As a child, for reasons probably obvious only to Dr. Freud, I was repulsed by raw eggs. I was perfectly comfortable handling frogs, earthworms and crayfish, but the mucosal drip of a cracked egg gave me an existential shudder.
That instinctual ew has faded; these days, I barely flinch when a tangle of pasta arrives shellacked in yolk, a pile of frise appears with a poached egg quivering atop it, or a bartender tips a container of gloppy whites into a shaker for my drink. But the sense-memory lingers. And because a few of my nearest and dearest are committed vegans, when I started reading about the egg-substitute qualities of aquafaba – the liquid left after cooking legumes or emptying a can of chickpeas – I was intrigued.
A liquid that usually gets poured down the drain turns out to be a miracle for those who don't want to risk salmonella, trigger allergies or worry that their eggs may have come from a Bad Place? When I heard that this stuff was being used in drinks, it called for investigation.
In cocktails, egg whites are added primarily for texture. Shaken into a drink, they add a silkiness and a snowy foam on top. Could garbanzo bath water – purportedly awash in proteins that create similar effects – really replace an egg white?
J.P. Fetherston, head bartender at the Columbia Room in Washington, admits he was skeptical.
“I kind of have that typical meat-eater's prejudice,” he says. “If it’s vegan, it can’t be half as good as the original version. But we tried it out, and the texture was awesome. It held its shape very well. If you're drinking something very light and delicate, like a vodka drink or sake, maybe there'll be a little residual pea- or bean-like flavor, but if you have anything in the drink that's in any way robust, whether it's the sweetener or the spirit, there's no noticeable flavor once you've shaken it up.”
That basic technique is another advantage to this egg alternative. While some bars use substances like agar-agar and xanthan gum to create eggless foams and froths, some of those require nitrous-oxide siphons or other equipment. Aquafaba lets you create froth and texture with just a shaker, the old-school way.
Making aquafaba by cooking chickpeas isn't hard, but it takes time, because you have to soak the dried beans overnight. But it does let you control the salt level. I played with both canned and homemade versions and got good results in a variety of drinks. The taste of even the canned juice was virtually imperceptible in pisco sours. It was slightly noticeable in a classic Ramos gin fizz.
Still, I'm impressed by the results I got from aquafaba. And what might be a problem for some bars – what to do with all those chickpeas – turned out to be a boon while I was cocktailing at home. After shaking up drinks, a nice, creamy hummus is just the thing to pair with them.
This Scotch-based riff on the famously fluffy Ramos gin fizz was designed to stand up to the slightly salty flavor of aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas.
2 ounces blended Scotch, such as Johnny Walker or Monkey Shoulder
1 ounce fresh pineapple juice
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup (see note)
1 ounce heavy cream
3/4 ounce liquid from canned chickpeas (aquafaba)
2 drops vanilla extract
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Chilled seltzer (optional)
Chill a Pilsener or Collins glass.
Combine the Scotch, fruit juices, simple syrup, heavy cream, aquafaba, vanilla extract and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Seal, then shake vigorously for at least 2 minutes to whip air into the drink. Do not under-shake: The aeration is key to getting a good, fluffy head.
Add ice to the shaker; seal and shake for 15 seconds, until chilled. Strain into the glass and top with seltzer, if using.
Note: To make simple syrup, combine 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cook for 2 minutes, then cool the syrup completely before using. Refrigerate for several weeks.
Per serving: 290 calories, 0 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 15 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 13 g sugar
Yield: 1 serving.