Of all the ingredients returned to us by the great American cocktail resurgence, egg whites are the boldest. Bar patrons will drink "artisanal" moonshine straight from the jug until their liver shuts down, but crack a raw egg into a drink and watch the crowd recoil in horror. Don't be these people. Some of the most satisfying cocktails imaginable require an egg white to reach their foamy perfection. So let's buck up and explore the egg as an ingredient.
Egg whites are added to cocktails for texture, not taste. Properly shaken, an egg white will impart a silky, foamy texture that adds sophistication to otherwise basic liquid ingredients. When eggs fell out of favor, bartenders switched over to lesser additions like sour mix in an attempt to rekindle the magic. They failed. Egg whites, specifically fresh egg whites, can not be replaced. They can only be embraced.
I get my eggs from the San Diego Public Market. Christy and I use two farms, Spur Valley Ranch and Descanso Valley Ranch. Both deliver richly flavored, pasture-raised eggs fresh from the nest. There are many reasons that I prefer these businesses to industrial farming, but in the case of cocktails, the main selling point is freshness.
Rich silky egg foams come from fresh eggs. As the ingredients are shaken, the egg white proteins unfold and air is captured by the tangled mess. If you've ever made a meringue, you've seen the process in action. Which brings me to dry-shaking. When using egg whites, pour all your ingredients into the shaker without ice. A good 15 seconds of vigorous shaking insures that the egg white will incorporate into the other ingredients and create a perfect foam. After this, add the ice and shake again to chill and dilute the drink.
Ok. A note on salmonella. You won't get it. Seriously, with even basic food handling knowledge and farm fresh eggs you will avoid harming yourself and your guests. That said, don't serve raw egg whites to pregnant women, immune compromised persons, or the very elderly (unless Grandpa wants to remember the taste of a whiskey sour from his favorite club, in which case you indulge him). If you are really concerned with the faint possibility of sickness, you can opt to use pasteurized egg whites. They can be found in cartons at any grocery store. Your cocktails will never rise to the perfection that is provided by fresh eggs, but at least you'll feel protected. If you don't trust even pasteurized eggs, there is no hope for you. Also, why are you still reading this?
With all that out of the way, what drinks should we be drinking? My first egg cocktail was the Pisco Sour. Well, I've had real egg nog, but I'm not bringing whole egg drinks into this. I bought Pisco of the Gods from Trader Joe's because it was cheap and I'd never had Pisco. It made a great drink. Unfortunately, the Sour is also the only drink I've found Pisco to be useful for, so don't buy a bottle just to try it unless you have room in your liquor cabinet budget.
I do love me a Sour. The classic Whiskey Sour is only enhanced by the addition of an egg white. By the way, a Sour requires fresh citrus juice. Do not put shelf-stable sour mix in your drink. Just do not, please. If you want to try a twist on the Whiskey Sour, try this one. I haven't mixed it up yet, but it sounds great.
I want to recommend the Ramos Gin Fizz as well. I want to, but I've never had one. Every article I can find on egg whites in cocktails mentions the Ramos. I'm guessing it's amazing? My plan is to make one or two this weekend. Once I've imbibed, I will report back.
If you would like to have a professional mix your drink, both The Lion's Share and West Coast Tavern have egg drinks on the menu. I recommend The Lion's Cyn-City if, like me, you want something with a little bite and at West Coast they make a perfect Whiskey Sour.
So there you have it, all the nutrition of an egg-white omelet with the added fun of a night on the town. It's time we add a new ingredient to our mixology arsenal. Cocktails favor the bold.