Credit: Carey Jones

Egg whites give a drink a sort of textural magic — adding them gives foam and froth without any extra flavor, and can soften the rough edges of alcohol or acid. Whole eggs, found in nogs and flips, add a rich creaminess.

But since they are a raw ingredient, they often skeeve many drinkers out — enough so that Tales of the Cocktail, one of the world’s premiere gatherings of cocktail makers and cocktail enthusiasts devoted an entire seminar to schooling a bunch of bartenders on how safe eggs are, and ways to handle them so customers are less likely to get sick.

Instances of salmonella in eggs are only about 1 in 20,000 to 40,000 — depending on which research you’re looking at, explains Tim Herlihy, a brand ambassador for Tullamore Dew whiskey, whose dad also happens to own an egg farm in Ireland.

“We don’t fear watercress, melons, salad, and peanuts, and those foods have more of a threat for salmonella,” Herlihy said.

But, for those still worried about the risk, here’s how to minimize it and still enjoy some frothy drinks:

1. Use the freshest eggs possible. If an egg comes in contact with salmonella, the bacteria attaches to the outside of the shell and then moves inward. If it makes its way to the yolk, that is where it thrives and becomes harder for a person’s immune system to fight. An egg with salmonella only on the shell or in the white won’t be as dangerous. Plus, salmonella tends to affect the very young, very old or weak the most — people that probably shouldn’t be drinking much anyway, Herlihy says.

2. Look at the eggs. Any cracks? Don’t use them. Nathan O’Neill, a head a bartender at the Nomad in New York says. He tells bartenders at the Nomad to crack the eggs on the bar (and keep cleaning it) rather than on the side of the tin, and use an egg separator to avoid as much raw egg contact with outer shell as possible. They crack eggs to order and don’t batch egg whites to avoid cross contamination.

3. Keep your eggs stored in their carton in the refrigerator to avoid absorbing odors and don’t wash them — that removes a protective mineral oil coating sprayed on the eggs.

Ready to turn those safely handled eggs into cocktails? There’s a bit of a debate among bartenders about which method works the best. The traditional dry shake combines the ingredients of the cocktail with egg white, and this is shaken without ice to emulsify the ingredients and foam up the egg. Then ice is added and the drink is shaken a second time to cool off the drink and then strained to remove ice shards.

The reverse dry shake, is, well, the reverse. You shake all the ingredients with ice, strain, and then shake it without ice. This can produce a thicker, longer lasting foam, but you’ll have to shake harder to get the egg whites to emulsify (they tend to mix better at room temperature) and then your drink will warm up a bit on that second shake without ice. So it just comes down to what you’d prefer: more froth or a colder drink.

And while purists like Herlihy say nothing can truly replace the dense foam and froth that egg whites impart, there is a vegan contender making its way to a handful of bars across the country after gaining some buzz last year on internet videos and at Dan Barber’s WastEd popup. Aquafaba, the brine that canned chickpeas sit in, can be frothed to make a variety of traditionally egg-heavy creations, including mayo, merengue — and foamy cocktails. Aquafaba isn’t flavorless, though, and can impart a subtle saltiness that can work with the cocktail’s overall flavor.

But for now, the real thing reigns supreme. Two basic types of egg cocktails to make at home are sours and fizzes. These base recipes can be modified with spirits, juices, syrups and bitters to make them your own.

Basic sour

Sours can be made with or without eggs, and originated when punches were reduced to a single serving. Eggs started appearing in sours in the 1900s, O’Neill says.

  • 2 ounces brandy, gin, whiskey, etc.
  • 1 ounce citrus juice (usually lemon or line, occasionally grapefruit)
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/2 ounce egg white

Dry shake or reverse dry shake the cocktail. Serve up.

Basic Fizz

Fizzes are basically carbonated sours. The Ramos Gin Fizz, perhaps the best-known iteration, also adds a half-ounce of heavy cream and a few dashes of orange flower water.

  • 2 ounces brand, gin, whiskey, etc.
  • 1 ounce lemon or lime juice
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/4 ounce egg white
  • Soda

Dry shake or reverse dry shake the top four ingredients. Strain into a Collins glass and top with soda.