To the surprise of some there are many great cocktails and mixed drinks that involve raw egg. Many of these drinks are classics, created in the first golden age of the cocktail around the turn of the 20th century, and many others are newer inventions that are often influenced by those old-timey drinks. Of course, the one egg drink that comes to mind first is the holiday favorite, eggnog, but have you tried a Coffee Cocktail or a Ramos Gin Fizz? These are two iconic drinks that rely on eggs.
Before we talk about how and why we use eggs in cocktails, we must address the number one concern with this ingredient: salmonella. If you read the news you will hear about numerous salmonella outbreaks and eggs are often one of the carriers of the bacteria. It is a very serious point to make and there are ways to reduce your chances of getting it, which we will look at. However, if you are concerned and do not trust the options below, I do strongly suggest you avoid any of the drinks below.
Those people who are most susceptible to salmonella are the young, elderly, women who are pregnant, and those with compromised immune systems. This list does include non-alcoholic drinks as well, so these groups may also be affected by this strongly suggested prohibition. For the rest of us, we should be okay with drinking raw eggs, though there is never a guarantee. I have had hundreds of these drinks in my lifetime with no ill effects, but I'm also diligent in my egg handling.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure the freshest (and hopefully) safest eggs for drinks:
- Buy Smart - Purchase eggs out of refrigerated cases only. Choose eggs with no cracks or damaged shells. Check the dates on the container. Another good sign of an inspected egg is the USDA (or country equivalent) stamp.
- Pasteurized - Pasteurized eggs are becoming more widely available and are a good choice for drinks because the pasteurization process is designed to kill any bacteria in the egg. The drawback to using these eggs is that you lose some of the flavor. Pasteurized eggs will be clearly marked. Read more at CulinaryArts.About.com.
- Egg "Product" - Another alternative is to use an egg product, essentially processed eggs that are sold whole or as whites or yolks alone. With these you will notice a considerable taste difference and I really do not recommend them in cocktails. It is an option, though.
- Store Smart - You will want to refrigerate your raw (especially unpasteurized) eggs right away. Store them in the coldest part of your refrigerator where the temperature is 45 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Do not store them in the door (where those convenient egg carton compartments are most often) as the temperature there varies each time it is opened. Also, keep the eggs in the original carton. If you do choose to use an egg product, it must be used immediately after opening.
- Toss It - If an egg looks bad, has cracks, or in anyway does not seem right to you, do not use it in a drink. When you crack the egg, if any part looks abnormal, discolored, cloudy, or (again) not normal, throw it away. Also, the USDA recommends that you store eggs for no longer than 3 weeks (sometimes stretching to 5 - though I would only use those to cook). If you have a question about whether your eggs are past due, read this little tip for finding out: How to Tell if Eggs are Still Good.
On a side note, if you are a professional bartender you need check with your state laws before serving cocktails with eggs because many areas prohibit serving raw eggs to customers.
How to Mix with Eggs:
Mixing eggs in a cocktail is, as Blair Frodelius put it in a recipe submission, "a tricky business indeed." The reason is that the density of the egg requires a little extra work to fully integrate into the other drink ingredients. Also, as we work with the egg we need to keep in mind the safety that we learned above. Here are some tips for mixing eggs into your drinks...
- Dry Shake then Shake Again - To get the best froth (especially with egg whites and whole eggs - see below) it is best to combine the drink ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake without ice, then add ice and shake again. You will want to shake these drinks for at least 30 seconds and often your arms will hurt afterwards. The point is to shake until you are sure the egg is fully integrated with the rest of the drink.
- Separate Clean - If the drink you are making requires you to use either the white or the yolk you will need to separate it. It is important to keep in mind that the egg shell can have bacteria on it so it is best to avoid separating the egg using the shell. Alternatives for separating include: pour the egg into clean hands or a slotted spoon and allow the white to strain into a bowl or glass, or crack the egg into a bowl and use a spoon to remove the yolk, or use an egg separator.
What Eggs Add to Cocktails:
There are three options for adding eggs to cocktails and each recipe will specify which to use. Whole eggs and egg whites are the most common. The whites will have little effect on the cocktail's taste, however, they will add a nice rich, silky, foam texture. Egg yolks will add an 'eggy' flavor to the drink similar to eggnog, though yolks are rarely used alone. Whole eggs have the best of both worlds - egg flavoring and a silky texture. Again, pay attention to the drink recipe and if it is listed only as egg, use a whole egg.
There are a few distilled spirits that have egg in them. One that is common is the Dutch advocaat and there is a German counterpart called Eierlikoer or German Eggnog. Other egg liqueurs can be found, especially during the holiday season and are often referred to as eggnog liqueur - essentially a pre-mixed eggnog.