It’s truly remarkable to me how quickly things have changed in just a few short years. When I first started behind the bar, only crusty old men drank gin. Now, there are so many gins on the market that I haven’t even tried most of them. Fresh juice wasn’t a thing, and the first cocktail bar I worked in carried a whopping three tequilas.
But the general public’s ability to choke down egg whites in cocktails is the one that amazes me the most. If I’d known about their use in cocktails twenty years ago, I myself would have been fairly disgusted to even think about the prospect of drinking raw egg. These days, however, even the most novice drinkers have no problem with the question, “Would you like that Whiskey Sour with egg whites?”
Here’s my theory on how egg whites came to be used in cocktails. I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that egg whites were originally used to clarify sugar when making simple syrup. It’s not a huge leap to imagine that bartenders noticed that simple syrups made with egg whites had a silkier, creamier texture. Soon after, you start seeing egg whites being called for in most sours.
These days, there seems to be a competition among bartenders to see who can get the most egg white foam on top of their cocktails. It’s not uncommon to see a Ramos Gin Fizz, probably the most well known egg white cocktail, made with painstaking detail resulting in a three inch head on top of the drink. While it photographs well, I can’t say that an ounce and a half of egg white in a cocktail results in anything I’d call balanced.
I like to add just a dollop, a half ounce will do the trick. And when I do, I like to reach for one of my favorite classic egg white cocktails, the Dizzy Sour.
• 1½ oz bourbon (I like a higher proof whiskey here, the Old Grandad Bottled in Bond works great at 100 proof)
• ¾ oz lemon juice
• ½ oz Benedtictine
• ½ oz egg whites, lightly beaten
• ¼ oz 2:1 simple syrup
• ½ oz dark Jamaican rum (Myers’s works well)
Combine everything but the rum in a cocktail shaker and shake hard with ice until chilled. Strain over fresh ice in an Old Fashioned glass, and float dark rum on top. Garnish with a lemon peel and a brandied cherry.