Eggs in Cocktails?

4 03 2011

Since the days before Prohibition, eggs have been in specific cocktails as an integral ingredient.  While they don’t add very much, if at all, to the flavor, they do add texture and the dense foam that seems to be enjoyed by the masses.  In the last 5 years, the egg has made a big comeback in the bar scene.  For the foodie, its not a big deal, but when I put an “egg cocktail” on my menu, I found out that the masses are, in fact, overly concerned with consuming raw poultry products.

Ramos Fizz

I’m not a nutritionist, nor a doctor, but I do value my guests and I did a little research on consuming raw eggs before I served the first drink.  I certainly hope you don’t take my advice if you have medical conditions or are pregnant or are generally still concerned.  The professionals will be able to give you more peace of mind than I ever could.

From what I’ve read, only about 1% of eggs may contain harmful bacteria if they are stored and handled properly.  This being the case, your local dive bar where PBR is a “fine beer” may not be the place to try a Ramos Fizz or a Pisco Sour.  Eggs being a food product, give these drinks a go where food is known to be great.

Two key elements that initially eased me into trying raw eggs in cocktails were the fact that most recipes have two ingredients that help to sanitize any undesirables.  The spirit itself, which is typically 80 proof (40% alcohol), acts as a killing agent for bacteria.  While reassuring, also slightly troubling to think how much I actually “taste” on a given night of something that kills bacteria.  The second is the addition of citrus juice.  Being highly acidic, it will also render the bacterial powers useless.  The same principles in creating ceviche in the kitchen, where citrus juice is use to “cook” raw fish and shellfish, apply to the drink.

These three key pieces of information had me feeling pretty good about my drink and serving it to my guests.  When I tasted my staff on the drink, the questions still came up and the apprehension was obvious.  Most of them are die hard foodies and long time industry professionals, so I thought that maybe a better option was out there.  There was…

We used pasteurized egg substitute for the drink.  It worked almost exactly like an egg white would have but gave us less to explain for the wondering guests.  These products are readily available in most grocery stores.

Given the safety precautions that we take to even buy water these days, I would advise to err on the side of safety, but, if there is a cocktail with real raw eggs in it, please understand that the bar wants everything to go as it should more than anyone else in the equation.  I would guarantee they go to great lengths to ensure the proper handling of the ingredient.  A good rule to follow is that if you wouldn’t eat sushi or tartare or the like from the place, then don’t drink their eggy cocktails.  Cheers!


Forget the Cork!

5 11 2010

The vintage images of wine snobs picking up the cork, sniffing, squeezing and even licking it before approving the wine during wine service in a restaurant is one of significant media debauchery.  These images even leave some fairly versed serves wondering what to do with a screw top.  Just as with the martini, wine has fallen victim to movie madness when it comes to the truth over the years.  Here’s the truth about the cork.

Let’s debunk this myth from the start.  You can’t tell anything about the quality of the wine from the cork.  Smell it, squeeze it or taste it and you will know nothing about what is in the bottle.  The only thing that the cork will convey is if the wine was stored properly.  If it was, then you will see a ring of wine around the very bottom of the cork.  Likewise, if you see wine all the way up the cork, you can deduce that there may be some oxidation or spoilage.

The presentation of the cork dates way back in history but has nothing to do with a guest tasting the wine.  There were rampant producers who were re-labeling lesser wines and selling them at higher prices of well known cult classics.  Thus, the wine makers started branding the corks with their logo.  Seeing the brand on the cork was the only way to be certain that the wine you bought was what the label read.  Servers began presenting the cork as verification of the wine.  Hollywood then made it into a “wine snob” ceremony where many who are certainly not in the know think that they are.

The cork, like the screw top or the synthetic cork, is trash.  Once removed from the bottle it has no significance whatsoever.  Unless you are going to take the opened wine home with you or you collect corks, it has no value to the wine in the bottle.  I’ve seen servers present the screw caps, synthetic corks and real corks in exact same manner.  I always wonder to myself “why?”

While many will debate the pomp and circumstance around the presentation of the cork, it holds history in authorizing the wine and not so much to do with the actual juice in the bottle.  Cheers!

