If there’s one misnomer that needs dispatching right away, it’s “hay-infused” because he’s not infusing actual hay into the drink, but rather, a flavor compound called cis-3-Hexenal, which, according to Conigliaro has:
“the perfect ‘just-cut grass’ note that, when added to fresh apple, makes it taste and smell just like hay.”
He goes on to explain that eggshells are porous, and so he purchases this flavor (or more accurately, aroma) compound from an industrial flavor lab, soaks a wool cloth in it, and seals it in a container with a bunch of eggs. Over a certain period of time (which is not specified in the article), the eggs absorb the hay-like flavor through their shells, which is how he is able to get the flavor directly into the egg whites.
At this point, Danny, I need to ask you to consider the differences between yourself and Tony Conigliaro, who was executing this move early on in the cocktail renaissance, signaling to me that he had a lot of funding and free time on his hands to get it right. When I look at this method, from the perspective of 98% of bars and 99% of home bartenders, it’s just oppressively difficult and cost-prohibitive.
First off, you need to find the right flavor compound, and then you have to do a bunch of painstaking testing to get a single drink just right. So unless you have Bill Gates flying into Laramie for cocktails on the reg, I think this might be a bit beyond your reach.
But to be honest, when I first read your question, I had a few immediate thoughts that didn’t have anything to do with infusing eggs with flavor through the shells.
My first thought was: what about aquafaba?
This is the water that’s left over when you strain a can of chickpeas, and most bars use aqua faba as a vegan or labor-saving alternative to real egg whites. You can use it in similar proportions to an egg white in cocktails, and it produces very similar effects, minus the initial viscosity.
But egg whites themselves are about 90% water, so whichever route you decide to go keep this one central rule in mind: water is known as “the universal solvent,” but it’s only good at dissolving and taking on the flavors of “water soluble compounds.”
This means that oils and certain volatile aromatics are not going to infuse well into a water- and protein-based media like aqua faba or egg whites. And that also goes for the oils in the lemon zest you grated into your egg whites, Danny. That’s why you had to do it in the moment, and plus, as you mentioned, you’ve got a textural issue now with all that lemon zest swimming around the foam in your drink.
Your best bets for flavoring egg whites are going to be hydrosols, like rose water or orange blossom water – which are created as bi-products of the essential oil making process. They’re more delicate than essential oils, but they are still extremely powerful, so use in moderation. Most popularly, we see the use of orange blossom water in the Ramos Gin Fizz – the one drink in the classic cocktail canon most notorious for its foamy head – so you can pretty much trust hydrosols for in-the-shaker infusion and possibly pre-service infusions into egg whites or aqua faba.
Otherwise, you can certainly mess around with infusing fresh herbs into your egg whites, and similarly, you could see what berries and non-acidic fruit will yield – but make sure you’re not dropping a whole bunch of acid into your protein-rich solution because that could have some unintended textural consequences when it comes time to make the drink.
In the end, Danny, egg whites are all about texture, which is why you see most people using infused spirits and outside hydrosols and flavor extracts to do the heavy lifting. It’s usually way easier and more effective to infuse your vodka with a handful of basil overnight than to try and balance both flavor and texture in egg whites.
I know this long-winded answer might not have been what you were hoping for, but the important thing is this: you saw an opportunity, you got curious and did some research, and you didn’t stop trying when no easy answer presented itself. This sort of curiosity and persistence is exactly what leads to breakthroughs in our industry, so just because infused egg whites are tricky and expensive to execute doesn’t mean there aren’t other frontiers out there. What about trying to color your egg whites? What about playing around with stencils so that you can create designs on the finished drinks? There’s a lot to do out there, and we hope you keep us posted with updates as you continue along your bartending journey.
Thanks for writing in.
Tips for Making Smoked Cocktail Garnishes
Next up, we have a smoky question from Brianne in New Hampshire, who says:
Hey Eric and team,
Hope you’re well despite all the craziness and quarantines going on. I have a question about smoked drink garnishes and was wondering if you have any experience making them.
My husband just got a new smoker over the holidays, and we both love smoked food and smoky drinks like Scotch. He has been working super hard at an essential job during the coronavirus outbreak, and I wanted to surprise him with some smoked cocktail garnishes since I’m working from home right now and have the time.
Any suggestions about how to do this and what garnishes might work best? I know about how long to smoke a pork shoulder, but I have no clue about non-meat items, so any advice you have would be amazing.
Thanks, and stay safe,Brianne
Well Brianne, you pose an interesting question because smoke is an excellent way to impart flavor – as you mentioned, Scotch makers have been doing it incredibly well for centuries.
My initial thoughts here is that this project might require a little bit of trial and error because there seem to be a lot of variables involved. So let’s run through a couple of those variables on air here and I’ll see if I can help you decide how to approach your smoked garnishes.
First off – what to smoke? I think citrus wheels are an attractive option here. Because smoking produces heat in addition to the wood polyphenols and other compounds that comprise smoke, you can potentially use your smoker as a way to dehydrate your citrus wheels while adding flavor. We’ll get to this in a second because I really think this is going to be your best bet.
Other common cocktail ingredients and garnishes you might consider smoking are simple syrup for Old Fashioneds, brandied cherries for Manhattans and other delicious drinks, smoked salt for rimming Margaritas, and even smoked water for ice. You can smoke all these things in roughly the same way – varying the amount of time in the smoker based on how smoky you want them to be. Keep in mind with the cherries and the simple syrup that – depending on how hot your smoker gets – you might experience some evaporation or drying of the fruit, so think about how you’d ideally avoid that.
Now, this talk about temperature brings me to my next big piece of advice, which is: really think about what kind of smoker you’re using. Spoiler alert – Brianne and I went back and forth a little bit on this, and it turns out her smoker has a built in thermostat for temperature control, but many smokers out there – including the one I use at home – do not.
Obviously, for the dehydrating of citrus wheels or other fresh garnishes, temperature is going to be important if you want to avoid over-cooking or under-cooking. Most recipes recommend putting your citrus wheels on a baking sheet in the oven somewhere between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-5 hours, so if you can manage something similar with your smoker, then I say go for it. LEGGI TUTTO