Raw eggs are not all the rage these days, unless of course you are a chicken farmer, or an avid fan of cocktails. In many classic cocktails, eggs were an important part of the recipe, providing unmatched texture and mouth feel. Some of the best know cocktails that use eggs are flips, sours and egg nogg. Without the egg, these drinks are a mere shell of the original recipe. But bringing back the raw egg, by convincing a bar or restaurant owner that the risk of illness is very small, can be a daunting task. Management will always state that the risk of someone getting food poisoning, or salmonella, is too high and it is not worth it, simply to make a better cocktail.
Cocktails like the Pisco Sour and Whisky Sour are not the only culinary creation to suffer the this fate, the caesar salad, hollandaise, mayonnaise, mousse and meringues were also victims. But, it doesn’t have to be this way! With a little knowledge, and proper technique, it is possible to bring the raw egg back to the cocktail world.
The reason the egg was removed from many cocktails was from some bad publicity. At some point in time it was stated that “eating raw eggs could lead to serious illness from salmonella.” The FDA states that all eggs should be cooked for at least 6 minutes to kill any bacteria. Then, they state that only 1 in 20,000 eggs has the salmonella bacteria. The odds of getting salmonella from an egg are extremely remote and you have a better lifetime chances of dying from accidental drowning (1 in 1,000), storm related (1 in 3,000) or slipping (1 in 6,500). Nowhere does the National Safety Council's data state that raw eggs are a common risk, however, death from choking on food is rated at 1 in 5000 odds. Even if, by some really bad luck, you did get salmonella, it is unlikely you would die from it. The general consensus should then be; eating raw eggs do not expose a normal healthy person to any more risk than regular day-to-day living.
Now that those details are out of the way, we can get down to why eggs, and egg whites particularly, help make a great cocktail. The main protein (ovalbumin), in eggs, is a tightly wound molecule and when it is shaken or beaten, it unravels. Think of shaking a big box full of slinkies and then trying to sort them out. That box will probably remain a stable mess for a while. When this happens in a cocktail shaker, the egg proteins do the same thing, they get all tangled up and this forms bubbles and foam.
Many of the drinks that use egg whites tend to be acidic, like sours, because the acid in the drink stabilizes the egg protein. This inhibits the proteins them from binding with each other, which makes for smaller bubbles and a better foam.
Fresh eggs are always best, but if your manager is holding his ground and quoting insurance rates, you still have a couple of options. The first is pasturized egg whites and the second is powdered egg whites. Pasturized egg whites are available in your local megamart. They are a little more pricey and require safe handling since they come in little cartons, not the best container behind the bar. They are still raw eggs and if not stored properly, in a refrigerator, they may actually be a perfect growth medium for many types of bacteria, including salmonella.
The best option to get a stubborn manager to change his mind is to use powdered egg whites. They are very cheap, easy to store, convenient to use and come pasturized. Almost all commercial egg white producers perform quality control tests and guarantee their product salmonella free. You can even ask for a C of A (Certificate of Analysis).
Some people will equate powdered egg whites with synthetic products, but the fact is that powdered egg whites have simply had the water removed. There has not been any alteration of the protein nor have any chemical additives been included. The “synthetic” argument is the equivalent of saying table sugar is “synthetic” because it has been extracted from cane sugar syrup. Sugar is more processed than egg whites. Egg whites also don’t contribute much, if any, flavour to the cocktail.
Make sure you use 100% egg whites and not meringue powder, the two products are different, meringue powder has starch and sometimes vanilla flavouring added.
To re-hydrate your egg white, take two teaspoons of powder and add one ounce of water. This will make roughly one egg white. You can also add the powder directly to you drink recipe, but make sure you dissolve it properly in the liquid. Do this before you add the ice to your cocktail shaker and never add powdered egg white and alcohol together. The egg whites will turn into some form of hard plastic like material.
The last thing to remember is: always give your customer what they want. If they are a little squirrelly about drinking a raw egg white, then make the drink without it. Some people just are not comfortable with the thought of raw eggs, and that is perfectly fine.
