Why Raw Egg Yolks Are Used In Cocktails

This just in: Variety really is the spice of life after all — and egg yolks are an unexpected way to keep your cocktail hour guests on their toes. You heard us right: raw egg yolks. Stir 'em into your drinks. Perhaps you've heard of egg whites making an appearance behind the bar before. Maybe you've even taken a sip for yourself. Now, get ready for an even richer mouthful. 

Unique cocktails can be challenging — and we never shy away from a challenge. Egg yolks are such unexpected ingredients, in fact, that the Prairie Oyster — a non-alcoholic "mocktail" made from egg yolk, Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice, vinegar, and hot sauce — was even featured in obscure-news outlet Atlas Obscura. (The drink boasts a famously oyster-like texture and is lauded as the ultimate hangover cure, so ... "unique" indeed.) It's nothing new, either. Folks have been stirring eggs into their drinks since the early 1800s — a trend that gained enduring popularity post-Prohibition, per Liquor.com.

But there's a method to the madness, and a reason it's been working for so long. Here's what all the hype is about. Feeling egg-static yet?

Don't nog it till you try it

Per The Spruce Eats, when egg whites are whipped into a cocktail, they provide a foamy, frothy, silky texture. (If you've ever made a meringue, you know exactly what it looks like.) What egg whites add in texture, yolks add in flavor. Adding a raw egg yolk into the mix can help emulsify the other ingredients in your cocktail, says Serious Eats. Plus, whereas egg whites give cocktails a tasteless frothy textural component, yolks add a rich eggnog-like flavor.

Egg yolk is the key ingredient in any variation of a Flip cocktail (per Casual Mixologist). But, you'll seldom find egg yolks used on their own; they're typically complemented by other star ingredients. Consider the Tom & Jerry cocktail – a combination of egg yolks, rum, Cognac, warm milk, butter, sugar, nutmeg, vanilla, cloves, and egg whites beaten stiff (via MasterClass). It might read more like a recipe for a tea cake than for a cocktail, but that goes to show what a transformative ingredient eggs can be behind the bar.

Yolks aren't just for heavy, creamy, nog-adjacent cocktails, either. The translucent, bubbly Golden Fizz is made from gin, lemon juice, soda water, simple syrup, and an egg yolk (via Absolut). Here's how to do it safely.

Whip it real good

Whipping raw egg yolks out at your next cocktail party is all fun and games until somebody contracts salmonella. To avoid that unsavory social faux-pas, the USDA recommends using pasteurized shell eggs when making any food or drink in which you plan to consume the egg uncooked. Pasteurization, the USDA explains, aims to kill any lurking bacteria within, salmonella included.

Of course, be sure to keep those eggs refrigerated behind the bar, per The Spruce Eats – ideally 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler stored in the coldest part of your fridge. But, there are other safety measures that keep mixology in mind, too. Yann Bouvignies, head bartender of Scarfes Bar, recommends using eggs in citrus-forward cocktails, via Liquor.com. The natural acidity of citrus (in conjunction with the alcohol) helps to neutralize bacteria, Bouvignies says, lowering the salmonella risk from consuming raw eggs.

To further minimize opportunities for the transfer of bacteria, Difford's Guide recommends washing the egg's shell before cracking it into your mixing glass or shaker. But, if you aren't too certain whether the egg is fresh or not, it suggests grabbing one from the batch and cracking it into a glass of water. If it's fresh, it'll sink. If it floats — toss the carton.