The viscous liquid from canned chickpeas can deftly mimic the properties of egg whites in drinks.
Admittedly, it sounds a little weird: the slippery liquid canned with garbanzo beans that’s generally drained off and discarded has culinary applications as a foaming agent. But in December 2014, French chef Joël Roessel discovered just that, using it in chocolate mousse and meringues, and anonymously publishing his finds on a French blog. Soon after, American software engineer and vegan food enthusiast Goose Wohlt started experimenting with it, creating a meringue with only chickpea cooking liquid and sugar, and posting the recipe on a vegan Facebook group in March 2015. He coined the ingredient “aquafaba,” combining the Latin words for water and bean.
Before long, bartenders got wind of this “new” ingredient, and saw its application in the kitchen and behind the bar – especially for vegan guests and those with allergies. For Dane Nakamura, beverage director for Bryan Voltaggio’s group of restaurants, it all started with his sister’s daughter. “My niece is allergic to just about everything under the sun,” he says. “My sister has become really good at hacking different types of food so that she can experience things like any other kids can.” After making meringue cookies for her birthday, he realized that aquafaba could be a versatile substitute for anyone allergic to eggs, or even cream.
For cocktails, Nakamura uses two tablespoons of aquafaba for every egg white he would use in a drink. The technique is the same: dry shake without ice to emulsify, then shake with ice and strain. He notes that the foam isn’t quite as dense as egg white, but otherwise it’s very similar. Nakamura eschews it in cocktails that don’t have a lot of flavor – like Vodka Sours – as aquafaba’s earthiness tends to overpower neutral spirits. “Aquafaba from a can has a little bit of salinity that may scare a few people, but I'm a firm believer that, especially in cocktails with citrus, a little salt is necessary.”
He also uses it to make an allergen-free cream for cocktails – including Flips, a Brandy Alexander and a Ramos Gin Fizz (see recipe below) – using almond or soy milk and aquafaba in a 2:1 ratio, charged in an iSi soda siphon, shaken and dispensed. The resulting cream isn’t whipped, but its luscious body and additional air lend a sultry, creamy texture to libations.
At Nixta, an upscale modern Mexican restaurant in St. Louis, bar manager Drew Lucido also uses aquafaba in an iSi charger to create a foam that’s layered on top of the drink for a creamy texture. He points out that the dry shake / wet shake method also gives drinks a nice head as well, with one caveat: “You can’t do bitters art on top as you would be able to with egg whites; the bitters cause the foam to dissipate rapidly.” So for Tres, his Pisco Sour riff, Angostura bitters are poured into the shaker rather than dashed on top. And while he does admit that aquafaba does have a bit of an earthy quality, it’s less noticeable than egg whites’ sulfuric taste and smell, which can be off-putting to some guests, especially as the cocktail sets on the bar top and loses its chill.
Max Hill, beverage director for 701 Restaurant in Washington, DC, says aquafaba should be fresh and well filtered when using it for drinks. He hasn’t found any ingredients with which it doesn’t readily mix, but suggests bartenders should keep a clear idea of how they want the finished libation to taste, and take into account its subtle earthiness. His take on the Last Word, called the Last Speech, has a nice creamy white aquafaba head, and is garnished with a sage leaf.
At Columbia Room, also in Washington, DC, bartender Will Alvarez recently used aquafaba in a cocktail for an improv session, where he was given mystery ingredients with which he had to create a drink. His Lemonbuie Sour has Drambuie, crushed Lemonhead candies, lemon, aquafaba, and tamari, a savory soy sauce-like condiment. “Aquafaba adds texture and flavor and a slight vegetal flavor, but a quick spray of citrus zest takes care of that.”
Vegan Ramos Gin Fizz
Recipe courtesy of Dane Nakamura, Beverage Director for Bryan Voltaggio Restaurants
- 1 ½ oz. gin
- 1 oz. vanilla-infused simple syrup
- ½ oz. lime juice
- ½ oz. lemon juice
- 4 drops orange blossom water
- 1 drop rose water
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Aquafaba / almond milk whipped cream in a chilled iSi charger (see Note)
- Soda water
Combine the first 7 ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice cubes that are at least one inch, and shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a chilled Fizz or Collins glass without ice. Point the filled iSi charger straight down with the tip in the liquid, and pull the trigger. Fill the glass until there is about an inch to spare. (The drink should have the consistency of really thick, unsettled Nitro beer, says Nakamura.) Top with soda water.
For the aquafaba / almond milk whipped cream:
Simmer the aquafaba from a can of reduced sodium garbanzo beans until it reduces to half of its volume, and let it cool. In an iSi charger, combine 2 parts unsweetened almond milk to 1 part reduced aquafaba, and charge it twice with nitrogen. (It will have the consistency of whipped cream right before it starts to peak).
Recipe courtesy of Drew Lucido, Bar Manager, Nixta
- 2 oz. pisco
- ¾ oz. lemon juice
- ½ oz. passion fruit syrup
- 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
- Aquafaba charged in iSi charger
Add the first four ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add ice, shake until well chilled, and double-strain into a short Collins glass. Top with aquafaba that’s been charged in an iSi charger.
Recipe courtesy of William Alvarez, Bartender, Columbia Room
- 6 Lemonhead candies, crushed
- 1 ½ oz. Drambuie
- ¾ oz. lemon juice
- ¼ oz. tamari
- 1 oz. aquafaba
- Fernet Branca, sprayed from an atomizer, for garnish
Add the first five ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Dry shake, then add ice and shake until well chilled. Double strain into a coupe glass and top with a few sprays of Fernet Branca.
The Last Speech
Recipe courtesy of Max Hill, Beverage Director, 701 Restaurant
- 1 oz. gin
- ¼ oz. Green Chartreuse
- ½ oz. Suze
- ½ oz. Benedictine
- ¾ oz. lime juice
- ¾ oz. aquafaba
- Sage leaf, for garnish
Add the first 6 ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Dry shake, then add ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with the sage leaf.
Kelly Magyarics, DWS, is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com, or on Twitter and Instagram @kmagyarics.