The Cocktail: Whiskey Sour and Egg Whites

In this episode of The Cocktail, we talk about egg whites and make a Whiskey Sour.

As liquor ages in a barrel, it pulls out chemical compounds that darken it and give it the oakey flavors characteristic of barrel-aged spirits. It also pulls out polyphenols, bitter compounds produced by plants to serve as defense mechanisms against hungry herbivores. Polyphenols have the same effect in whiskey as they do in plants - they bitter the liquor.

Whiskey Sour
2 oz Whiskey
.75 oz Lemon juice
.75 oz Simple syrup
1 Egg white
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Shake all ingredients except bitters without ice. Add ice and shake again. Pour into a rocks glass and garnish with bitters.

Sometimes we enjoy astringent flavors. Along with whiskey, red wines, grapefruit, and tea are just a few of the many foods that owe their signature flavors to polyphenols. But sometimes we want to dial those bitter flavors back a bit to let other shine through.

That’s where egg whites come in. When shaken with liquor, the proteins in an egg white bind with the polyphenols and trap them in a foam so we can’t taste them. As a bonus, the egg white adds a creamy mouthfeel and light, airy foam to the cocktail.

In order to get the best results, it’s helpful to dry shake the cocktail, or shake without ice before adding ice and shaking again. Dry shaking allows the foam to build up before the cocktail is chilled and diluted by the ice, stunting the foaming action. Try this technique next time you make an egg white cocktail to get the most out of the drink and impress your friends.