The recall of half a billion eggs for possible salmonella infection has a lot of us understandably whipped up with worry.
Cocktail geeks are fearful, too, that bartenders will start cracking down (okay, even I’m cringing at these puns) on the use of eggs in drinks.
Now, I come across plenty of folks who, when I tell them I’m making them a cocktail with egg whites, scrunch up their face and say, um, isn’t that dangerous? Fair enough.
And while you definitely don’t want to eat anything with salmonella in it, I’m hoping you won’t chicken out from trying cocktails made with them. They’re not only safe; they’re delicious.
The trick, as always, is making sure you use the freshest, highest-quality ingredients, in your cocktails.
So here’s my two cents about selecting eggs – be they for a Pisco Sour or an eggs Benedict. It is true that raw eggs can harbor dangerous kooties such as salmonella. But if you exercise the same judgment you would in selecting any other food, you’ll be fine.
Of course, as with most foods these days, shopping for eggs never used to be so complicated. Today you’re faced with eggs that are “certified humane” or “American humane certified,” omega-3 fortified, cage free, free range, or any number of designations awarded by a constellation of federal and state agencies.
Here’s all you need to remember: Pick eggs that are Grade AA (best quality) and have the USDA organic emblem, which means they meet the standards of the U.S. agriculture department’s National Organic program. This means that, among other things, the birds are kept cage free and with access to the outdoors, they are not given antibiotics (even if sick), and their food is free of animal byproducts and made from crops grown without the application of pesticides, fertilizers, and/or raw sewage and that haven’t been irradiated or genetically engineered.
Eggs can still be organic if deemed so by an independent or state-run program, but verifying this can be more trouble than it’s worth. The same goes for eggs bought at farmers’ markets.
A quintessential and classic cocktail made with eggs is the Pisco Sour, semi-official cocktail of Peru. Tangy grape brandy, and bright and slightly sweet citrus, are delivered on a velvety magic carpet of egg white. Don’t skip the drops of Angostura bitters, which give the drink an added depth – and just look cool.
The trick to making an excellent Pisco Sour – as with most cocktails that include egg whites – is the dry shake, a curiously misleading way to say you’re shaking egg whites and other ingredients without ice so you get a richer, foamier mixture. Also, a dry shake should be done as vigorously as possible. In other words, shake the shit out of it.
Here’s how I like my Pisco Sour:
2 ounces pisco (Macchu Pisco is a nice brand)
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
Dry shake everything but the bitters for at least 20 seconds – again, shake as if your life depends on it. Add ice and shake vigorously for another 10 to 20 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Gently add three or four drops of Angostura bitters atop the foamy drink.
Here’s another cocktail made with eggs that’s one of my favorites, courtesy of mixologist John Hogan…
Pineapple Caipirinha with Sweet Lime Espuma
This cocktail is a zesty, airy confection that deftly uses contrasting textures—foam and firmness—to highlight how well lime, pineapple, and the sugarcane rum cachaça play together.
Half of a lime, cut into 4 pieces
Four 1⁄2-inch cubes pineapple
4 sugar cubes
1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
1 ounce agave nectar
1 large egg white
2 ounces cachaça (Cuca Fresca and Novo Fogo are excellent organic brands)
1 spiky pineapple leaf (optional)
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the lime, pineapple, and sugar cubes until the mixture has an even consistency. In a separate small shaker, combine the lime juice, agave nectar, and egg white to make the espuma. Dry shake the bejesus out if this mixture. Add ice cubes to the muddled mixture and pour in the cachaça. Shake vigorously, then pour the mixture, unstrained, into a tall glass. Top with the espuma and garnish with the pineapple leaf, if using.