Basil and Black Pepper Gin Sour + Egg White Love

That hectic nature of the summer usually means that I never have a chance to enjoy summer like I do autumn or winter. I don’t sit and really look around. We are always trying to pack as much as possible into those sunny weekends. There are no baking days during the summer. There are no movie marathons, no book binges (unless you’re comfortable sitting for hours and hours on a beach) and no leisurely drives to enjoy my surroundings during the summer. I’m always frantically on my way somewhere. It’s all about the destination—never the journey.

And that’s counterintuitive to how we would all like to ideally spend our summers…

I say we take that part of summer back. With cocktails. Now bear with me! I swear it makes sense.

I always think of a craft cocktail as an accompaniment to sitting back and unwinding regardless of whether you’re alone or with others. Because a great craft cocktail is an amazing thing. The melding of different flavors, textures, and sensations in one drinkable product is unique to a cocktail. It’s also why some bars that attempt a great cocktail menu fall flat on their faces. It requires thoughtful compilation. But get it right, and you’re not going to want to do anything except enjoy that glass. Perfect for slowing down and finally getting to put your feet up.

Before summer slips through our fingertips, some fellow bloggers and I have put together an epic wish list of boozy and non-boozy drinks alike for #DrinkTheSummer. Led by the visionary Sherrie of With Food and Love, we’ve got everything you need and more for some serious summertime parties or nights on the back porch.

My cocktail contribution is based off of my love affair with basil. In anything and everything. A dash of black pepper will keep it interesting. Next I went for gin because it’s the perfect summer liquor for me—floral and herbaceous notes—and goes really well with the basil and pepper. But then I threw a wrench in the cocktail shaker. Egg whites.

Egg whites are traditionally used in old school drinks called sours and fizzes. Think whiskey sours. An egg white cocktail has a smoother, silkier mouthfeel while still remaining light and fluffy. They also round out the acidity and intense flavors of a cocktail by tampering down the overall flavor profile. In a good way. Sounds great, right? So how do we do it?

Basically, all you need to do is add the egg white to the cocktail shaker and go to town. When you vigorously beat up on the egg white in the shaker, the proteins in the egg whites change in drastic ways. (Though slightly different, it may be helpful to refer to the homemade butter post while you read about these egg whites!)

When we shake and shake our egg white, the mechanical shear physically causes the egg white proteins to rearrange or denature. Those proteins are generally in a less stable state after unfolding and frantically search for something other than water to associate with. Remember that proteins can either be hydrophilic, water-loving, or hydrophobic, water-hating. In the natural state, the hydrophobic proteins were happily enclosed in protein formations, away from the water. When we unfold those proteins, the now-exposed hydrophobic proteins are no longer in equilibrium. Here is where the air comes in! Air bubbles are a happy medium for the proteins and they grab onto the air as you effectively force it into the liquid mixture. That inclusion of air causes an increase in volume leading to a foam. Remember when we made chiffon cake? This is just like that.

There’s also a secondary process at work here though. The alcohol from the gin is a secondary denaturation agent. The alcohol molecules are soooo small that they decrease some of the natural interactions that occur between the proteins and water. Basically, the native proteins in the egg whites are stabilized by those hydrophobic/hydrophilic protein interactions we touched on briefly in the previous paragraph. Well the alcohol molecules mess all that up. Because they’re so tiny, you can think of them as being more hydrophilic than water which creates a bit of chaos in the world of proteins. Now the proteins don’t know which way is up. The stability that those water-based interactions used to provide is now lacking which causes the proteins to unfold and denature. Seriously crack an egg in a glass of vodka and see what happens. Mind. Blown.

Oh and there’s also lime juice which messes with the protein structure as well (pH). These egg whites had no chance, really.

Anywayyy the one-two punch of the mechanical shear and the alcohol causes egg whites to form a pretty stable foam in this cocktail. Even if your arms fall off while you’re trying to make it. Plus you get a pretty “head” on the top like a cappuccino. If you do it right, you should get a foam so strong that a straw can stand up straight without any help! Hooray egg whites!

FWIW: The combination of the protein denaturation, presence of alcohol, and acidity has essentially knocked out any fear you may have of the egg whites in terms of food safety. However, if you’re still squeamish, feel free to use pasteurized eggs or carton egg whites.

Be sure to check out all of our #DrinkTheSummer beverage recipes listed below (or click here), and if you’re still thirsty for more, here’s the list from last year’s collaboration.

