You can’t make a creamy cocktail without breaking a few eggs
Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of England, might have made the best observation when she said, “It may be the cock that crows, but it’s the hen that lays the eggs.”
She was talking about gender contributions, of course, but she could just as well have been propped on a bar stool contemplating her mixed drink.
It’s called a cocktail, after all, but can anyone think of one single thing a rooster ever did to be immortalized with the name of the world’s most popular beverage?
The truth is, throughout history, the contribution to alcoholic beverages by the hard-working hen far outweighs that of the rooster.
From early times, the egg shaped the cocktail world. As far back as the late 17th and 18th centuries, when societal affairs involved imbibing, the most notable hosts and hostesses prided themselves on their nogs, fizzes and flips.
These weren’t hairstyles or acrobatic feats, but alcoholic beverages centered around the marvelous egg. This love affair with one of nature’s most useful prepackaged cocktail mixers lasted until the early 20th century, when both economic depression and war made the egg more valuable on a plate than in a glass.
That was then, but this is now. Suddenly, the chicken is crossing the road to get to the bar again.
When pondering the addition of eggs to the cocktail hour, people too often limit themselves to the holiday season and the traditional eggnog, which reportedly led to grandma getting run over by some reindeer. To do so is to ignore the year-round contributions eggs can make in transforming an ordinary drink into something altogether new and exotic.
The addition of egg, either whole or in parts, elevates a drink into what is known as a sour, a fizz or a flip. Depending on the recipe, the egg can transform a strong drink into one notable for its rich and silky flavor. It can make another a light and frothy sipper for a hot day on the patio or simply put a frothy head on a fruity cocktail and give it pizazz.
The flip is probably the oldest known fresh-egg cocktail and is the forerunner of what everyone calls eggnog today. The variations in early recipes are as numerous as there were taverns to serve them, but the early flips basically consisted of fresh eggs and brown sugar beaten into a frothy batter.
Depending on the establishment and the economic wherewithal of the customer, this batter could be swirled into a mug of beer, then scalded with a hot poker called a loggerhead.
Fancier places added cream to the batter, making it what was commonly called a nog today. Rather than beer, the slightly lighter nogs were usually enhanced with rum, brandy or applejack. Later, the egg mixture was either heated in a pot in advance, or the heating part was eliminated altogether and the drink was served at room temperature.
Besides eggnog, other familiar flips are the Tom & Jerry and the Colleen Bawn. The Colleen Bawn, oddly named after a 19th-century book and play about a murdered farm girl, includes rye whiskey, chartreuse and Benedictine. These are mixed with a whole, whipped egg.
Another kind of egg-based cocktail is the sour. The two things that set sours apart from flips are that the sours use only the whites of the egg and they always contain some kind of citrus juice. Few modern versions of old recipes still call for egg whites, but they are finding their way back into classics like the Whiskey Sour, Pisco Sour and the Stork Club Cocktail.
The egg white actually was added less for taste than for the way it reacted when shaken with the citrus juice and alcohol, frothing up to aerate the entire drink or providing a froth that floated on top.
Locally, Brad Stringer, the cutting-edge mixologist and partner in Galveston’s craft cocktail bar DTO (Daiquiri Time Out), 2701 Market St., has such a sour he calls Ashes to Ashes. It’s a rum-based drink using Magdalena rum with passion fruit juice and fresh lemon juice to invigorate the egg white, but also includes a strawberry syrup to give it some springtime oomph.
“Egg whites add a rich, creamy texture to the drink,” Stringer said. “We chose Magdalena rum for its rich flavor that pairs well with the passion fruit and texture of the egg white. The rum comes from sugar cane that grows in soil nourished by the ashes of three Guatemalan volcanoes. That’s why the drink is called Ashes to Ashes.”
Finally, there are the fizzes, cocktails similar to the sour with the exception that most contain soda or seltzer and, depending on the drink, use the yolk, the whites or both. These are usually served in highball glasses.
One thing flips, sours and fizzes all have in common is the method in which they are made. All ingredients (with the exception of the soda or seltzer in fizzes) are added to a cocktail shaker without ice and given what is called a dry shake for anywhere from 10 seconds to a full minute. Ice is then added and the cocktail is given another good shaking for a similar amount of time. The double shaking emulsifies the egg. Some drinks, like the Ramos gin fizz, call for an extra-long shaking, which does indeed make a difference in the end result.
On a cautionary note, consuming raw eggs raises the issue of food-borne illness. The chances are remote and can be minimized by washing the eggs with warm, soapy water before cracking, thoroughly washing hands and using only fresh eggs that have been refrigerated. Pasteurized eggs also are available.
All in all, bringing the chickens home to roost during the cocktail hour can add a whole new dimension to a bar menu. Let the cock and its tail crow in undeserved glory, while toasting the hens and their eggs. They are far, far more than they are cracked up to be.
ASHES TO ASHES
Created by Brad Stringer, partner and mixologist at DTO (Daiquiri Time Out), Galveston
2 ounces Casa Magdalena rum
.75 ounces passion fruit syrup (recipe follows)
.5 ounces strawberry syrup (recipe follows)
.5 ounces of lemon juice
.25 ounces Giffard banana liqueur
.25 ounces egg white
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake hard, without ice, for about 30 seconds. Add ice, shake hard. Double strain into a coupe cocktail glass (or glass of your choice).
1 pound strawberries, sliced
½ pound sugar
Combine sugar and fresh strawberries in a container and stir. Let sit overnight, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved into a syrup. Strain. Reserve strawberries for a different use. Refrigerate syrup for up to one week.
PASSION FRUIT SYRUP
1 cup passion fruit juice (such as Simply Purée)
½ cup simple syrup
Mix the juice and syrup in a sealable container and stir. To make more or less, follow the 2-to-1 ratio of juice to syrup. Refrigerate up to one week.