Unless you live in California or parts of the American Southwest, you're probably as relieved as I am to finally see the backside of this year's long, brutal winter. Spend a day inside a cramped Brooklyn apartment with a toddler and a newborn, and you're increasingly eager to see cocktail hour come around. Spend dozens of days like that, and you start to go a little insane.
In spring, we celebrate rebirth, rejuvenation, and fertility, and for many centuries the egg has symbolized those concepts. Now, I won't go into the whole religious and cultural history of eggs, Easter, Christianity, pre-Christian pagan spring rituals, and whatnot. You have Wikipedia for that. I will just say I believe that no matter your religious faith, you can enjoy eggs as a celebration of budding trees and blossoming flowers, warmer temperatures and longer days, and, yes, mornings spent with your kids on the playground instead of cooped up inside while frigid winds howl outside the window.
Many types of cocktails include eggs—sours, flips, fizzes, and nogs among them. Nogs are pretty much a winter thing, at least in my home, so I won't discuss them here.
Raw Eggs? Are You Insane?!
- Salmonella is pretty rare in raw eggs these days. On average, only about one in every 20,000 eggs might be infected.
- When salmonella does infect an egg, it most often enters from the outside. Dirty eggs can breed bacteria on the shell. When you crack a dirty egg, you risk infecting the stuff inside.
- The longer an egg sits before you use it, the more time that bacteria have to thrive.
- So ...
- Start with the freshest eggs you can find.
- Ensure they're clean (that's right, wash them!) and uncracked.
- Store them in a very cold place in your fridge.
- Ensure your hands and all your equipment are scrupulously clean before making your cocktail.
- When in doubt, use pasteurized eggs instead.
Techniques for Using Eggs in Cocktails
You might have heard the story of Henry Ramos and his famous Gin Fizz. Legend has it, he created his fizzy special in 1888, in a New Orleans bar. He employed a line of shaker boys, who would take a shaker full of fizz, and pass it down the line, from shaker boy to shaker boy, each agitating the hell out of the drink until it had received a full five minutes of shaking.
I once timed myself shaking a Ramos Fizz for five minutes. I then wanted to rest in a tomb for three days before coming back to life. You can use various tricks to keep yourself sane when making these drinks.
First, don't be afraid to use a blender, either a full-sized model or an immersion blender. This will save your life when making multiple Ramos Fizzes ... or even just one.
Next, when you're working with eggs in cocktails, dry shake. Nope, this doesn't mean shaking your empty cocktail shaker around. To dry shake, add all of your ingredients to a cocktail shaker without ice. Egg whites foam more easily when they're warm, so shaking for a bit before adding ice helps you to get the foamy creaminess you're looking. (For more on this, check out Kevin Liu's post on foams.)
Third, some bartenders like to add a little whipping aid into the shaker, to assist during the dry shake. If you have an extra Hawthorne strainer laying around, for example, you can remove the metal spring from it, and add that into the shaker when you do the dry shake.
Styles of Eggy Drinks
Nogs and Flips: These both use whole eggs. The distinction between them is somewhat arbitrary—nogs require either milk or cream in addition to the eggs, whereas flips do not. (Flips can contain dairy, but don't require it.) I think nogs are a little too heavy for spring drinking, so I won't talk about them further here. Flips, on the other hand, might be just right for an early spring evening, when the weather's a little cool and crisp and you want a cocktail with just enough body to it.
Try the Fort Washington Flip, a delicious blend of applejack, Benedictine, and maple syrup, capped with a whole egg. It's creamy and rich, but still bright and fresh-tasting. With maple season off to a slow start this year, this is a perfect time for a maple-hinted drink.
Fizzes: A fizz is a mix of liquor, citrus juice, and sugar, lengthened with a mixer such as ginger ale, club soda, or cola. You generally shake and strain them into a tall glass and drink them quickly. But an eggy fizz is a bit of a different beast. Add an egg white to a fizz, and you have a Silver Fizz. Add a yolk, and it's a Golden Fizz. Whole egg? Why, that's a Royal Fizz, your majesty.
In practice, you don't see many Goldens or Royals anymore, but the Silver still is fairly popular. Probably the most commonly made Silver Fizz these days is the New Orleans classic, the Ramos Gin Fizz.
If you're hosting brunch on or around Easter morning, the Ramos Fizz is a perfect drink to serve. It's light and fizzy and refreshing, with hints of lemon-lime soda (even though you use actual fresh juices) and bright flower blossoms. And personally, I don't feel there's any need to shake-shake-shake-shake-shake-shake-shake-shake-shake-shake-shake-shake this thing like Henry Ramos and his boys did, way back in 1888 when he invented this delight. Use a blender, it's really okay. No less an authority than Gary Regan says so, in his authoritative guide to bartending, The Joy of Mixology. The bonus: you can prep two or three drinks at a time in the blender and keep them flowing for your guests.
To use the blender method, add all liquid ingredients except for seltzer to your blender, doubling the recipe if you like. Add three ice cubes per serving and whiz on high speed for about a minute, until texture is even and frothy. Pour into a tall ice-filled glass and top with chilled seltzer.
If you have an immersion blender, you can mix the ingredients (sans-seltzer, sans-ice) with your stick blender right in the cocktail shaker for 30 seconds to emulsify. Then fill the shaker 2/3 full with ice and shake for 30 to 60 seconds to chill before straining into a tall, ice-filled glass.
Feel Like a Millionaire
It's time for resurrection, regeneration, and renewal, so try something new. Or rather, try something old. During Prohibition and just afterward, a few drinks came around that were all somehow named The Millionaire. I suppose if you're going to pick a time in American history in which drinkers aspired to better themselves, Prohibition and the Great Depression would be the right era for it.
One version of the Millionaire calls for rum, sloe gin, and apricot brandy. Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh likes this rendition, and includes it in his Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. David Embury, author of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks hated that version, and preferred one calling for whiskey, grenadine, curaçao, pastis, and an egg white. That's the one I'm partial to.*
This egg-enriched version of the Millionaire is full-bodied and creamy, with mellow whiskey flavors rounded out by sweet fruitiness and just a hint of anise. It's a drink with balance and grace, and one that reminds you that you don't need to be wealthy to feel like a million bucks.
*Apparently, Trader Vic had a version as well, but the less said of it, the better. The man might have known his way around a Mai Tai, but he apparently couldn't tell a millionaire from a pauper.