The Egg

by John Collingwood

Over the years I have made tens of thousands of cocktails. But whenever I decide to include this 'certain ingredient,' it never fails to cause a stir, with guests shaking their heads in disbelief, asking, “Why on earth are you using that?”

I am not talking about a crazy spirit or fruit from Outer Mongolia that I have just discovered; I'm talking about a staple foodstuff which is used globally, everyday. The suspect is in question...drum roll please, is an egg. Yes - an egg!

Interestingly, eggs are accepted in everyday cooking: poaching one or making an epic sponge cake. The funny thing is you don't read a recipe in disbelief when it says to beat four eggs and add into flour; you just get on with it.

However, when I get my Boston Glass and pick up an egg, crack it open and separate the white from the yolk...sometimes I really can see a state of confusion or fear in some guest's eyes.

It seems that customers are comfortable with eggs in the kitchen but not on a night out.

The great thing though is that eggs create a talking point, the initial confusion is replaced by intrigue and as a bartender that is what I want. It would get really boring if you just churned out the same drinks over and over. Where's the fun in that? As a bartender I believe it is our job to push the boundaries and get customers to take a hop, skip and jump out of their comfort zone.

In some ways I can see the viewpoint of the customer, as when an egg white is in the bottom of a Boston Glass it really doesn't look that appetizing, unmixed with all the other ingredients.

The eggcellent (sorry) thing about using this ingredient in a drink is that it has two key effects:

  1. It dramatically alters the visual impact of it, and
  2. The mouth feel becomes substantially more velvety and luxurious

So you have got to ask yourself? Do you:

  1. Want to cause a debate?
  2. Make your guests lick their lips in anticipation of sipping your creation?
  3. Get a high five when their trust in you is rewarded by them trying something like they have never tried before?

Amazing drinks take confidence. Just say to them, “Trust me!”

That's what I love about mixology, how a quick shake transforms something unappetizing into something awesome! 

So where does all this negativity stem from?

To me, it all stems from one word…Salmonella.

I could spend the next while talking through this subject; however there are people on the Net that have done some great research on this matter. If you are keen on learning more, then I would advise that you click on this link.

Personally my advice would be:

  1. Use the freshest eggs you can possibly get
  2. List clearly on the cocktail menu you are using them
  3. If a pregnant lady asks for a cocktail that contains one, then politely say no (even though she should not be drinking one in the first place)

When to use eggs?

This is the million dollar question, as with everything there is a time and place to utilize them.

What you have to ask yourself is what other ingredients are you going to be using and do you want the egg to do the drink?

Using the whole thing, the yolk or just the white, will all act in a different way and each will radically affect the finished product.

The Pioneer

In 1862, Prof. Jerry Thomas wrote the first ever cocktail book, “How to Mix Drinks or the The Bon Vivant's Companion.”  Within these 167 pages, he lays the foundation for cocktails as we know them today and eggs play a central roll.

So where to start?

The question I get asked the most when working behind a bar is, “What is your favorite cocktail?” This is like saying to a girl, “What is your favorite pair of shoes or handbag?”  It is a question that has so many factors.  What mood am I in?  Where am I?  What company am I in?

But there is always a drink that no matter what the mood, I will drink it.  For me it is a Sour.  There is just something about it, the simple but perfect balance of sweet and sour, underpinned by a boozy hit.  What is so fabulous about it is that you can easily change the base spirit, which will dramatically change its taste.

Jerry Thomas introduced this to the world with the Silver Fizz:

  • One tablespoon of pulverized white sugar
  • Three dashes of lemon or lime juice
  • The white of one egg
  • One wine glass of Old Tom Gin
  • Two or three small lumps of ice

In its heart an Old Tom Sour, but with the addition of seltzer water it becomes a Fizz, or as it is commoningly known now, a Collins.

What is interesting is the egg white...what does it actually add to the drink?

Firstly you MUST dry shake i.e. without ice; this acts as a catalyst to activate the egg, enabling it to emulsify and bring together all the components.  Alternatively you can use a milk frother. This acts equally as well, and it is entirely up to you.

After both instances, you must then add ice and shake it like mad, once strained you will be left with a cocktail that looks stunning with a fabulous foam on top, but one that also has a complex and velvety mouthfeel.  Full marks all around.

Jamie Boudreau reveals all in his awesome video.

But don't just stop with this recipe, experiment with different base spirits...bourbon, rum, vodka and why not try different brands together, again this will just heighten the complexity and make a delicious drink.

To me, it is all about just following your gut instinct and giving things a whirl.

Silky & Smooth

The renaissance of using eggs is truly now in full swing, as I believe that bartenders now understand the true benefits of utilizing them.

Like with most things, certain cocktail styles go out of fashion, but if there is one thing I have learned is that if something is a classic, it will always remain a classic.  Sometimes you have to give it a drink tweak, add your personal interpretation and bring it smack bang into the present day.

Case in point is the Flip.

There are many variations that Prof. Jerry Thomas talks about, but if you strip it down to its bare bones, you simply have a beverage that contains your chosen spirit, sugar and either an egg or egg yolk.

But in this new golden age of cocktails and the spirits we have to our disposal, we can easily elaborate on this very simply recipe.

What you have got to remember is that their are thousands of bartenders out there, each with their own style, grace and ideas; it is just a case of researching and trying to learn from one another.

One cocktail that caught my eye was created by The Savoy's Erik Lorincz, during his victory at the 2010 World Class competition. 

His cocktail, the “Love Me Flip” is a modern day classic and a drink that I have enjoyed and recreated on several occasions. 

I will not spoil it for you, just watch it here being created  by the master himself.

Scratching the surface

This is just a brief introduction to using eggs in cocktails, but one that I hope has inspired you to go out and give it a go. I am always thinking of new and innovative ways to utilizing them in my creations and I would love to hear of how you get on.

Thanks for now!

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