the bar program at Easy Bistro & Bar. Feel free to reach out to her by email with any questions, comments or requests. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.