Jessica Sanders has given up egg whites. In her shaken cocktails calling for a frothy head, that is. The owner of Drink.Well decided to switch to quillaia, an extract from the soapbark tree. "The reason was twofold," she explains, the biggest issue being waste (i.e., what to do with all the yolks). "Unless you have a pastry program, most bars end up with a lot of waste." Second, in terms of practicality, executing egg-white cocktails can be time-consuming. "You're cracking eggs in the middle of service," says Sanders, "and from a sanitation perspective – you've got to wash your hands, wash your tins – it slows down service a lot." Quillaia, on the other hand, goes into a dasher, and just one or two drops of the natural foaming agent will produce the exact same effect without the extra steps.
Skeptical that quillaia could covertly slip into any recipe calling for egg whites, the Drink.Well team spent several days workshopping everything from whiskey sours and flips to Ramos gin fizzes. During their trials, the soapbark extract proved to adequately emulsify flavors and provide the right amount of lift. In the year and a half since making the swap, there's only been one instance where Sanders preferred the flavor of an egg white. (It's on the upcoming spring menu and the bar will stock eggs for that one.) But the Derby Sour is the current product of Drink.Well's quillaia research – and it's fantastic. Shaken with rye whiskey, Aperol, honey, fresh grapefruit juice, and Bittermens Scarborough Bitters, this pretty, peach-hued cocktail is poured into a coupe, where it begins to separate slowly like a sunset. The first sip breaks the silky barrier and reveals the astringent aperitif – smoothed by sweet honey – and finally settled on sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Further north, Barley Swine bar manager Kasey Pierce is also subbing the egg – this time with whey, a byproduct of the cream cheese made in-house for a carrot cake dessert. "A lot of places that make their own cheese will just throw that away," says Pierce, "but there are a lot of things you can do with it." Pierce is often tasked with utilizing the kitchen's byproducts. It was when she was experimenting with the thin, skim-milk-like liquid that she found it foamed up just like egg white in a shaker. The result is the Holy Cow – a mix of Revolution gin, cream cheese whey, tarragon syrup, and lime juice. Subtle cream cheese flavor and texture comes through in the cocktail. "You'll get that tang," says Pierce of the frothy beverage. The creamy mouthfeel alongside tarragon and bright lime makes for a delicious and totally unique sip.
Two more Austin women are also eschewing egg whites – but they're behind a different kind of bar. Moni Burgin and Rachel Horesovsky opened a vegan milkshake truck on the patio of Spider House late last year. Milky Way Shakes uses coconut milk ice creams blended with almond milk and a variety of add-ins/-ons, including vegan meringues. The secret ingredient to making stiff meringues sans egg is aquafaba (Latin for "bean liquid") which, believe it or not, is the water leftover from a can of chickpeas. "We were experimenting with toppings that aren't whipped cream, and it worked really well," says Burgin. "I think it's easier to work with than egg whites," she continues, "and there's less risk of any foodborne illnesses."
The combination of sugar, aquafaba, cream of tartar, and vanilla results in an airy meringue that collapses on your tongue just like the real thing. The Star-Berry Lemon Cloud (strawberry-lemon) and Violet Beauregarde (blueberry and candied flowers) shakes also come topped with the puffs. The meringues can be special ordered, and the milkshake mavens plan to play with aquafaba marshmallows next. Regarding the leftover chickpeas: "We make a lot of hummus at home," Burgin smiles.
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