This is the first post from Robert Heugel, a Houston-based bartender and student of mixology. He publishes Drink Dogma.
The look on the unsuspecting cocktail novice’s face when you crack an egg on the Boston shaker and carefully drop the white into their drink for the first time is priceless. In a matter of seconds, the confident imbiber transforms into an uncertain teenager, revisiting Mom’s lessons about salmonella and eggs. Hesitant at first, the guest politely suggests that the use of an egg might be more than they bargained for, immediately recognizing the error in judgment made by placing their health in the hands of a complete stranger, this bartender before them.
Undaunted, I always proceed and begin the laborious process of shaking the egg cocktail until it reaches a frothy consistency. Reaching this point can take some time, but so does convincing the mainstream American that your goal every night is not to distribute foodborne illness, only delicious cocktails. I’ve also noticed that the amount of time it usually takes to shake an egg cocktail correctly is just about the same amount of time that it takes to convince to come out of their shell.
I’ve even got a speech worked out where I rattle off all the statistics like, “You’re more likely to die of choking than get salmonella from an egg,” and “salmonella takes at least three weeks to develop in an egg and we use well-cleaned farm-fresh eggs every day to prevent any potential for disease.” They aren’t always completely convinced, but they always agree to try at least one sip…“Salma who? This cocktail is awesome!”
So why go through all this work to convince someone to try something they aren’t interested in to begin with? Well, I love egg cocktails, and I think that experiencing a well-crafted Ramos Gin Fizz is something everyone should experience once. Unfortunately, the art of the egg cocktail has few supporters, and in the classic bar choice between volume and quality, the egg often has trouble finding its way onto some of the globe’s best bar menus. It isn’t too difficult to understand these circumstances. Hell, in the time it takes to make a perfect Morning Glory, I could have three Manhattans in front of guests. Nevertheless, this attitude would deny people what are some of our most historical, and more recently, innovative cocktails available.
With widespread public perceptions of disease and industry attitudes towards efficiency, the future of the egg cocktail depends on individuals who are enthusiastic about the unique properties eggs provide drinks. Part of this requires that people feel comfortable about what they are drinking, but more importantly, bars need to understand how to incorporate eggs into their cocktail program in a manner that is safe for their guests, while insuring standards of service. Bars are usually sites where guests try something new and step outside of their comfort boxes and household mixing practices. So, mixing up, say a Pisco Sour, is not only a great way to make a new friend across the maple, but it all keeps a great cocktail genre alive.
There are some great sources for understanding egg use in cocktails, and you could even read my absurdly long Treatise on Egg Cocktails if you have the time, like a free weekend. But, your best bet for egg-jumication of health standards, service methodology, and recipes old and new is the Tales of the Cocktail discussion led by LeNell Smothers and Eric Seed, Cracking the Egg: The Tradition, Challenges and Potential of Egg Cocktails. I always capitalize on detailed demonstrations for bar methodology, especially when the instruction is provide by some of the best in the cocktail community, and I think you should consider doing the same.
Now, if you’re still not convinced, I guess you’ll just have to bring you and your salmonella warning mother to New Orleans ahead of time and have one of the greats like Chris McMillan make one of the city’s classics for you. One sip of that Ramos specialty and you’ll come around. I just want to be there when that egg white is swaying back in forth slowly pulling itself from the shell before dropping into your drink.