Happy Easter, everyone! Does anyone remember this ad?
Oh, honey. I know he just bought you an Easter Creme Egg and all, but did you see that white turtleneck/satin jacket combo? Tread carefully, sistah.
With the long Easter weekend upon us, I am using the occasion to write a blog post about a topic I have wanted to cover for awhile now. And that is the egg white. In cocktails. Oui, ou non?!
Right off the bat, the idea of a raw egg white in a cocktail shaker evokes a wee ‘ick’-factor from yours truly. I usually shy away from using egg whites in cocktails because I have texture issues with food. And the idea of an egg white in my martini glass is not so appetizing. Which is weird, especially since I eat raw cookie dough, enjoy a properly made Cesar salad, prefer the real-deal egg nog and home made mayonnaise. I should be able to deal, right?
With this post, I am hoping to get over the ‘ick’-factor and embrace the egg white. Let us first deal with the texture issue. Egg whites have been used in cocktails since the beginning of humankind to create drinks such as egg nogs (a spirit, egg, cream, sugar and spice), flips (same as egg nog minus the cream) and fizzes. And the reason for the high prevalence of eggs in cocktails is because eggs are superb binding agents (think of why you use them in other recipes) and when shaken, create a real-deal beautiful froth/foam for a cocktail. In doing a bit of research for this post, I found that The Art of Drink’s elegant description of the molecular structure of the egg helped me to get over the ’ick’ factor. The function of shaking your cocktail shaker unravels the egg white protein and in so doing, a transformation occurs: from slime to froth. So whatcha got in your cocktail is completely different than what you put into the shaker to begin with. Kinda reminds me of the transformation you get from meringue.
Without completely ruining that beautiful, foamy picture, I am an epidemiologist by day, and feel the need to talk to you about the risk of salmonella. Fortunately, the risk is minuscule, but do listen up.
Everyone probably remembers the raw cookie dough hubub last December, with ‘experts’ and food agencies coming out swinging against eating cookie dough that contains raw eggs (in that case, the bug was E. coli in raw, pre-packaged cookie dough). The result being that parents, grandparents and caregivers the world over were questioning their judgement of letting the kids ‘lick the beaters’.
I could go on a tiny rant about how the world doesn’t understand the concept of risk, and how blanket recommendations issued in a situation such as this takes something that is inherently a low risk activity and turns it into a high risk activity without passing on the good information that allows people to navigate the risk and decide for themselves.
Oh, wait. I did just do a tiny rant. I need an Easter Creme Egg.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that the same kind of hubbub that has affected the eating of the cookie dough has also affected the use of egg whites in cocktails. When I did the research for this post, I did try look for documented cases or outbreaks of salmonella that could be attributed to the use of egg whites in cocktails. I didn’t find any. But that might be because the use of egg whites in cocktails has fallen so out of fashion, that people just aren’t drinking them in bars anymore.
So let’s look at the facts. Health Canada says that Salmonella isn’t very common in Canadian eggs (thanks to inspection and enforcement activities of the food supply). I have seen some FDA stats quoted on the web that say that only 1 in 20,000 (American) eggs contain Salmonella, but have not been able to find the source of that statistic or a Canadian equivalent. When it comes to actual case counts of Salmonella, about 6,000 to 12,000 Canadians come down with Salmonella each year. And smaller, more in-depth surveillance activities on a handful of these cases attribute such illness to risk factors such as ‘eating in restaurants’ or handling ‘pet reptiles’.
Based on the information above, and that contained in this Health Canada fact sheet, it seems to me that if you shop carefully, store your eggs correctly, and watch the expiration date, it is unlikely that the eggs in your fridge contain Salmonella. And if you keep your bar tools clean (cocktail shaker especially – wash it well after each use), and are mindful of how you use your ice (do not handle it with your hands or recycle the ice), adding an egg to your cocktail is in effect, a low risk activity. But if ‘low-risk’ is still too high for your comfort zone, bartenders who know way more about this subject than I recommend the use of pasteurized egg whites (that you buy in cartons), or dehydrated egg whites (just add water).
So let’s get on with the egg-based cocktails! Two of the most famous and well-known cocktails that contain an egg white are the Pink Lady (which I have blogged about before) and the Clover Club (you probably have all the stuff at home to make this!). Both of these are super-easy to make. Imbibe Magazine also recently posted some tasty-looking Egg Cocktails Recipes just in time for Easter!
I am going over to a friend’s house tonight for a ‘Good Friday Dinner’, and plan to bring the ingredients to make a Clover Club. Hopefully, they will be brave! Will you be brave to put an egg white in your next cocktail?
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