With Food + Love | Basil Fig Vodka Smash
A Little Saffron | Beach Bum’s Rum
A Thought For Food | Tarragon Tequlia Swizzle
Heart of a Baker | Green Tea Mint Cooler
Hungry Girl por Vida | Whisky Peach Alexander
Beard and Bonnet | Melon Mojito
Appeasing a Food Geek | Basil and Black Pepper Gin Sour
Vegetarian Ventures | Garden Tonic Punch
The Foodie Nurse | Husk Cherry Margarita
Wicked Spatula | Coconut Gin and Tonic
Nutritionist in the Kitch | Healthy Muddled Blackberry Pina Coladas
Chocolate + Marrow | Pequito Verdecito
The Solstice Table | Jalapeno Watermelon Cooler
Seasonal Cravings | Strawberry Lime Gin Rickey
Dessert for Two | Salty Melon Slush
Heartbeet Kitchen | Salty Watermelon Shrub Elixir
My Heart Beets | Spiced Pistachio Shake
rooting the sun | Strawberry Fennel Soda
The Modern Proper | Vanilla Plum Shrub
Gourmande in the Kitchen | Stone Fruit Thyme Shrub Soda
I am a Food Blog | Cherry Vanilla Sodas
Well and Full | Peach Bubble Tea

Basil and Black Pepper Gin Sour

I am calling this a “sour” rather than a “gin fizz” because I don’t add any soda water at the end. If you want to lighten up the flavor even more, however, feel free to top this off with some soda water (but only after you pour it out of the cocktail shaker! It will explode otherwise…)

8 very large basil leaves, torn (or 12 medium basil leaves, torn)

1 teaspoon sugar

2 oz aromatic gin

1 oz fresh lime juice

1.5 oz heavy cream (or feel free to substitute full-fat coconut milk)

0.5 oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Black Pepper


  1. Place your torn basil leaves at the bottom of your cocktail shaker along with the sugar. Use a muddler to macerate the basil leaves. The sugar should cut into the basil and cause the leaves to break down—forcing liquid out of them.
  2. Once the basil is sufficiently destroyed, about 1-2 minutes muddling, add the gin to the shaker. Use your muddler once again to quickly mix the gin into the basil mess.
  3. Add the lime juice, heavy cream, simple syrup, egg white, and a few cracks of black pepper to the cocktail shaker. Fill the shaker with ice and top it with a tightly-sealing lid.
  4. This is the part where you need to get your elbow grease out. Shake the cocktail shaker rather vigorously for at least 3 minutes to cause the egg whites to foam and combine everything just right. Shake shake and shake some more.
  5. Once finished shaking, or once your arms are about to fall off, strain the mixture into a chilled glass. Make sure to get that foamy bit for the top! Optional: top with a couple more cracks of black pepper.
  6. Put a straw in your drink and serve! The real test is whether or not your straw remains straight up and down without any help. But most importantly, relax—you earned it.



  1. Ah I love it!!! I was scared of egg white drinks at first, but now I loooooove them. Give me a whiskey sour or a basil gin fizz any day, girl! And I feel you too about summers being hectic. I keep telling myself I’m going to slow down (and just drink a cocktail), but there just never seems to be time. That’s my goal for next year!

    • Kelsey
      September 1

      Whoa it looks like my reply was deleted…or maybe I dreamt that I responded. Anywhooo thanks for the comment Sara! And if we can’t relax during the sunny days of summer or at least while sipping on a delish cocktail, when can we?! xoxo

  2. I’ve never tried a cocktail with egg whites but can’t wait to give it a try. I’m basil crazy here too. Happy #drinkthesummer to you!

    • Kelsey
      September 1

      Thanks for the comment Karen! xoxo

  3. August 27

    Oh man, I loooooove a good sour and this one looks extraordinary! Nice work!!

    • Kelsey
      August 30

      Thanks Kate! xoxo

  4. I would love to slow down with the likes of this sip! I’m so intrigued by the basil/black pepper combo!

    • Kelsey
      August 30

      Thanks so much Sarah! :)

  5. September 4

    Why is this my first time visiting your blog? Your words: They are everything. I just want to never stop reading. You are so great. Now I’m off to crack an egg into vodka.

    • Kelsey
      September 6

      Aw thanks so much Edlyn! That means a lot to me! xoxo

  6. September 10

    This sounds like the BEST combination ever! Thanks for hanging with us Kelsey, xx.

    • Kelsey
      September 14

      Thanks for organizing Sherrie! xoxo

  7. Jen
    September 17

    Science and boozy gin sour recipe in one? Seriously wishing we were neighbors. Woo! Thanks for the laugh and the lesson!

    • Kelsey
      September 20

      Thanks Jen! Come on over anytime :)

  8. M. Covert Payton
    April 3

    Hey! Great blog, great recipe — I’m gonna steal this & use it in my restaurant! In exchange, I’m leaving you an “insider tip” from the bartending world:
    You will save your arms from falling off by “dry shaking” this cocktail. In other words, follow yer recipe exactly, except DO NOT put *any* ice in the shaker. Shake vehemently for approx 2 minutes (ir even 90 seconds) and then check yer shaker. You’ll know if it’s finished! Then add ice & shake for 10-15 seconds; then strain into glass. Trust me it works — ask any bartender who’s worked with a brunch menu that has a Ramos Fizz on it!
    Great blog I’ll be back!

    • Kelsey
      April 4

      Hey thanks! Right after I posted this, I actually saw that dry shake tip! Definitely very happy to hear about it because my arms were absolutely dead after making a couple of these. I hope your patrons like the recipe! xoxo

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