FIVE! Alternatives to Egg White
Drinks with egg are not just for your Granny! But many folks seem to think so, and they avoid drinks with egg white like the plague. The fact is, it doesn’t have to be that way. We take a critical look at the question of whether it’s possible to replace fresh egg white behind the bar. And if so, how?
Raw eggs are likely to always remain a culinary taboo for many people. The food industry knows this, and for years it has offered alternatives for those who wrinkle their noses at raw eggs. Despite this, eggs, or in particular egg whites, have played a role in bar culture for literally centuries and shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.
The advantage of egg white and the reason it’s also used at bars lies in the fact that it contains more than 10% proteins. When beaten with sufficient force and exposed to air, these proteins combine to form a stabile, two-phased foam mixture. This characteristic is essential for baked goods and pastries, and it can also add an extra boost to a number of cocktails. Drinks with egg white also bond easily and produce an elegantly creamy mouthfeel. And above all, their foam crown expands the surface of the drink, giving its flavors more space.
In addition to eggs, there are also other non-readymade alternatives which one can use in a variety of drinks to produce very similar effects. In general though it has to be said that you simply won’t find a better egg white than the original. For those still looking however, we present you with five! alternative recommendations here.
1) the questionable chemical solution: the original frothee
A few years back, then-MIXOLOGY author Steffen Hubert addressed this product, a staple in many chain bars, particularly in popular US tourism destinations. The Original Frothee comes with great promise, offering a stabile foam (even in a Gimlet?!), silky texture, built-in stain protection for service personnel and also a reduction in actual product use quantity…this is because Frothee gives a drink more foam, i.e., more air and less actual drink.
For people whose bar concept fits in with this philosophy, using a sterile powder resembling a detergent that creates an effect in a drink similar to that of fresh egg white might be just the thing. But frankly, it’s not really very nice.
2) The “safe” way: PASTEURIzed egg white
If you want to use real egg white but hate dealing with raw eggs, you can always use packaged or bottled pasteurized egg white, a product you’ll find meanwhile in among the essentials in many large-scale kitchens. Manufacturers praise the benefits of its energetic qualities, purity and storage possibilities, even without refrigeration, all at an affordable price.
But the question remains as to why one should use something like this when you can buy organic eggs straight from the farm that pose virtually no risk whatsoever when handled properly? A fresh, undamaged egg rinsed on the outside with hot water before handling (yes, salmonella can also hide on the outer shell) is absolutely safe, even when it’s raw. All of which kind of nullifies the argument in favor of the pasteurized version.
3) the cOMBIned solution? egg white SyRUp
Egg white syrups constitute a fairly new segment. They are essentially nothing more than sugar syrups with pasteurized egg white like the ones above added during the production process. The infrastructural advantages are obvious: lots of sugar and the pasteurization of the egg white mean a long shelf life, even when stored at room temperature.
Critics of these products however don’t like the automatic combination of egg white with sugar. Anyone choosing one of these products as their standard choice at the bar over fresh eggs needs to remember that they make many classic recipes, such as those containing liqueurs, more complicated. For instance, these syrups add a significant extra portion of sugar to a White Lady or an Angus & Beuser Special, requiring the bartender to spend a lot more time compensating with the remaining ingredients. They may be OK to try out for a simple Sour, but they’re really not an option for genuinely top class bars.
4) the old cLASSIc: Gum SYRUP
The term “Gum Syrup” or “Sirop de Gomme” pops up far more in old bar books than those we see today. One can still hear the phrase today, but what it generally refers to now is simple white sugar syrup. The original meaning actually references a syrup containing what’s known as gum arabic, a product obtained from the plant juice of various African acacia species.
Gum arabic is a mixture of different complex sugars, i.e. carbohydrates, which are used in concentrated form in many areas of food processing as a thickening agent.
One classic gum syrup however consists of one part gum arabic with the rest made up of normal, commercially available disaccharide. When shaken, some of the ingredients ensure that the shaken mixture is more heavily emulsified and becomes delicately bonded, much like when an egg white is beaten. It also forms the coveted foam crown we know from a Pisco Sour, Silver Gin Fizz or the classic White Lady. If you want to try and make your own gum syrup, gum arabic is affordably available online and in good retail drugstores, organic-oriented grocery stores and in some pharmacies.
You might protest here that using gum syrup is basically as limited as the previously mentioned egg white syrup, and at first glance that may seem right. But don’t forget that this is a completely natural product, at least as long as the gum arabic is certified organic. And in contrast to egg whites, gum syrup has no animal-based constituents at all.
5) NATuRaL ALTERNATIVEs: FRuits & HONey
If you want to go “all natural” to give your drinks the right composition topped with a perfect foam crown, and you’re open to the idea of other flavors entering the picture, there are a few ingredients which have nothing at all to do with eggs that can do the trick.
For example, some fruits such as pineapple or passion fruit contain an enormous amount of protein. Try adding a few crushed pineapple cubes into the shaker with your next Sour. Aside from the fruity flavor, once you’ve strained it twice you will be astonished at the beautiful foam crown, featuring a consistency reminiscent of an Espuma. And even the drink itself takes on a wonderful creaminess that elegantly fills the mouth. The same goes for a Sour with passion fruit pulp added to the mix. The result is a superb composition with a rich, full flavor and a creamy texture.
Another outstanding source of protein behind the bar is high quality honey, for instance from acacia blossoms. An Air Mail cocktail, first shaken “dry”, then refined with good honey before straining and topped off with champagne will produce a foam crown so fluffy, stabile and thick that even experienced cocktail connoisseurs are likely to accuse you of using egg white. With these combos, even vegans can get into the holiday spirit! Cheers.
Translation by J. J. Collier.
Foto: Ei via Shutterstock.