9 Comments on Egg Whites and Cocktails
I believe you can buy pasteurized eggs in a carton, the taste might be off but I have a creamsicle punch that takes raw eggs and these are substituted instead. Its intended as a punch bowl recipe but I can share if someone is interested.
Excellent article on using raw eggs in cocktails. I'd be interested to hear the science behind how using a whole egg, rather than just the white, changes the texture of the drink. Nice picture by the way.
One thing I find when using powdered egg whites, is that they seem to benefit from sitting for a few minutes after you have mixed in the water.
I know the ones I use suggest that; but, I have skipped that step a couple times, and found I just don't get as good a head of foam.
The other thing I notice is, while powdered egg whites foam as well or better than fresh eggs, they do not seem to give quite the same mouth feel to the cocktail liquid.
Lastly, they just don't seem to taste quite as good as fresh egg whites from the farmers' market.
I too would be interested in hearing about the science of whole eggs or just egg yolks in cocktails.
Some time ago, I made also my research about that, and I found, that all egg white products consist small doses of salmonella.
As these products are pasteurized, the amount of germs are much smaller and you just have to treat them with responsibility.
I am going for the liquid eggwhite in the tetra pak boxes - I'm freezing them in, in smaller 1-day-portions and let them defrost in the fridge overnight.
I know it is not really objective, but I cannot stand the powder - if you have freeze-dried fruits they are also tasting different after dehydrating then fresh ones - right?
I saw a report on tv in which a decent caterer served mousse at an anniversary - and this mousse was infected.
So there were 2 older people who died and several people who had to stay in the hospital with a serious food poisoning! May be the chances are minor to get a food poisoning over a salmonella infestation of eggs; but I don't want to be responsible for these consequences - you can loose your business for that - and I think eggs aren't worth it!
I always buy pasteurized whole eggs for our home. When I want to go whole hog and use egg whites in a cocktail, I can use a fresh egg, and still feel safe. I never can get the powdered stuff to mix completely, or otherwise do the job I'm adding it for. The egg whites in the carton comes in far too large a quantity for a home bar, and aren't fresh. Fresh is best.
Since pasteurized fresh eggs are readily available now, you can guzzle in happy safety. Of course, if you think about it, you are putting a trace amount of egg white into a bath of disinfectant, then drinking the disinfectant anyway!
Another point I think you should make about egg whites is not just what they do visually and texturally to the drink, but what it can do for the flavors as well. I love them in my Pegus because the whites act like flavor sandpaper. They smooth the sharp edges and hide the seams in the disparate tastes.
It is really worth the effort to find a source of fresh, free range eggs. Grocery store eggs can be weeks old by the time they reach the shelf - still quite safe to cook but not at their prime. There is just no comparison to eggs from chickens that live outdoors. And it is much less likely that a small-scale chicken farmer will have hens with salmonella. That mainly occurs in huge confinement chicken operations. Charles Baker emphasized the importance of obtaining eggs that were absolutely fresh for use in cocktails. He was right. Find a source for eggs where you can meet the hens personally!
Your math is a little off. If 1 in 20,000 eggs has salmonella bacteria, then your odds of getting salmonella from one specific egg are 1 in 20,000. But assume a restaurant serves 100 raw eggs per evening between drinks, salad dressings, and desserts. Now the odds of salmonella being in a served egg are 100 in 20,000, or 1 in 200. That means they will serve, statistically speaking, at least one contaminated egg in a year.
Things to consider about statistics:
Yes, 1 in 20000 has Salmonella. However, an extremely fresh egg does not have a high enough population of Salmonella to harm a person. In order for it to be harmful, the egg must be mishandled and old. The white does not support the growth of Salmonella, therefore, the egg must be old enough that the membrane surrounding the yolk breaks down, so that Salmonella can travel to the yolk. So, correct handling, using fresh eggs, and the cook ensuring the egg is fresh (look for a prominent chalazae), the statistics for getting a case of Salmonella poisoning is much lower. Do the math for yourself, but should be somewhere in the billions per egg.