Adding Texture: Egg Whites

If you’ve ever had a Whiskey or Pisco Sour, you may have noticed that these cocktails had a layer of foam sitting on top. This foam is very creamy and adds a great texture to the cocktail. How is it done? Using egg whites!

You may be surprised by this revelation. It's also quite possible you aren't aren’t fond of the idea of raw egg whites in a cocktail. However, you’ve probably eaten raw egg whites in other forms, such as french meringue. French meringue is simply raw egg whites and sugar, beaten into a foam. Sounds familiar? Other types of food that use raw eggs include mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce.

Why does it foam?

Egg whites contain high levels of protein, which, when coming into contact with an acid (like citric acid from lime / lemon juice) go into a process called denaturation, which means their structure changes. This structural change provides the silky texture we are looking for.

Egg whites are often used in Sour Cocktails.

Why would you use egg whites in cocktails?

With the proper technique, egg whites bring an incredibly smooth, velvety texture to a cocktail. The presentation is also enhanced with a beautiful, inviting foam.

Egg whites will soften the edges of certain ingredients, making them less intense. Sometimes adding an egg white will be exactly the thing you need to elevate your cocktail to the next level.

Is it safe to eat raw egg whites?

The short answer is yes. However, raw food is susceptible to contamination from bacteria, like salmonella. As we mentioned before, there’s plenty of examples in cooking where you’ve probably already eaten raw eggs, and these carry the same risk as when used in cocktails.

If you have a compromised immune system, or are particularly worried about it for some reason, you can use pasteurized egg whites instead. Pasteurized egg whites undergo a process where they’re heated up to a point where all harmful bacteria are removed. Pasteurized eggs are sold in supermarkets in either cartons or glass bottles.

Pasteurized egg whites offer a slightly less foamy cocktail than when using fresh eggs, but if you didn’t know about it, you probably wouldn’t even notice the difference.

Another advantage of using pasteurized egg whites is that you won’t have a bunch of egg yolks laying around.

Finally, egg whites are also sold in powdered, dehydrated form. You simply need to hydrate it back up and it’ll work just as well.

Kevin Kos has a fantastic video comparing fresh eggs, pasteurized eggs and powdered egg whites:

Egg Whites Showdown | Fresh vs Pasteurized vs Powdered

Will I be able to taste / smell the egg white?

It’s highly unlikely. As long as you’re using fresh eggs, and you’re not leaving the egg whites sitting unattended for a long period of time, then you won’t be able to notice them in your cocktail.

Pasteurized or dehydrated egg whites carry a bit more of a smell but if you’re garnishing your cocktails then it’ll mask the scent completely, and they don’t have a noticeable taste.

Best Practices when using Eggs

First of all, check that your eggs are fresh. Check their production date when you purchase them at the store. In order to test their freshness, you can put an egg in a container with water: If it sinks to the bottom and lays on its side, they’re fresh. If they stand upright, it’s best to cook them thoroughly. If they float, then it’s best to discard them.

Depending on where you live, store your eggs according to what your country’s regulatory body dictates. Some places, like the US, sanitize their eggs prior to selling them; this removes the outer protective layer from the egg, which then requires them to be stored in the fridge. Other places such as Europe or Latin America, sell eggs without mandatory refrigeration.

How to separate the egg white?

As with everything, there’s different ways to go about it. We’ll show you three different methods:

Crack the egg right down the middle. Then, try to move the yolk from one half of the egg shell to the other, letting the egg white fall in a container below.

Keep doing this until all the egg white makes it to the container and only the yolk remains in the shell.

Crack the egg slightly off the middle. Open it and discard the smaller half. Pour the egg on your palm, letting the egg white slide through your fingers and into a container below.

Move the yolk from one hand to the other until only it remains in your hand.

Crack the egg and pour it into a small container. Take a plastic bottle and press it gently against the yolk. Squeeze the bottle and allow for the egg yolk to be sucked into the bottle.

The key to this technique is to do it in one fell swoop: it might take a bit of practice but once you master it, it’s the most surefire way of separating the two.

Regardless of which technique you choose, keep the following in mind:

  • It might be a good idea to try to do it in a separate container in case you need to remove bits of egg shell.
  • When you crack the egg, try to smack it right in the middle and on a flat surface.
  • Ideally, the yolk will be nice and round for all of these, you don’t want it to break apart. If your eggs are in the fridge, it’ll be a little easier as the yolk will be harder to break.

What are some alternatives?

If, for whatever reason, you don’t want to use egg whites but you still want that foam and that velvety texture, then there are some alternatives.

The one that you’ll hear more commonly is using aquafaba. Aquafaba is the water in which legumes are cooked in. Chickpeas is generally the legume more often used for this purpose. The reason why aquafaba works in place of egg whites is because legumes are also full of protein. Once cooked, all the water that’s left contains that protein, which behaves in very much the same way as an egg white.

The simplest way to get aquafaba is to purchase a can of chickpeas at your grocery store. You must get the unsalted version, though, otherwise it’ll bring unwanted flavors to your cocktails. Alternatively, you can cook the beans yourself, again, using only water. The water that remains after cooking needs to be reduced further, until it has a consistency close to that of egg whites.

Here’s a video by Greg from How to Drink, in which he compares egg white alternatives:

5 Alternatives to Egg Whites in your sour | How to Drink