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Egg white powder in cocktails


Kent Wang
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Art of Drink:

Some people will equate powdered egg whites with synthetic products, but the fact is that powdered egg whites have simply had the water removed. There has not been any alteration of the protein nor have any chemical additives been included. The “synthetic” argument is the equivalent of saying table sugar is “synthetic” because it has been extracted from cane sugar syrup. Sugar is more processed than egg whites. Egg whites also don’t contribute much, if any, flavour to the cocktail.

For cocktails where you want the fizz and foam of egg white but without the dilution, why not use egg white powder? Though I can't think of any such situations at the moment.

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While I don't hesitate to use eggs in cocktails, I do have to wag my finger at Darcy for his sloppy use of statistics here (and I suspect he probably knows better):

The FDA states that all eggs should be cooked for at least 6 minutes to kill any bacteria. Then, they state that only 1 in 20,000 eggs has the salmonella bacteria. The odds of getting salmonella from an egg are extremely remote and you have a better lifetime chances of dying from accidental drowning (1 in 1,000), storm related (1 in 3,000) or slipping (1 in 6,500). Nowhere does the National Safety Council's data state that raw eggs are a common risk, however, death from choking on food is rated at 1 in 5000 odds.

The probability of a given egg having salmonella is not directly comparable with probabilities of death from other factors. Apples and oranges.

 

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While I don't hesitate to use eggs in cocktails, I do have to wag my finger at Darcy for his sloppy use of statistics here (and I suspect he probably knows better):

The FDA states that all eggs should be cooked for at least 6 minutes to kill any bacteria. Then, they state that only 1 in 20,000 eggs has the salmonella bacteria. The odds of getting salmonella from an egg are extremely remote and you have a better lifetime chances of dying from accidental drowning (1 in 1,000), storm related (1 in 3,000) or slipping (1 in 6,500). Nowhere does the National Safety Council's data state that raw eggs are a common risk, however, death from choking on food is rated at 1 in 5000 odds.

The probability of a given egg having salmonella is not directly comparable with probabilities of death from other factors. Apples and oranges.

I'd be curious to know what the incidence of death from Pisco Sour is. Any truth to the notion that the inclusion of alcohol helps with the salmonella issue? I'm not really worried but occasionally you get weird looks from the other side of the bar when cracking eggs and it would be nice to have more statistics to comfort people with.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Re: salmonella, using pasteurized eggs (not that eggs in a jar stuff, but whole pasteurized eggs), is an option, but they are not found everywhere, and they are generally more expensive. Some of the risk can be removed by thoroughly washing the eggs, as the bacteria may live on the outside (though it is not exclusively found on the outside).

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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Art of Drink:

For cocktails where you want the fizz and foam of egg white but without the dilution, why not use egg white powder? Though I can't think of any such situations at the moment.

Because egg white powder tastes nasty and tends to clump unless you are really careful rehydrating it.

While recent studies have shown that the chances of a mass produced chicken having bacterial contamination is something like 2 out of 3 (How Safe is Your Chicken Dinner, NY Times URL), I am unaware of similar statistics for eggs.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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I found data on Salmonella exposure from eggs and it does appear that quite a few people in the US do become ill from eggs.

I do not know how great a concentration of alcohol it takes to kill this bacteria. I will look into that.

As for egg white powder, it can be difficult to work with in liquid products. As mentioned above, it tends to clump, giving unsettling results. To be of any practical use, one would have to hydrate it, mix and strain in advance of adding to a cocktail.

Pasteurized shell eggs seem like the best option. Yes, they cost more, but, considering the possible consequences of not using them (being shut down), I think they are worth it. Also, even if the alcohol in drinks does kill the bacteria, pasteurized eggs won't be carrying any salmonella into your establishment thus eliminating the possibility of cross-contamination in places like the walk-in.

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I really don't know and am just speculating but wouldn't runny egg yolks pose some salmonella threat as well? No one worries about it though which means that either A) I am completely wrong (it could happen) or B) it falls under the category of acceptable risk, which would also seem to apply to cocktails. How hot does the yolk get on a sunny-side up egg?

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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How hot does the yolk get on a sunny-side up egg?

I seem to recall some controversy a few years back about a state fining restaurants for serving sunny side up eggs and related news reports about truckers threatening to boycott driving through the state...

This article is pretty old, but it shows that at least as far back as 2000, the FDA was advising against sunny side up or even over easy eggs.

"The CDC estimates that in 1997, tainted eggs caused 90 deaths and 200,000 illnesses."

Don't really care, personally...I eat my eggs over easy, and will use plain old whites in my cocktails, but then again I'm not operating a business serving either to customers.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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Because egg white powder tastes nasty and tends to clump unless you are really careful rehydrating it.

I recently made a root beer foam with egg white powder. Whipping the foam with the added powder allows the foam to be more stable. I didn't notice any clumping in the foam or any nasty taste, though I haven't checked the actual liquid below the foam.

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The current FDA guidelines recommend that all eggs be thoroughly cooked, or at least pasteurized.

Pregnant women, children under age 7, the elderly and other people with compromised immune systems, such as people sick with other diseases, are specifically warned against eating raw eggs and products containing raw egg like uncooked cookie dough. The warnings have been in place for many years. So, yes, lots of people worry about it, thirtyoneknots. If your doctor hasn't mentioned this to you or your family in the past, you may want to start checking into changing doctors.

