(( Cocktail Techniques ))
Posted by drinkscompanion on August 8, 2007
In this section, we try and flush out certain bartending techniques we’ve found useful. Egg Whites and CocktailsIf you’ve ever had a well-made Ramos Gin Fizz, you know what I’m talking about here. The texture of the liquid, the orange blossom, the lightness but full body of the foam…oh boy. All these seemingly strange ingredients come together to make, in my opinion, one of the most well conceived drinks around. It could so easily be sweeter, but it’s not. It could be boozier, but there’s really no need. And, it is easy to mess up.When I first started playing with egg whites, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. From a late night at Little Branch, I had come home amazed at the quality of the Ramos brought to our table. Bartenders choice – hell yeah. When it came, what we got was a large Collins glass, no ice, a nearly white liquid, and a head of foam that peaked out of the glass and stood its ground. Using the metal straw to fiddle around a bit, I was giddy at its stable body. It would lump on the straw, much like a very aerated whipped cream, and tasted of cream, gin, citrus, and ever so slightly of flowers.This got me thinking about technique in regard to egg whites and cocktails. To explain what I’ve learned, I’ll just stick with the Ramos.I started reading up on the Ramos Gin Fizz, and egg white drinks in general after my trip to Little Branch. The problem, I’ve found, is that most recipes will give you the formula, but don’t spend any time explaining the steps at which a bartender must go through to get the right texture and frothiness – that oh-so desirable head. As a reference, here is the approximate recipe that I’ve come to use:Ramos Gin Fizz2 oz gin (I use Plymouth)0.5 oz fresh lime juice0.5 oz fresh lemon juice1.25 oz simple syrup1.5 oz heavy cream1 egg white2-3 drops orange flower water2 oz seltzerJust looking at the long list of ingredients, it’s easy to plop it all in the shaker, do your thing, and top it off with soda. While the flavor might be close, you don’t really get the perfect Ramos.The biggest help I found in literature was anecdotal (all over the place, mind you) of the drink’s inventor, Henry C. Ramos, and the staff of shaker boys that were employed to shake the living hell out of each drink during Mardi Gras and other high traffic New Orleans events. The “boys” apparently would shake until they couldn’t take it any longer, pass it to the next “boy”, repeat, repeat on down the line, until one cocktail was shaken for a good 10 minutes. The outcome was a frothy fizz that pleased the thirsty crowd and certainly brought Ramos and his New Orleans Meyer’s Restaurant to cocktail fame in the early 1890s – the wonderful Golden Age of Cocktails.There are plenty of stories about the Ramos around, if you wanna read more, but I should get back to technique.From talking with various bartenders and playing around at work and home, here are the steps that I usually take when making and drink that calls for egg white:
- 1. Separate the Egg White: in the glass end of a Boston Shaker (or the smaller metal piece, if that’s the system you’re using), separate the egg white from the yolk. I think it’s best to do this first in order to assure shards of eggshell haven’t found their way into the mix, as well as getting glimpse at the egg’s quality and freshness. Don’t be scared, it’s just an egg and it probably won’t bite you. The FDA says that only 1 in every 20,000 eggs carries salmonella, but if you’re still squeamish, go with pasteurized or powedered – not quite the same, but good enough.
- 2. Add the ingredients (except seltzer, obviously). As much as I free pour on a nightly basis, when I’m making someone a Ramos, knowing how delicate it can be, I use a jigger. Pay particular attention to the orange flower/blossom water – it’s pungent and can quickly take over
- 3. Without ice, give the ingredients a good “dry” shake. Ten to fifteen shakes.
- 4. Add a lot of ice. The bigger the better. Shake like crazy for as long as you can take it, but try your best to keep it constant – no stops allowed. If you can last five minutes, you’re cooler than I am. Or at least not as feeble.
- 5. Tap the shaker on the top of the bar a few times, much like a barista would tap steamed milk.
- 6. Separate your boston set, leaving one side without ice but making sure that small remnants are left in the shaker (should be just a little bit). Strain the drink out of the larger shaker into a chilled collins glass.
- 7. Spray seltzer into the remnants of the smaller shaker piece. The seltzer will react to residual proteins in the tin, making a crude foam. You can dollop that foam on top of your drink, then pour the shaker’s seltzer in, making the foam rise high above the glass’ top. (This last bit is my personal technique, for which I have become very famous. Incredibly, ridiculously famous.)
So what did we do here? Why shake first with no ice? Doing this with egg white cocktails allows the egg to act as an emulsifier. If you want to read a detailed and thoroughly interesting break-down of what’s happening here chemically, I suggest getting a copy of Herald McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (pg. 100). Basically, when physically agitated the proteins of the egg white unfold and bond to each other. The shaking and the tugging of ice pulls the proteins out of their natural shape, but these proteins will usually gather back near air, bonding together creating pockets or bubbles – all of which is magnified with the addition of carbonated water. Egg white foam on its own will eventually collapse, so the addition here of acids (the citrus juices) acts as a stabilizing element. Without it, the foam would break back down into a liquid after a while.Again, these steps are what I’ve found most useful. If anyone has tips or disagrees, please comment.Now, this is only one example of a cocktail made with egg white, this being a Silver Fizz – the “silver” indicating the addition of egg white. Certainly, the sour is a natural choice because of its acidic building blocks. The above photo was taken from Vidiot’s Flickr page, which can be viewed here. Thanks Vidiot!