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Hair of the Cow

A whey to enhance your cocktail
Tasting Table: Hair of the Cow
Photo: Katie Burnett

Whey used to be considered a by-product, the disposable liquid left over from making cheese.

Chefs have been quick to rescue it from the trash, using it to marinate meat and add body to vegetables. Now the booze world is jumping on board.

Whey is the base of Broken Shed Vodka, a New Zealand-made spirit that just hit the United States market. After testing numerous bases, including traditional grains, the founders took a cue from their dairy-farming neighbors and tried a batch with whey. The high starch content provided plenty of sugar for fermentation to occur, and offered an incredibly clean finish, with a velvety mouth-feel.

It has a similar textural effect when added to cocktails, imparting body and structure like an egg white would, but with silkier bubbles, like those of an egg cream.

At the new annex bar to Portland, Oregon’s popular Ox restaurant, whey is a drink staple--so much so that the bar is named after it. Using the leftover liquid from the fresh cheese made next door, Whey Bar’s bartenders use the substance in an eggless riff on a Gin Fizz (see the recipe).

And at Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, whey is mixed with lemon juice and rhubarb syrup, then spiked with vodka or tequila.

Primer: Gentian Liqueur

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