Port and Raw Eggs: The Broken Spur

Raw egg yolks. Once upon a time that idea stopped me cold. It didn't matter if it was breakfast or dinner, I was not going anywhere near that thick gelatinous yellow goo. Just watching anyone sop up yolk with their toast was enough to turn me from my own breakfast. Once again cocktails came to my rescue. How was I supposed to experience the classics if I was squeamish about raw eggs? My first breakthrough came with a Pink Lady, where I discovered the wonder of egg whites. It was delicious: smooth, creamy, tart, and boozy all at once. Since then I have consumed a number of cocktails with egg whites. I have even ventured into the world of flips, which helped me learn to appreciate the entire egg. But until the Broken Spur, cocktails that used only the yolks were still undiscovered territory. Once again, it seems that Mr. Baker was going to provide me with a way to escape my comfort zone.

Not many cocktails include only the yolks. Far more use the whites, which makes sense as they add a foamy buoyancy not unlike meringue to a drink. But what do the egg yolks do? They do froth, or at least something in there creates a foamy top. They do add a certain velvety texture. I would imagine it is the same as when raw egg is added to a carbonara to make it all creamy and rich. Most egg yolk drinks seem to fall into the categories of pousse-cafe, some type of golden fizz, or a dessert drink. I am assuming that the Broken Spur would fall into the latter category, especially considering many of those drinks include brandy, Madeira or port as well the egg yolk. The inclusion of gin is perhaps the only thing that separates the Broken Spur.

But it isn't just the egg yolk that makes the Broken Spur so interesting. The Broken Spur seems to have originated in the 1930s, or thereabouts, as I could only find it in cocktail books from that time: Barflies and Cocktails (1927), the Savoy (1930), and Boothby's 1934 reprint. The proportions match up, which is kind of amazing, considering that any cocktail in the Gentleman's Companion seems to be enormous and suspiciously filled with anise. But where Baker details "port wine" as the base, a very general designation, every other recipe calls for white port instead. I used a tawny port because that is what I have, but if I had used a white port the Broken Spur would have been incredibly different. White port and tawny port are about as opposite as can be.

Tawny ports are made from red grapes that are fermented into wine and then fortified with grape spirits to halt that fermentation process. The they are aged in barrels and then blended in a fractional method that is like the solera method used to make sherry. Tawny ports are usually older than white and ruby ports when they get to market, and they are known for their raisin and nutty flavors. White ports are made from white grapes and may or may not have any contact with a barrel, though they are all aged to some extent.  They can vary in flavor from dry to sweet and are known for having delicate nutty flavors that are more like a dry sherry than the darker ports, though white ports do tend to be fruitier and richer than most dry sherries. As you can imagine, this would make quite a difference as the base of a cocktail. As I did even more research into this discrepancy, it seems that Baker's version is the only one that does not call specifically for white port.

Broken Spur

3/4 ounce gin
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1 1/2 ounces port
1 tsp anisette
1 egg yolk

Dry shake ingredients. Shake again with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a pinch of ground ginger.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Plymouth gin, punt e mes and a tawny port. I also substituted Sambuca for the anisette.

This was a very surprising cocktail. The aroma was full of the berry, raisiny notes of the port mingling with the ginger. On the first sip, the port was also dominant. Though the drink was very dry, it also had an almost chocolaty flavor, which was both pleasant and intriguing. The egg yolk created a smooth, rich consistency and a thick foam. The punt e mes added a slight bitterness throughout ,and as my mouth became more accustomed to the flavors, the botanics of the gin were more prominent. The raisin flavors of the port were back on the after taste. The anisette contributed its licorice flavors near the end of each sip, but they were not overly pronounced. This drink was exceptionally good and very refreshing and I would highly recommend making this drink when you find yourself with some extra egg yolks. I can almost imagine myself sitting next to Mr. Baker as he contemplates fiancees and Jenghis Khan in a cave behind a statesman's house in 1932 Peking.

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