By David Alan
Photography by Dustin Meyer
Most serious drinkers have probably sipped a Pisco Sour, Flip or Ramos Gin Fizz during their tipsy travels. But the majority of people are still surprised the first time they see a bartender crack an egg into a cocktail shaker. While the use of eggs in cocktails is on the rise in trendy cocktail lounges, it’s by no means a new phenomenon. Eggnog and the Tom and Jerry have been around for over a hundred years, and drinks marrying eggs with wine, ale and spices first appeared in recipe books centuries ago—well before the publication of the first modern cocktail guide.
The primary function of an egg in a cocktail is to add texture and volume, and the most commonly made mistake with these drinks is that they’re not shaken enough to properly emulsify. It’s imperative to shake long and hard so the resulting cocktail will have a rich, decadent texture topped with an abundant, frothy head.
Though safety should be considered when using raw eggs in cocktails, don’t let the fear of contamination prevent you from experimenting with eggs. The incidence of salmonella in eggs is rare, and high-proof spirits and low pH citrus juices have a sanitizing effect—the chances are very slim that bacteria will be transmitted from egg to cocktail. Some people use frozen, pasteurized egg whites, though some of the ritual and romance is lost, along with the desired texture. Appropriately handled, fresh eggs are best, preferably from a reliable source. If you’re using farm-fresh eggs that have not been sanitized, gently clean the shell with a vodka-moistened towel. It’s also important to wash utensils and hands well when using raw eggs.
When pondering which came first, this much is certain: long before the era of the modern cocktail, eggs were adding body, character and froth to many imbibables, and firmly securing their place in the history of the American mixed beverage.
AND THE WINNER IS...
On December 6, 2009, Edible Austin and TipsyTexan.com hosted the second annual Drink Local Cocktail Contest. Austinite Lara Nixon won the event with her cocktail, “We’re In It for the Corn.”
Lara Nixon began bartending the way a lot of us did: working in the food and beverage industry while putting herself through school. Though Nixon’s first exposure to bartending was in the beer-and-shot style of Austin’s ubiquitous college bars, it was during graduate school that she began to get a higher education in alcohol. After graduating from the University of Texas, Nixon went to Atlanta University to pursue a master’s degree in African and African American studies. There, she worked in a café that attracted an international clientele and discovered a new world of spirits that appealed to that diverse audience.
Nixon has always been an avid traveler and cook, with a special interest in France and French cooking. Her passion for the kitchen segued naturally into a passion for the bar, as she began to approach drinking and drink making in the same way she approached food and cooking. She was inspired to make cocktails at home from a European perspective, using European liqueurs and spirits. In her travels, she sought out unique cocktails wherever she went, but it was a serendipitous encounter in New York that inspired her to start her own business.
While on a cocktail-research expedition at New York’s legendary Pegu Club, Nixon had the good fortune of meeting Chad Solomon, a fellow Texan and bartending legend in his own right. Solomon spent hours talking with Nixon about spirits and mixology, and encouraged her to get into the business. She attended bartending school in Santa Rosa, California, seeking out special classic cocktail instruction that was not part of the regular curriculum.
Back in Austin, she found Bill Norris, who was crafting original drinks at FINO. After a long career in the field of child advocacy, Nixon decided it was finally time to get back behind the bar, so she started Boxcar Bar to do private parties and educational events. In December 2009 she participated in her first cocktail contest, competing against Austin’s heavyweight bartending talent, and won. And in February of this year, Nixon joined me as co-host of the Tipsy Tech mixology education series sponsored by Twin Liquors Marketplace.
All of this recent success makes one wonder: when will Nixon open her own bar? “I reject the business model of allowing a business to run your life,” she says. “So I’m waiting for the right time.” If Nixon’s lucky streak continues, the right time may be just around the corner.
See what Bill Norris (above) is shaking up (hint: it took second place at the Edible Austin Eat Local Week’s second annual Drink Local Cocktail Contest), and other egg-inspired cocktail recipes:
We're In It for the Corn
Texas Campfire Flip
L’ Heure Verte (The Green Hour)