The Safest Way To Incorporate Raw Egg Whites In Cocktail Foam

Every cocktail has its own combination of ingredients that make it unique, and for cocktails like sours and fizzes, one of the most special ingredient is egg whites. Egg white cocktails are pretty common, prized for the smooth white foam that forms on the top when the whites are shaken up. However, there is a small risk of contamination by salmonella, because the eggs have to be used raw. 

The CDC has stated that only one in every 20,000 eggs could be contaminated with salmonella (via the University of Minnesota). Even though the likelihood you'll actually get sick is pretty small, there are some things you can do to minimize the risk altogether. The safest way to incorporate egg whites into your drinks involves keeping the eggs at just the right temperature. Keep them refrigerated at a temperature of under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Another step you can take is using pasteurized eggs. According to the USDA, pasteurized eggs are the safest option when using raw eggs in food or drinks.

Myths about egg whites in cocktails

While the aforementioned safety tips are backed up by science, there are plenty of myths out about adding an egg white to your cocktails. One of the more common ones is that combining alcohol or citrus with egg whites makes them safe to drink, because the acid or alcohol kill any salmonella or other unwanted bacteria. Dr. Paul Wigley from the University of Liverpool told BBC that this isn't exactly true. "It is much harder to eliminate the risk of salmonella with alcohol because of the high protein content in eggs," Wigley says. 

Wigley notes that lemon or lime juice would work better than alcohol at getting rid of bacteria, but in both cases, the egg whites would have to sit with the liquid for an extended period of time. You'd also need a spirit with a very high alcohol content, or a whole lot of lemon juice, to effectively crush any bacteria. For example, study from ScienceDirect found that washing raw chicken with a solution of 10% lemon juice and vinegar was not effective at killing salmonella. A little bit of acid is not going to cut it if you're trying to reduce the risk of illness. 

Alternatives to egg whites

If the thought of drinking raw egg whites makes you a little squeamish, there are alternatives that bartenders use to get the same foamy effect. One of these substitutes is aquafaba, which is the liquid from cans of beans (most often chickpeas). Along with creating a good foam on top of your cocktail, aquafaba is a lot easier to handle and measure than egg whites, and it definitely won't give you salmonella. 

There are also specific cocktail-making products on the market that serve as an egg white alternative. A company called Fee Brothers sells a product called Fee Foam,  an egg-free liquid that promises to give your drinks the same foamy topping as a real egg. Bartenders have also experimented with ingredients like gum syrups and Versawhip, which is a soy product used in culinary foams. 

Another alternative has less to do with ingredients and comes down to the way the drink is shaken. The purpose of shaking an egg white is to get that froth on your drink and to have it last for a long time. The most skilled bartenders can achieve the same effect — and egg-free — simply through the way they shake and pour the drink. Studying shaking techniques might be worth it if you're still not sure about raw egg whites.