Is It Safe To Incorporate Egg Whites Into Cocktails?

A defining feature of many classic cocktails like a Pisco Sour or Ramos Gin Fizz is the cap of white foam that sits atop the drink. By and large, this foam has been, and continues to be, achieved when the bartender vigorously shakes a raw egg white in a cocktail shaker, akin to whipping up a meringue. For many, this inevitably leads to the question of whether or not it's actually safe to be consuming what is essentially raw egg whites. Over the years folks have come up with various reasons as to why it shouldn't be a problem, including that the acid in the cocktail "kills" any bacteria in the egg whites or that the vigorous shaking actually "cooks" the whites.

Unfortunately, neither of those assertions is true. At the end of the day, no matter how much lemon juice is in the cocktail or how strongly the bartender shakes the cocktail shaker, those whites are still raw. So then is it safe to drink a cocktail made with raw egg? And if not, why do bars still serve them? The answer is a little more nuanced than you might think.

The truth about egg white safety

Is it safe to incorporate egg whites into cocktails? The answer is "yes, but", and it's important to remember that there is no such thing as 100% safety when it comes to raw eggs. Most eggs these days are safer than in past days. In Britain, for example, virtually all commercial laying hens are vaccinated against salmonella. Here in the U.S., nearly all eggs sold are sanitized.

Luckily, salmonella poisoning is rare. The CDC estimates that there are only 26,500 hospitalizations and 420 deaths each year from salmonella. If that sounds high consider this – there were nearly 7,500 pedestrian deaths in 2021, about 20 per day. You're far more likely to be killed or injured crossing the street to get to the bar than you are to be while sipping your gin fizz.

If the idea of egg whites in your cocktail still makes you nervous there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk even further. First, stick to ordering drinks with egg whites at establishments with high standards of hygiene (maybe stick to beer at a dingy dive). Second, feel free to ask the bartender how fresh the eggs are. Lastly, if you still are unsure, just try a different cocktail. Egg whites in cocktails have been around for ages and aren't going away anytime soon. As long as you're at a reputable bar that knows its stuff then your Pisco Sour is hardly more dangerous than any other drink.