Cracking cocktails: How the egg came out of its shell

23rd December, 2016 by admin

New esoteric ingredients are added to the back bar every day, but sometimes the old favourites need a fresh look. Haley Forest explores how the humble egg became a bar staple.

egg

Eggs can be the bartender’s best friend when used correctly

Eggs are one of those ingredients that are either completely accepted or focused on with confusion. These little parcels of protein have been part of the human diet since the days of hunting and gathering, providing a meal packed with everything one needed to survive and grow strong. But within the cocktail world, eggs are viewed a little differently.

From a flavour addition to texture modifier and even to add another layer of depth, eggs can be the bartender’s best friend when used correctly. Yet little information is available to educate and inform. During Tales of the Cocktail, held in New Orleans from 18-23 July, Tim Herlihy, Tullamore Dew brand ambassador, along with Nathan O’Neil from The NoMad (New York City) and Nick Wright from Suffolk Arms (New York City) presented a seminar dedicated to the history of, and techniques associated with, eggs in drinks, asking the industry to think a little more about the trusty old ingredient.

To your health

Some of the earliest records in Europe referencing eggs in drinks come from the Dark Ages, when people would make a concoction called a ‘posset’ using eggs, milk, spices and whatever alcohol was to hand. These ingredients would be mixed and slowly heated, creating a rich, frothy mixture that settled into layers and was served in a specialised pot to allow the boozy bottom to be drunk while the curdled, custardy top layers could be spooned out. While this particular drink didn’t survive with any real popularity past the mid-18th century, it did open the door to a drink known and loved today – eggnog.

It was not just Old World Europe that incorporated eggs into beverages. While researching the seminar, Herlihy was surprised by how widespread the use was. “No matter where in the world you are, the egg in cocktails is viewed as one of two things: as a source of nutrition to cure all your ailments, or as a vital ingredient for celebratory drinks, particularly at Christmas, whether it’s eggnog in the US, advocaat in Holland, rompope in Mexico or tamagozake (sake nog) in Japan, or the posset.”

While throughout the last century there has been much conflicting information about the health risks from eggs – is it good cholesterol or bad? How likely are you to contract salmonella? – modern society has on the whole come to the realisation that this food source has been consumed since humans figured out how to since the days of hunting and gathering, providing a meal packed with everything one needed to survive and grow strong. But within the cocktail world, eggs are viewed a little differently.

During Tales of the Cocktail, held in New Orleans from 18-23 July, Tim Herlihy, Tullamore Dew brand ambassador, along with Nathan O’Neil from The NoMad (New York City) and Nick Wright from Suffolk Arms (New York City) presented a seminar dedicated to the history of, and techniques associated with, eggs in drinks, asking the industry to think a little more about the trusty old ingredient.

To your health

Some of the earliest records in Europe referencing eggs in drinks come from the Dark Ages, when people would make a concoction called a ‘posset’ using eggs, milk, spices and whatever alcohol was to hand. These ingredients would be mixed and slowly heated, creating a rich, frothy mixture that settled into layers and was served in a specialised pot to allow the boozy bottom to be drunk while the curdled, custardy top layers could be spooned out. While this particular drink The NoMad (New York City) and Nick Wright from Suffolk Arms (New York City) presented a seminar dedicated to the history of, and didn’t survive with any real popularity past the mid-18th century, it did open the door to a drink known and loved today – eggnog. steal eggs from chickens, and that, if handled correctly, it is all right.

Salmonella: it’s (kind of) a thing

Herlihy was raised on an egg farm in Ireland and grew up with friends asking him all kinds of egg-related questions, including the real odds of getting salmonella poisoning. The actual risk is a lot lower than most would guess, with around 1 in 40,000 eggs contaminated. In the UK, those numbers are even lower due to the ‘Lion’ brand scheme where chickens and thus their eggs are vaccinated for the bacteria, with a ‘best use’ date printed onto the egg along with its place of origin for traceability.

While it is possible to buy pasteurised egg liquid (generally sold in a carton), the results when used in drinks often don’t quite have the same effect. While there will still be a change in the texture of a drink, pasteurised egg liquid can fall flat in comparison with fresh (unpasteurised) egg.

pisco-sour

Egg whites have become widely accepted in cocktail circles

Shakes, flips and other dance moves

Depending on what style of drink is being made, there are several different techniques that come into play. While egg whites for sours have been embraced by most bartenders, the discussion of technique can often become heated. The goal either way is to break down the proteins and incorporate air into the cocktail, giving it a heavier, silkier mouthfeel to enhance the drinking experience.

Although the dry shake method – where all ingredients sans ice are vigorously shaken to incorporate air into the egg white, creating a meringue-like consistency, before adding ice and shaking a second time to chill and dilute – has been the tried and true procedure used for decades, the reverse shake has slowly been gathering steam. Made exactly how it sounds, the egg is shaken with ice first, before straining and then shaking to add air on the second go. The theory is to retain as much of the hard- shaken structure as possible.

While egg whites have become widely accepted in cocktail circles, some customers – and even bartenders – are still uncomfortable with the thought of a whole egg. Flips are a very different experience: by using the whole egg, a bartender can add a richness and depth that’s hard to achieve otherwise, free, for instance, from heaviness that comes with using cream.

One of the most elbow grease-heavy drinks that uses egg is the Ramos Gin Fizz. A New Orleans original, invented in 1888 by Henry C Ramos, this soufflé of a cocktail contains egg whites that are shaken to the extreme to create a mousse- like structure that rises high above the glass. It is said that in his heyday, Henry C Ramos would have a team of 35 ‘Shaker Boys’ on hand to make sure those fizzes were up to his high standard – pun fully intended.

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