The Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations Competition is, this year, inviting bartenders to create a cocktail inspired by the egg, we thought this would be a good excuse to look back at the history of eggs in cocktails.
Often when researching an article we find ourselves down a rabbit warren of clicked links wondering how on earth we ended up where we got to. It is often on these journeys that the best nuggets of informations come out, this time was no exception.
Did you know that it takes 25 hours for an egg to reach full size in a chicken a get laid? If the egg travels through the oviduct quickly it comes out very small. This egg is called a ‘fart-egg’. Internet gold.
Anyway back to it, first up let’s have a look at how we ended up with eggs in cocktails.
You won’t be surprised to hear (unless you still think that God created the earth and Sarah Palin a few years ago) that eggs have been around a very long time, longer than Peter Dorelli. According to records it wasn’t until about 6000BC that humans started keeping chickens specifically for their egg laying capabilities, the crocodile egg farming experiment was short lived and messy.
Over the years everyone started using them in food and quite frankly we haven’t got the time, or inclination, to go into it here. It would mention the Greeks, Romans and omelettes probably. What we are interested in is boozy drinks, and for that we need to look at the posset.
Now days most people think of posset as a desert smug, feckless, sweaty people on Masterchef fuck up when cooking for Jay Rayner, but way before that Musketeer wannabe had vomited on a chefs career it was a much revered drink.
Posset’s were being served back in medieval times. In fact you wouldn’t be considered to be a great host to your guests in high-society if you didn’t knock up a great posset and serve it in an ornate posset pot. None other than Shakespeare’s Lady MacBeth served up a posset, although we don’t suggest tracking down her recipe as it was ‘drugg’d’ for the purposes of deathing people (unless Donald Trump comes to your bar then go for it, no-one will mind).
A basic posset was actually a peasants drink first, used to keep them warm and as a form of medicine, but when the upper classes got involved they started to evolve into drinks designed to taste, as well as do, good. The classic posset would consist of egg, milk (and/or cream), alcohol and spices, all heated up and served warm.
Any alcohol could be used but most popular was sherry, although in old recipes this was known as sack. However it was originally made with beer or wine and whilst sherry was a natural next step distilled spirits rarely featured.
There is something magical about the wording of old posset recipes as you can see in arguably the most famous, My Lord of Carlisle’s Sack-Posset by Sir Kenelm Digby c.1671:
Take a pottle of Cream, and boil in it a little whole Cinnamon, and three or four flakes of Mace. To this proportion of Cream put in eighteen yolks of eggs, and eight of the whites; a pint of Sack; beat your eggs very well, and then mingle them with your Sack. Put in three quarters of a pound of Sugar into the Wine and Eggs, with a Nutmeg grated, and a little beaten Cinnamon; set the Bason on the fire with the Wine and Eggs, and let it be hot. Then put in the Cream boiling from the fire, pour it on high, but stir it not; cover it with a dish, and when it is settlede, strew on the top a little fine Sugar mingled with three grains of Ambergreece, and one grain of Musk, and serve it up.
Over time the posset fell out of favour and during the late 18th century was replaced in society with the eggnog, particularly prevalent in the US. It also moved from a drink to be consumed to warm and help ailments to a proper party staple, especially useful for giving people the courage to tell the boss they are knobbling his wife at the Christmas do.
This was also when distilled spirits started to come to the fore, in particular rum, and they started to be served cold (although not exclusively, the Tom & Jerry being the most famous warm eggnog drink). Jerry Thomas who (apparently falsely) claimed to invent the Tom & Jerry had 6 eggnog recipes in his 1862 book How To Mix Drinks, showing the popularity of the drink during that time.
Whilst the flip had been around almost as long as the posset it was in the late 19th century that it became the drink category we know now, moving away from a drink served warm (heated with a hot poker) to one shaken over ice. The main difference between a flip and eggnog being the omission of milk or cream.
Whilst flips were mentioned in How To Mix Drinks in 1862 it was the 1887 version that really focused on them with a dozen or so recipes, albeit most just substituting spirit for spirit. It was also around this time that egg whites were starting to be used separately from the yolks to create that lovely mouth feel we all know so well nowadays.
This was a short lived trend however in the US, as in a twist of fate this was also the time that Salmonella was discovered (although at least these scare-mongers didn’t shag John Major). This led to the creation of the Food & Drug Administration who are a right bunch of kill joys, luckily people preferred eggs to their warnings so it wasn’t long before egg based drinks were back in vogue.
That takes us up to the egg loving cocktail world we live in today, there are much more in-depth articles on the history of each of these categories should you wish to do your own research for the Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations Competition, but this should get you in the mood.
How To Use Them
My old man loves knocking up a cocktail or two at home. He has various cocktail books and loves nothing more than showing off his latest find whenever I go and visit. However he refuses, point-blank, to make anything using egg white no matter what I say.
It is hard to argue with him as he is a proper doctor but it does drive me to distraction. It is something that every bartender has faced in their bar at some point in their career so let’s have a look at the culprit, salmonella.
Finding accurate data on this subject is pretty tricky. Depending who you listen anything from 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 40,000 eggs contain the salmonella bacteria. Containing the bacteria however by no means results in the person getting salmonella themselves.
By far the most at risk are those under the age of 5 (not usually an issue in most bars), the elderly (again not a big issue but worth bearing in mind if you want to be safe) and pregnant women (still not a big problem). In the UK last year there were a total of 229 reported cases and they come from not only eggs but a variety of other foods (including watercress, curry leaves, peanut butter and melon).
It is, of course, possible to catch salmonella but it is also possible that I’ll sleep with Kaley Cuoco. If you thought the odds of Leicester winning the Premiership were long, they have got nothing on salmonella. There are however a few things you can do to help prevent the issue.
Use fresh eggs, ideally free range (we have no idea if that makes a difference but you should)
Store them carefully
Wash your hands regularly
Some of the bacteria can be found on the shell so when separating them use you hand or something other than the shells to do so
If you are still worried used pasteurised eggs
Right that is out of the way. Back to the fun stuff.
It’s time to get your thinking hats on and get creative. The Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspirations competition is giving you a great opportunity to get creative with eggs and inspired by them. With a trip to Ibiza and £3,500 up for grabs as well, why wouldn’t you?
In the past year or so we have seen some really interesting serves involving eggs. Be it flavouring the egg white by putting it in a container with…. well anything strong smelling, to using different types of eggs, whole eggs, we’ve even been served drinks in, garnished with or using Kinda Eggs and Cadbury Cream Eggs.
We are really excited to see what you all come up with and if you need anymore inspiration Gin Mare have teamed up with FoodPairing.com to offer a look at the flavours associated with their gin.
For more information and to enter the competition check out the main story here