When it comes to finding a place at the bar, those who follow a vegan diet, or who have an egg allergy, have to be careful what they order. Classic drinks, like flips, fizzes, and sours, often rely on the egg white to serve as an integral part of the drink.
While it’s become trendy to make desserts with an egg white substitute called aquafaba (aka the water out of your chickpea can), that kind of swap out doesn’t fly in cocktails–the taste and texture just don’t work. Thanks to an ongoing relationship between Canadian food scientists and the bar talent behind the stick at a popular Vancouver restaurant, though, there’s a botanical, all-natural egg substitute for cocktail-making that’s about to hit the market.
The parent-child team of Philip and Sam Unger of Ms. Betters Bitters have been working with bartenders Tarquin Melnyk and Dylan Williams at Bambudda, and thanks to their experimentation and ingenuity, they’re putting the final touches on the product for nationwide distribution. It’s already in use behind the bar in three cocktails on their drinks menu, chiefly in their delicious Pisco Sour.
The blend of three botanicals macerated in a neutral spirit is totally shelf-stable, and comes in a small bottle with a dropper. Six drops is all it takes to organically mimic the texture and mouthfeel of the egg white in the drinks, and as a pleasant bonus for those whose noses are attuned to their drinks, skips out on the egg white smell that often comes off these kinds of drinks.
To illustrate how brilliantly the vegan egg white cocktail substitute works, Melnyk created a side-by-side visual and taste comparison of the Bambudda Pisco Sour and its egg-free alternative. To the untrained eye, there is just a faint difference in how the foam and the body of the cocktail appear; the substitute’s foam is just a fraction denser, and the botanicals bind differently with the drink’s ingredients to create a faintly darker colour.
When it comes to taste, however, it is virtually impossible to pick out which one is which. In fact, devout non-vegans (including myself) might surprise themselves by preferring the egg-less option; it’s got a creamy texture and the drink has a lovely clean finish.
“Being able to offer this alternative is a totally new thing for us,” elaborates Melnyk, who says that Bambudda on the whole is finding they are seating a number of diners regularly who seek vegan options on the menu, and the restaurant is happily obliging by amping up their meat-free choices.
On the science side, the Ungers have enjoyed the productive teamwork they’ve been enjoying at Bambudda. The younger Unger, Sam, who comes at the business from a highly creative and artistic point of view, explains that overall the “vegan cocktail scene is pretty weak,” and that in order to satisfy a hole in the industry, Ms. Betters Bitters embarked on the “group effort” to add this all-natural egg substitute to their robust portfolio of thoughtful cocktail ingredients.
Besides, adds Unger, it was hard to ignore the thought of “how cool it would be to have something that works like egg and has no egg in at all.”
How cool, indeed. Similarly, Melnyk and Williams are glad to have one more cocktail curiosity coming out of their bar, which happens to be a great spot in Vancouver for finding inventive, foraged, and vastly interesting ingredients showing up in the mix.
The vegan egg white product should be ready for national distribution before the end of the year, says Unger. Meanwhile, head to Bambudda and order up a vegan Pisco Sour and be among the first in the country to enjoy this exciting product.
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