It is hard to beat a sour cocktail with a fluffy texture and a foamy head, but the egg whites needed to accomplish this can be controversial at times. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against egg whites in my sours, I have even made a full-on comparison of 3 different egg white options to use at home and in bars, but be it for safety concerns, the smell, the dilution, the waste of yolks or eating restrictions, not everyone is a fan of this ingredient in their cocktails.
This had led bars and bartenders on the lookout for alternatives to create foamy cocktails. Aquafaba, the liquid in a can of chickpeas, can get you similar results, but it has its own taste that you might not want in your cocktail and again, you’re left with a can of chickpeas. Another option are foamers, added in drops or dashes, and they foam up as you shake your drink, but with such small quantities they don’t really add the silky texture to the whole drink. So what option is there left? One of the bartenders that has been on a quest to find a better alternative is Mike Capoferri, from LA’s Thunderbolt bar. I saw a couple of articles on PunchDrink.com about his work, and what he calls Sour Syrup, that he makes with methylcellulose.
Don’t let the name scare you, methylcellulose has a wide range of uses in the food, cosmetics, medicine and even construction and special effects industry. It has an interesting ability to form a gel when hot and it melts when cool, but there are many varieties, so I have left a link to the one I’m using down below. Mike’s Sour Syrup is a really great alternative to egg white, it gives you great foam and I love that it’s combined with the sweetener, making it a far more shelf stable and less wasteful option than eggs or aquafaba, I decided to play around with the recipe, to try and get it even closer to the classic egg-white sour. I call my version Super Syrup and it manages to replicate the silky texture and the stable foam of egg whites really well.
In addition to Mike’s recipe, super syrup adds Gum Arabic for the texture and Xanthan gum as the stabilizer, and to be honest, I’m thrilled with the result. We’ll use it two make a delicious 3 ingredient cocktail, a whiskey sour (well, 4 ingredients, because saline is always needed for how we make sours on Cocktail Time), but first let’s start with the star of the show.
Super Syrup (yield 580 mL or 19.5 oz)
● 36g gum arabic
● 60g boiling hot water
● 3,6 grams Methylcellulose
● 100 grams hot water
● 200 grams cold water
● 360 grams granulated sugar
● 0.6g xanthan
We’ll do this in three parts, beginning with letting the gum arabic fully hydrate and dissolve. So let’s first mix together 36 grams of gum arabic and 60 grams of boiling hot water. You’ll want to do this first step in advance, because gum arabic needs time to hydrate. So we’ll let this sit and do its thing, just like we did in the syrups episode, when we made Gum Syrup. 12 hours later, the first part is ready.
Once that’s done grab a blender and mix together 360 grams of sugar, with 0,6 g of xanthan gum and 200 grams of cold, preferably filtered water. Blend for around 40 seconds or until all the sugar has dissolved, and the xanthan gum is nicely incorporated as well. Leave to sit so the foam settles, it will fastest in the fridge, then move on to part number three.
We’ll now mix 3,6 g of methyl cellulose with 100 grams of boiling hot water. If you tried to mix this in cold water a gluey layer would form around the powder as soon as it would come in contact with water, keeping the inside dry. So we’ll stir this with hot water to disperse the particles evenly and until there are no clumps. While this dispersion is still hot, slowly stir in the cold xanthan syrup. Doing it like this, instead of blending everything together in a blender, gives you less foam during this process. Then add the gum mixture as well and and stir well to mix and combine all of our ingredients to create Super Syrup.
Whatever foam that was still on top will stay on a fine mesh strainer as we pour the syrup into a bottle that will be kept in the fridge until you are ready to make your next frothy, silky, vegan sour. This recipe yielded 580 ml of Super Syrup that I know will stay good for at least 2 weeks, but I think it would last even longer, I just never had a batch that lasted that long. If you want to make less, or more, I added a Super Syrup Calculator, where you simply enter the amount of syrup you want to end up with, and it will give you the amounts you need (in metric, of course).
With that done, let’s make 2 whiskey sours. To prep for the egg white version, first crack the egg over a hawthorne strainer. Then the sours will be made basically the exact same way I like to make a Whiskey sour: 60 ml (2 oz) of Bourbon, followed by 22,5 ml (0,75 oz) of lemon super juice. You can use freshly squeezed juice as well and it actually gives you a bit more foam, but I have super juice on hand so I’m using that.
Here’s where these drinks will differ, add 22,5 ml or 0,75 oz of syrup - super syrup in one and simple syrup in the other. This means that one drink already has a foaming agent, and the other one doesn’t, so add the egg white into the second one. If you add the whole egg white, which is usually about 30 ml, or 1 oz, the smell and even flavor of egg white can be a bit too apparent. So I break it apart, which makes it easier to measure out 22.5 ml, or 0.75 oz. Lastly, hit them both with 2 drops of saline solution, as salt will highlight the flavors, just like it would in cooking.
Give both cocktails equal amounts of ice and shake hard, to chill and dilute. Mike Capoferri actually says he doesn’t need to do a dry shake with his Sour Syrup, but I’ve found I still get a better foam from the Super Syrup if I do another shake after dumping the ice, as I like to do with the egg whites too. If we would do a dry shake first, without chilling Methyl Cellulose, it could clump together, but once it’s cold you can shake it again vigorously, to froth it up. Pour both drinks in rocks glasses, filled with fresh ice. Double strain, to get the best foam, and no garnish or spray this time - we want to smell what’s IN the cocktail.
You should find a thick foamy head on each cocktail, just what you want on a whiskey sour, but the flavors need to be compared in the name of science - cheers! The classic whiskey sour offers a nice texture of the foamy crown, with a slight aroma of eggwhite, which some affectionately call a wet dog smell. That’s why you’d typically add a few drops of bitters or zest a citrus peel over the cocktail. But it still has a supreme silky mouthfeel and no taste of eggwhite, because it’s masked by the lemon super juice. As the foam settles you’ll see bigger bubbles, which isn’t as appealing as when you first get the drink.
On the Super Syrup version you can see a few more bubbles to begin with, but still a good looking head. Citrus notes are coming through on the aroma a bit more than with the classic. There’s also no additional flavor from methyl cellulose. The foam is kept up nicely as you sip on the drink, just like the cocktail itself - it will keep its silky mouthfeel and have no off-putting aromas or textures if you leave it to sit for a little while. So what’s the verdict? It has a nice foamy head, a creamy mouthfeel, no added smell or flavor. So do we finally have the egg white killer for cocktails? In my opinion… no, but I’m old school in that regard.
Still Super Syrup is the best alternative I’ve tasted so far - perfect for anyone looking for a vegan option, or for bars and bartenders who are looking for an alternative with a longer shelf life and a less wasteful and messy work station, with as little compromise on the quality of the cocktails as possible.
Before we finish, I have to mention another bartender who also created a foaming alternative, but not as a syrup, using only methylcellulose and xanthan gum. Joerg Meyer, the creator of the Gin Basil Smash, uses it at his Boilerman Bar in Hamburg, a cocktail bar where they don’t use cocktail shakers - It’s great to see amazing bartenders always looking for innovative ways to serve their patrons. I’ll see you all next week when I’ll show you a cool way to use the super ingredients we’ve made today. Cheers, Friends of Cocktails.
Get the ingredients I used for Super Syrup:
● Methylcellulose: https://geni.us/8BIo
● Gum Arabic: https://geni.us/btoy
● Xanthan Gum: https://geni.us/DUJM5f
Grab the bottles from today’s episode at CURIADA: https://bit.ly/spiritscocktailtime
By buying through the affiliate links you’re also helping out the Cocktail Time channel with a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Cheers!