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Maddie Edgar

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Aquafaba: The Secret Ingredient That Turns Egg Cocktails Vegan

Hint: you’ve probably been throwing it away

For those who fear raw egg whites in cocktails, or who just don't like eggs at all (hi, vegans), there's a little-known vegan fix and, some bartenders say, a better substitute for egg whites in sours and fizzes: chickpea juice, also known as aquafaba.

Latin for bean liquid, aquafaba is the previously overlooked and usually discarded brine leftover from a can of chickpeas which, in 2014, French chef Joel Roessel discovered was perfect vegan alternative to egg whites as an emulsifier and foaming agent. Since then, vegans have used the ingredient to create animal-free baked goods and pastas. And, naturally, it wasn't long before bartenders started adopting this seemingly magical egg white alternative, too. In a cocktail, not only does aquafaba mimic the foam and silkiness of an egg white, but surpasses it.

[Photo by Joy Limanon]

When New York's Mother of Pearl flipped its menu entirely vegan last week, bartender Jane Danger started topping classic cocktails, like gin fizzes and pisco sours, with an aquafaba foam. "I really like the texture," she says. "I also like that it can be pre-flavored, saving time while making drinks."

Meanwhile, bartender Jason Eisner, of Los Angeles vegan restaurant Gracias Madre, traded his go-to egg white replacements, agar agar and gomme syrup, for aquafaba when he learned about its application in desserts from the restaurant's chef, Chandra Gilbert. Eisner started using the bean liquid about two months ago, mostly in sours and as a whipped topping for cocktails. "In my Cuba Libre twist 'Jump Stiddy' at Gratitude in Newport Beach [California], I have a vanilla bean lime zest chickpea foam on top of the cocktail," he says. Also on the Gracias Madre menu is the Hotline Bling, a gin and sloe berry cocktail that's crowned with an aquafaba salt foam and grated dark chocolate. Eisner adds, "I plan to use [aquafaba] as a vegan meringue pairing at the end of summer."

Bartender Jason Eisner's aquafaba-topped Hotline Bling at Gracias Madre in Newport Beach, California. [Photo courtesy of Gracias Madre]

Bartender Gabriella Mlynarczyk of Birch, also in Los Angeles, had been trying to create an eggless sour for chef Brendan Collins' New American small plates restaurant, which is popular with vegans. But she wanted a gadget-free solution that wouldn't slow down service. This left out Versawhip, as the natural stabilizer is aerated with an immersion blender. Looking through website The Vegan Society, she discovered that aquafaba is used to make everything from marshmallows to meringues, totally animal-free.

The bean liquid was magical, instantly transforming a waste product to a key cocktail ingredient. "It was beautiful and airy. It's not as lush as an egg white, but it still gives you that same texture." Also, according to Mlynarczyk, egg whites soften the taste of alcohol, like a fat wash. Aquafaba doesn't smooth out the booze as much.

But, more importantly, aquafaba doesn't change a cocktail's taste, and it smells better, too. "I've always been a little bit turned off by the smell of egg whites," explains Mlynarczyk. "Sometimes, in a whiskey sour, it kind of smells like a wet dog, depending on the egg. If you don't have really fresh eggs..."

Bartender Gabriella Mlynarczyk's #6 at Birch in Los Angeles. [Photo by Joy Limanon]

Not only does aquafaba closely emulate the lusciousness of egg white foam, but it doesn't slow down the cocktail-making process, and it's a cheaper product. A giant can goes for $4 and lasts five days refrigerated.

When building a cocktail, Mlynarczyk uses the same amount of aquafaba as she would add egg whites, and then shakes the drink the same way. "In a whiskey sour, it would be 2 ounces of whiskey, 3/4 ounce simple syrup, 3/4 ounce lemon, and then 3/4 to an ounce of aguafaba, and the bitters," says Mlynarczyk. "And then you shake it the same way, you aerate it. Do a dry shake for a few seconds, and then add a little bit of ice, and then shake it up with ice, strain it. It's exactly the same."

Mlynarczyk uses aquafaba in all sours, as well as three of the cocktails currently on her menu, like the #6, which is made with cinnamon, mezcal, grapefruit, and Cynar.


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