American Organic Vodka

5 08 2010

Most discussions pertaining to food and drink these days will inevitably hold the topics of sustainability and being  organically produced in high regard.  I’ll leave the talks of food for my print articles and to the online chef professionals.  Spirits, on the other had, I will claim.

What better place to start than with one of the worlds most popular spirits.  Vodka.

Square One Vodka is made from 100% American rye that is organically grown and produced in an organic certified fermentation process.  The claim that distillation removes impurities from the vodka leads to the argument of “what are the other guys starting with that requires three and four distillations?”  I must say that I am on board with that question.  Square One Vodka says they start with high-end ingredients that only require one distillation to give it its unique flavor profile and retain as much or more smooth characteristics as their competitors.

There are a few organic vodkas on the market, but I lean toward Square One.  It gets the approval of the Oregon Tilth, which is the most stringent organic board in the country, and they stand behind their innovative process.  For true vodka lovers, the process is part of the experience.  Sustainable, organic and unique vodka that focuses on craftmanship.  What’s not to love?


The Spirit of Liqueurs

20 07 2010

I’m finally back on track after a few months of heavy projects.  In my recent research, the catastrophe in the Gulf was very prominent.  You can read about sustainable seafood in Thursdays edition of Weekly Surge (

Let’s talk about liquor!  Or how about liqueur.

Liqueur is an alcoholic beverage that is flavored and has some added sugar.  Generally, they are quite sweet and used as a flavoring agent in cocktail recipes.  Given that most spirits are coming in an array of flavors these days, the differentiation is the added sugar.  Spirits will not add any sugar.  Also, the alcohol content of liqueurs is significantly lower than spirits.

That bottle of Galliano that sits on the top shelf and collects dust until an old-timer orders a Harvey Wallbanger is possibly the most popular liqueur that is rarely used.


Service…the difference in great and good.

22 02 2010

One of my mentors told me a long time ago, and I’m paraphrasing, that people will eat mediocre food with great service, but will, somehow, not enjoy great food with mediocre service.  I know she was exagerating, but it makes sense.

For me, I can’t stand haphazard service and will walk out if the slightest effort isn’t being made.  I say that with a high tolerance for waiting and a higher level of understanding the restaurant business.  So, it’s not hard to win me over with a little effort.  On the other hand, I also detest stuffy, arrogant service that makes me want to “prove” how much I actually know about food and wine to everyone in the place.  My comfort level and admiration for service falls in the effortless and hardly noticable.

On a recent visit to a local steakhouse for Valentines Day (which was celebrated the 15th as my girlfriend and I are both in hospitality), I had the pleasure of seeing a professional in motion.

When we were seated, our server was, apparently, very busy.  He stopped over briefly and pointed out the wine list and asked us to take a look and he would return to answer any questions.  A server assistant brough us water in the interim.  The most important aspect of this technique is that he, in fact, did return in a timely manner.  We ordered three courses at once, so I was curious to see how our good server would space our meal.  He left us about 5 minutes between appetizer and imtermzzo and a little longer before the entree course.  Bravo!  Beautifully executed!  He never copped out and never made an excuse, he simply made the service happen even though he was busy.

When you find that place that gives you stellar service, you will return even if the food isn’t the best.  If more restaurants would understand this simple and honest fact, maybe more would stick around for a longer run in the business.

PS:  bad food and good service doesn’t work!  I’ve tried it.

Outdoor Dinning to Die For (yes, another list!!)

22 11 2009

One of the many pleasures of warm weather is eating outside.  It’s not common this time of year, but a recent trip to the Florida Keys made me think of the great places to dine outside.  Here are my top 5…

1.  The Tin Roof | Mallory Square | Key West, Florida

If you trek all the way to the end of Duval Street, wander past a hotel entrance, down the dock a little ways and through the door of a fence, then you will find The Tin Roof.  It sits on the docks with crystal blue water all around.  The menu is amazing and the drinks are fast and cold.  The sunsets are better than in Malibu!

