Winter cocktails

From left, Know Your Magi at Billy Sunday; Sid Malicious at The Brixton; Saturday Cartoons at Drumbar (Hillary Higgins/for RedEye / January 8, 2014)

Eggnog is lucky that fruitcake exists, otherwise it certainly would be the butt of more holiday jokes. Cartons of the thick, overly sugary stuff have convinced many people that eggs belong nowhere near their cocktails--and that's too bad. Plenty of the city's top bartenders are reaching for eggs this winter to add texture and balance to spiced and cold weather-appropriate drinks. Once shaken (this is where the term "vigorously" really applies), the eggs become light, frothy and just the right complement to spirits of all sorts. Skeptical? Order one of these six creations and become reacquainted with the incredible, drinkable egg.

Winter Wonder ($11) at Trellis

2426 N. Racine Ave. 773-644-6441

"It has the texture of snow, almost," said Miranda Breedlove, assistant manager at this new Lincoln Park wine bar and the bartender responsible for this gin, prosecco and egg white cocktail. "It reminded everyone of winter." Breedlove enhances the herbal flavors of London dry gin with rosemary and mastiha, a sweet and herbal Greek liqueur that's distilled from the sap of the mastiha tree. A final garnish of lemon zest adds brightness to what Breedlove guarantees is a "very easy-to-drink cocktail."

Foggy Notion ($12) at Nightwood

2119 S. Halsted St. 312-526-3385

After drinking a cup of espresso and a glass of Fernet amaro after a long meal, Nightwood's lead mixologist Eric Davis knew the flavor combination could work in a cocktail. This drink, which hits the Pilsen restaurant's menu on Jan. 11, combines a Fernet Branca base, coffee liqueur from California-based Firelit Spirits, some housemade spiced simple syrup, a small splash of rum and an egg white for creaminess. Fans of egg white cocktails should drink up during the colder weather, though, since those drinks definitely are a seasonal attraction. "It's just the time of the year that you're going to want a richer style of cocktail," Davis said. "I don't think they would be something you'd want to drink in the summer."

Coffee Cocktail ($12) at The Barrelhouse Flat

2624 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-857-0421

The Coffee Cocktail involves no coffee. Seriously. The classic drink, which originated in an 1887 bartenders' recipe book, is simply equal parts cognac and port (at The Barrelhouse Flat in Lincoln Park, it's ruby port), plus simple syrup, a whole egg and a finishing dust of grated nutmeg. "The speculation is that it was named 'Coffee Cocktail' because if it's prepared correctly, it looks something like coffee with cream," said creative director Greg Buttera. "But it could also be because coffee was an after-dinner drink, as this is." Though Buttera said the whole egg adds "density," the texture is not to be confused with eggnog. "This has a more elegant richness."

Sid Malicious ($11) at The Brixton

5420 N. Clark St. 773-961-7358

"I wanted to come up with a drink that used malort but actually tasted good," said Tim Casey, bar manager at this newly opened Andersonville bar and restaurant. Though he admits to not liking the super bitter, dare-you-to-try-it wormwood spirit, Casey knew it had a cult following. After mixing an early version of this drink (named for punk star Sid Vicious) that was just malort, gin and nutmeg, Casey knew it lacked for one last ingredient. "The egg white was the missing link," he said. "Before, the drink was off-balance. The froth of the egg white takes away anything overpowering." But does the cocktail really make malort palatable? Casey thinks so. "I'm impressed by how many people are swayed toward ordering it again."

Saturday Cartoons ($12) at Drumbar

201 E. Delaware Place 312-924-2531

All the fun of cereal and cartoons … but with alcohol. Genius. At this Gold Coast bar, bartender Brian Sturgulewski had a goal to create a cocktail that reminded him of "parking himself in front of the TV for too many hours as a kid." He eventually perfected a process of infusing Trinidadian rum with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, to which he adds a touch of bitterness in the form of Averna amaro liqueur, plus a whole egg. The 12-year Zaya rum he chose is heavy on vanilla and graham cracker flavors, which pair well with the cereal's cinnamon and spice. The complete drink is a play on a flip, a classic whole-egg cocktail with a creaminess that replicates the milk that's left in the bowl after you've spooned up all your cereal.

Know Your Magi ($10) at Billy Sunday

3143 W. Logan Boulevard 773-661-2485

Silky in texture and beautiful to look at--those are pine needle skewers that garnish each drink with a spiced golden raisin--this cocktail also contains an ingredient you're unlikely to encounter anywhere else: myrrh. Alex Bachman, head bartender at this Logan Square bar, boils honey with the fragrant tree resin (Biblically said to have been a gift from one of the three Magi) as well as almonds, then adds this honey to a base of cognac. The drink also benefits from lemon juice and a splash of Cappelletti, a new-to-Chicago amaro with flavors of orange, vanilla and rose. Shaking in an egg white adds smoothness but also, Bachman said, curbs some of the acidity from the lemon juice.

 

Safety first

"Hold up," you're thinking. "Is it healthy to drink something with raw egg in it?" Bartenders get this question a lot, and all of them assure you that eggs are safe to consume in cocktails for two reasons: One, Eggs are pasteurized, a process that kills harmful germs. Two, once an egg enters a solution that's higher than 20 percent alcohol--which most cocktails are--salmonella can't survive.

 

kbernot@tribune.com | @redeyeeatdrink