Explorations in Mixology Cocktails Drinking

How to make Vegan Egg Whites

Riviera cocktail with Egg White Substitute

A handful of classics and a growing number of contemporary cocktails call for egg whites. Consider the Pisco Sour, the Ramos Gin Fizz, the classic preparation of the venerable Whiskey Sour, or even the incredible, newfangled Amaretto Sour—all of them are iconic examples of egg white recipes. It’s an ingredient selected for texture rather than flavor, most common in the sour category where the frothy protein emulsion that forms with vigorous shaking creates a luxurious, tantalizing layer of meringue that is difficult to achieve any other way. Or is it?

Egg whites are often used in the kitchen to create similar effects, and in recent years, molecular gastronomy chefs and vegans alike discovered aqua faba—the juices that accompany canned garbanzo beans. This surprising liquid can be successfully subbed for egg whites when a plant-based whipped foamy texture is desired. Aqua faba works well in cocktails too and might be the go-to vegan substitute if not for the leftover can of beans. Sure, if you were going to make humus or falafel, this is not a problem, but we rarely want to open a can just to make a cocktail (but we don’t have a problem cracking an egg). Either choice has its pros and cons.

The biggest issue most people have with these ingredients is that they impart an undesirable flavor or aroma. Aqua faba is not flavorless, and egg whites are often described as having a ”wet dog” scent which isn’t very appetizing at all. Most cocktail recipes successfully offset these flaws with citrus oils strategically squeezed over the surface, or with bitters dashed over the top for both decorative and aromatic effect. Yet, avoiding eggs and the inconvenience of aqua faba at volume given the growing number of vegan consumers has led to some interesting innovations behind the bar. We want the lovely foam, regardless of how we get there, and although there are commercial products that claim to work, they often impart flavors of their own, or the foam collapses too easily. If only we could make an inexpensive, egg-free, bean-free alternative that worked well enough—we would choose that option every time. Enter, Methylcellulose powder <EDIT: or Methocel F50 powder>:

Vegan Egg White Substitute
20g methlycellulose powder
2g xanthan gum powder
1000ml water

Add ingredients to a blender and mix until fully dissolved. Transfer to a lidded container to allow foam and bubbles to dissipate. Once clear (24-48 hours), transfer into a squeeze bottle and store the rest in the refrigerator.

Use a half-ounce whenever a cocktail recipe calls for egg white.

Methylcellulose is a plant fiber thickening agent and emulsifier. It is often sold as a dietary supplement or laxative (typical daily doses are 200 times the amount we would use in a cocktail). It doesn’t easily dissolve and it gels at high temperatures, so even this low 2% mixture requires a lot of stirring or the use of a blender to completely hydrate the powder. We are also adding a tiny amount of xanthan gum, a common thickener we use in ice cream, to help add even more texture.

What you have when you are done mixing is a thick, foamy batch of egg white substitute that will slowly dissipate and clarify, but this takes a day or so at room temperature. As the foam settles, you can transfer the liquid into a squeeze bottle for use and store the rest in the refrigerator. For cocktails that call for egg white, we use just a half-ounce of this substitute for a fantastic foamy effect that is flavorless and odorless! We credit Joerg Meyer, creator of the incredible Gin Basil Smash for this recipe. Others have used the technique to make a ”super syrup” or sour syrup that foams when shaken, but we prefer an unsweetened solution to more closely mimic the classic egg white techniques of the past century or two.

Shaking Technique
Egg white cocktail technique varies. The most common method to get a good frothy meringue is the ”dry shake” (no ice) usually performed at the start of cocktail mixing. This kickstarts the emulsion and incorporates a lot of air at the start. Shaker tins must be held together tightly as the foam expands without any cooling vacuum action. After the dry shake, ice is added and the shaking continues, chilling and diluting the drink. However, we find that our egg white substitute benefits more from a ”reverse dry shake” method. The basic principle is the same, but instead of shaking without ice at the start, you add the ice at the beginning, shake this to chill and dilute, then strain into one half of your shaker. Now, dump the ice and re-seal the cold shaker to build up the foam. It seems odd at first to strain the drink right back into the shaker, but once you do this it makes sense. Shaking in this order will build a very nice meringue which you can then pour directly into your cocktail glass or double strain through a conical mesh strainer to create even finer bubbles if you like.

Amaretto Sour using Egg White Substitute

For a really foamy result with a lot less strain on your arm (especially for mixing the Ramos Gin Fizz), we recommend using a handheld frother. These inexpensive, battery-powered hand mixers are easy to find, but we like the BonJour model because it has a solid blade—like an old-fashoined soda fountain malt maker—versus the typical mini spring coil. This thing works so well it can produce even more foam than you want or need! It also enables you to use less of the egg white substitute.

With this new ingredient at our disposal, we have been enjoying foamy egg white drinks all over again without worrying about raw eggs or off-flavors and aromas. We can’t wait to go back to more classics and share them with guests who might otherwise shy away from such recipes, even though they don’t realize what they’ve been missing.

EDIT: After trying this recipe with success, others around the world have continued to experiment with other Methylcellulose products, specifically one labeled Methocel F50 and have achieved better results. We have tried both and found that they both create similar results.

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11 months ago

Hi, I love this recipe, but was wondering about the shelf life of the final product. How long does it last if stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container?

1 month ago

Great recipe but I was wondering if you can you use cmc instead of mc?