2.  World Cafe | Santa Monica, California

On Main Street in Santa Monica, this outdoor garden spot is everything LA without being in LA.  I recommend either the brunch or the Happy Hour.  The people watching is stellar and you never know who you will see.  Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson were dining mates of ours (thought they didn’t know it!) on a particular Sunday afternoon.  Free pizzas from the brick oven at the bar during Happy Hour are a great treat.

3.  County Line BBQ | The Riverwalk | San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio Riverwalk County LineThey do Texas BBQ right!  Huge portions, sweet iced tea, cold beer and great scenery along the famed Riverwalk.  The sister restaurant in Austin has been featured on the Food Network numerous times and these guys do the exact same thing, only with better views.  Pay attention to the time of year as it gets VERY HOT in the summer months.

4.  Wahoo’s | Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina

This is the ultimate sumertime local.  Fresh sushi, fish and vegetables are among the favorites.  The Grilled King Crab Legs are nothing to miss as well.  Sit outside under the tiki bar, listen to some live music, drink some Sweet Tea Vodka and enjoy the boats coming in.  After dark, this place turns into the happening spot to be amongst the locals.  See and be seen!

5.  Moonshadows | Malibu, California

Seats go quickly at this local eatery for the Hollywood crowd.  The views over the ocean are stunning, especially at sunset.  Great food and great drinks.  Private cabanas for those who are very important.   This is a great place for a glass of wine and some quiet time.  Just watch the paparazzi on the way out.

Here are a few of my favs that didn’t quite make the top 5.

Hudson Hotel in New York City, Nicki Beach in Miami & Atlantic City, The Lobster in Santa Monica, The Rooftop at the Maritime Hotel in NYC, Big Oak Drive In in Indian Beach, and The Boathouse in NYC.

The 5 Best Infused Spirits

13 10 2009

1)  Jim Beam’s Red Stag | “From the woods of Kentucky emerges the newest member of the Beam family. Created with four year old Jim Beam Bourbon, Red Stag by Jim Beam™ has been slowly infused with natural black cherry flavors for a smooth, unique taste.”  I was expecting something a little sweeter, but was pleasantly surprised at the smooth, rich flavor from this bourbon.  Great with Ginger Beer!

bottles_w_rasp2)  Hangar One Fraser River Raspberry | “From upper Washington state, the Meeker raspberry makes a startlingly fresh-tasting vodka. We make only one batch a year, in June, when the berries are ripe.”  I know this is more of a summer flavor, but I recently had this amazing vodka with a dark chocolate souffle.  Stunning!  So the vodka itself is late summer and I’ll stretch that into fall with a nice choclate dessert.

3) Hangar One Spiced Pear | “Seasonal bottling (October). From Colorado, tiny high-desert pears with intense pear_bottleflavors & aromas. Beautifully focused and very clean, with just the right amount of pear flavor, so you actually enjoy it as a vodka. Perfect chilled & straight up: classic martini. The main (subtle) spice is clove.”  It’s no surprise, if you have read my prior posts, that Hangar One holds two spots in my top five.  This vodka is the essence of the holiday season.  Perfect on the rocks, in a cocktail or try melding this with some warm apple cider.  It doesn’t get much better!

4) Compass Box Orangerie | “Orangerie is made from smooth, sweet Scotch whisky infused with the hand-zested peel of Navalino oranges and subtle accents of Indonesia cassia bark and Sri Lankan cloves.”  I was introduced to Compass Box years ago in New York and was amazed.  Orangerie makes a very unique cocktail.  I like this spirit with a dash of sweet vermouth and chilled.  Great fall flavors.  Check out the other Compass Box catalog as well, they are making some fine blended whisky.

0400000002439_xl5) Gabriel Boudier Dijon Saffron Gin | “Made to a 19th century Indian colonial recipe that contains nine fresh botanicals including juniper, coriander, lemon, orange peel, angelica seeds, iris, fennel. plus saffron which gives a delicate spicy character”.  This is a fun gin!  Sure it doesn’t follow my methodology about pure ingredients as well as the Hangar One products do, but it is unique and brings a certain twist to a standard gin martini.