On January 18, Audrey Saunders, famed owner of the revered Pegu Club cocktail lounge in Soho, received a visit from the Department of Health (DOH). The officer leading the charge, according to General Manager James Tune who was in charge at the time (Audrey was in LA setting up her new bar The Tar Pit), said that he made a beeline for the cocktail menu and immediately inquired about the egg-based cocktails and specifically whether they were pasteurized.
The officer said that it was illegal to use unpasteurized eggs in cocktails. Huh? What about raw eggs in steak tartare? Or sushi? Anyway, the long and the short of it is that it resulted in a slap on the wrist but with a stern warning that they must switch over to pasteurized eggs and the officer, in his meanest gruffest Arnie impersonation said, “I’ll be back”. Okay I made up that last bit.
That night Audrey posted this on Facebook as a friendly heads up to the bartenders and owners around town to say that this is the DOH’s latest target while clearly demonstrating what a bunch of ignorant and persnickety bunch they’ve become. I’ve been behind the bar several times here when I’ve had to sit back and watch the DOH storm the premises, flashlights in hand, looking for any remnants of grime or dead rodents. That I understand.
But eggs in cocktails? What’s to become of this? Well it’s only early days and I’m sure this battle may be long but it won’t go away and already I suspect there are lawyers being contacted on this matter. Audrey’s addressing of the issue was professional and poignant and opened up the flood gates for some juicy banter between some of the industry’s big hitters, from Sasha Petraske and Dushan Zaric to food scientist Harold McGee and leading chef Johnny Iuzzini.
Obviously the laws are different in every country and over here, even in every State. I’m not sure what the laws are on this in my native Australia, or across the pond in the UK, but I live in a country where these arcane laws are a bane and a burden to our wonderful cocktail culture while it’s an issue that speaks to every cocktail geek worldwide. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts in the UK on this very eggy situation.
Yours in sublime spirits,
NY in NY.