Awareness of salmonella and other foodborne illness remains low in the US because we perpetuate the myth of 'stomach flu' instead of looking at the contaminated foods.

Apparently no one has done a study with salmonella and mixed drinks. I did however, find some interesting data from several sources on the effects of alcohol on bacteria.

1) Research on hand sanitizers containing ethyl alcohol (which IS the same type as found in our drinks) found that concentrations of less than 60% did not kill bacteria on hands, instead, it seemed to just push it around and help it form groups.

2) Research on salmonella and shigella outbreaks found that in cases where large groups of people were infected, those who had consumed alcoholic drinks at the same time were less likely to be ill and less likely to be a severely ill. And, those who had more to drink were less likely to be ill.

3) Various claims in the wine world that an 8% alcohol level kills bacteria in wines.

From this, I gather that:

* You need a lot more alcohol to kill bacteria out in the open, bacteria filled, world at large.

* If you start with a sterilized bottle and use sterile water and sterile equipment, lower amounts of alcohol may be able to kill off bacteria that sneak into the environment.

* In a semi-confined environment such as a human digestive tract, increasing amounts of alcohol have an increasingly protective effect.

* In both the wine bottle scenario and the human digestive tract scenario, time was also a factor. The alcohol was able to sit in confinement with the bacteria for hours to years.

My unscientific conclusions:

+ A lot of people who do get sick from salmonella in drinks blame it on hangovers and flu. And, face it, not that many egg-laden drinks are sold each day compared to say, the number of margaritas people down in the US every day. So, lack of reporting and small sample size are major flaws in trying to use anecdotal evidence to draw a conclusion.

+ The more sterile the overall environs, the more effective the alcohol will be in killing bacteria.

+ The more time allowed, in a closed sterile environment, the more effective the alcohol appears to be.

+ A drink that has a total alcohol content of over 60%, including the ice melt in the shake, has a decent chance of killing salmonella in the egg white. BUT, this assumes that there is no contamination on the bartender's hands, the glass, or the garnish. I don't know of many bartenders who wash up after handling eggs and before shaking the final drink.

+ The risks, including cross-contamination, in a bar setting are pretty high. If I owned a bar, I would only stock pasteurized eggs, end of story. (If you can't be certain if the bar-back washed his hands before slicing lemons, do you think you want to trust that he didn't touch an egg in the reach-in?)

I wouldn't order such a drink in a busy bar. I'll just be consuming them at home. And, some of you out there praying to the porcelain goddess didn't drink too much, you drank the wrong drinks.

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I haven't had much success using egg whites in drinks at all, but then I haven't used the powdered ones yet. I always wanted to try the powder though. How would I go about using it though? Can I just add it straight into a drink that's going to be shaken 'till the cows come home, like a Ramos Gin Fizz? Or do I need to mix them with some liquid and shake, then add the rest?

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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I agree I was a little loose with the stats, but that was more to demonstrate a point that raw eggs aren't lethal. As for taste, I find powdered egg whites don't really taste any different, at least quality ones don't. At home I'll just use a raw egg, but for restaurants with neurotic managers the chances of getting a raw egg on the menu are slim to nil. Powdered stuff is easy and better than no eggs at all.

The trick to using the powder is to pre-hydrate them and hit them with a stick blender. If you add alcohol, even low proof liqueurs, it will bind the proteins and create the lumpy mess.

And alcohol below 67% is ineffective at killing bacteria. Lower alcohol levels can inactivate or halt bacterial growth. The problem arises when the bacteria make it into your digestive tract, and the alcohol levels decrease, the bacteria can begin reproducing.

Having said that, people can actually build an immunity to salmonella if they are exposed to it enough (eat a raw egg everyday of your life and I doubt you'll ever get sick from eating a raw egg).

Darcy S. O'Neil

Chemist | Bartender | Writer

Website: Art of Drink

Book: Fix the Pumps

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I agree I was a little loose with the stats, but that was more to demonstrate a point that raw eggs aren't lethal. As for taste, I find powdered egg whites don't really taste any different, at least quality ones don't. At home I'll just use a raw egg, but for restaurants with neurotic managers the chances of getting a raw egg on the menu are slim to nil. Powdered stuff is easy and better than no eggs at all.

The trick to using the powder is to pre-hydrate them and hit them with a stick blender. If you add alcohol, even low proof liqueurs, it will bind the proteins and create the lumpy mess.

And alcohol below 67% is ineffective at killing bacteria. Lower alcohol levels can inactivate or halt bacterial growth. The problem arises when the bacteria make it into your digestive tract, and the alcohol levels decrease, the bacteria can begin reproducing.

Having said that, people can actually build an immunity to salmonella if they are exposed to it enough (eat a raw egg everyday of your life and I doubt you'll ever get sick from eating a raw egg).

Yeah, for a while there, I was pretty immersed in reading studies involving hand sanitizer and petri dishes, whose goal was complete eradication. I'll also admit that there may be an effect from temperature that hasn't been examined.

I agree with the pre-hydration and stick blender for making drinks. I haven't tried it, but, I have made icings and such with powdered egg whites, and they can be a challenge if not hydrated properly.

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