Aquafaba: The Ultimate Vegan Cocktail Hack
If you’ve ever had a tart and frothy Pisco Sour or a light and fluffy Ramos Gin Fizz, you’ve had a cocktail made with raw egg whites. The unlikely ingredient runs rampant through classic cocktail recipes. So what’s a vegan to do if they want to enjoy a drink without any animal byproducts? The answer is simpler than you might expect: Grab a can of chickpeas.
Thanks to the resourcefulness of French chef Joël Roessel and a last-ditch attempt at a batch of vegan meringues (it can be done), it was discovered that whipping the juice from a can of chickpeas results in the very same stiff, whipped peaks as raw egg whites.
Bartender Keith Corwin of Thelonious Bar in Berlin took notice, and tried swapping out raw egg whites with the chickpea juice in a cocktail. The results: It worked—really well. Not only is chickpea water (aka aquafaba) a great emulsifying agent, but it also adds a subtle, salty flavor to cocktails that’s not at all reminiscent of your Sabra hummus snack. Now, bartenders all over the world are placating dietary restrictions with the bean juice.
“I have been using aquafaba in cocktails for quite a long time as it's a super healthy replacement for egg white or gelatin,” says Hemant Pathak, bartender at Michelin starred New York City restaurant Junoon. “For me, the starchy liquid is a great binder in my cocktails—aquafaba is able to trap air, giving items structure while at the same time delivering a fluffy texture.”
Pathak is a big proponent of using aquafaba in cocktails—the beverage program at Junoon is fully vegan, so he uses the chickpea juice to achieve a thick layer of foam on top of drinks like the Blood Orange Sour (above). The diet-friendly ingredient is particularly “favorable to my Indian guests,” Pathak says. “Since many are very conscious of what they eat.”
It’s also important to note that alcohol does not kill off the bacteria in eggs. While the chances are relatively low that you’ll contract salmonella from a Whiskey Sour, if you feel uneasy about using a grocery store-bought egg in your drink, aquafaba is a quick and simple way to avoid any and all risk (or paranoia).
Whether you’re vegan, worried about foodborne illness or just don’t have any good-looking eggs on hand, here’s one way to add velvety texture, complex flavor and beautiful froth to your drinks.
How to Make Aquafaba
Procuring enough aquafaba to make a cocktail isn’t difficult (you’ll only need an ounce or less), and there are two ways it can be done.
The first is by cooking dried chickpeas at home and reserving the leftover cooking liquid. Though this is probably the most economical way to do it if you plan to make multiple cocktails, Pathak expresses some hesitation: “Making it at home is always more time-consuming as sometimes aquafaba can be too thin and you may need to cook it down again.”
For consistency’s sake—and to significantly cut down on time—he offers a second method: Use the liquid from a can of store-bought chickpeas instead. “At Junoon, my Ceremonial Cha Cocktail [matcha-infused scotch, plum liqueur, lemon, anise, aquafaba] is a popular menu item, so every time I drain a can of unsalted chickpeas, I make sure to reserve the liquid,” he says, adding, “I don't think [aquafaba] has any disadvantages as long as you use it fresh.”
Like with egg whites, using aquafaba requires some elbow grease, so be prepared to shake like there’s no tomorrow. Ready to try this super easy vegan cocktail hack? Crack open a can of chickpeas and whip up this recipe for a Scotch Sour, one of Pathak’s favorite aquafaba concoctions.
Recipe courtesy of Hemant Pathak
2 oz scotch (Pathak prefers Dewar's 12 Blended Scotch Whisky)
.75 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
.5 oz simple syrup
.75 oz unsalted aquafaba
Lemon wedge and maraschino cherry, for garnish
Angostura bitters, for garnish (optional)
- Add all ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice.
- Shake and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
- Garnish with a lemon wedge, maraschino cherry and Angostura bitters.