Your Cocktail Needs a Meringue Float

Your Cocktail Needs a Meringue Float

There are a dizzying number of ways to make a cocktail look fancy–egg white fizz, cabernet float, an Angostura bitters drawing of your face, or simple citrus peels and herbs. However, few garnishes have it all–visually appealing, legitimately delicious, and with the ability to serve as insulation. So to make your cocktails better, add a meringue float.

The versatility and flexibility of eggs is mind-boggling, and there is no greater evidence of their adaptability than meringue. By merely whipping together nothing more than egg whites and sugar, you can transform slimy, gloppy albumen into a fluffy cloud dessert.

There are a few ways to make meringue, which are usually broken into two categories, cooked and uncooked. I almost never make uncooked meringues, because they’re unstable. The egg whites whip with the sugar just fine, but because the eggs remain uncooked, the air bubbles eventually pop, at which point the egg white returns to their liquid form, resulting in an oozy, weeping meringue.

I almost always prefer a Swiss meringue, in which the sugar and egg whites are heated over a bain-marie. The whites end up pasteurizing and nearing the point of coagulation (​​60°C), before they are literally whisked away in a stand mixer, or a hand mixer. The resulting meringue is made up of teeny-tiny, stable bubbles, creating the appearance of gleaming silk. You can do anything with this fluffy stuff, including topping a cocktail.

I first tasted this application on top of a Moscow mule. What I’d at first taken for a shiny whipped cream left me stunned. I would never have dreamed of putting meringue on a cocktail — surely a sticky nightmare would result — but no: The meringue was sweet and fluffy, perfectly complementing the acidity of the lime and ginger beer, and it didn’t stick to my lips. I wanted to eat the topping on its own, much as I might sample the salted rim of a margarita or the cinnamon sugar rim on a seasonal pumpkin beer, but it’s best when you get a bit of everything in a single sip. The difference is, a meringue float is much better than a flavoured rim.

The meringue is sweet and fluffy like shapeless marshmallow (because it nearly is), without turning gelatinous. The texture is luxurious and soft, and as it’s cooked to a point of near-complete stability, the topping never weeps, nor dissolves into your drink as would a whipped cream topping. The absolute kicker: the meringue topping will prevent temperature loss or entry through the top of the cup. It’s edible insulation. (Ever heard of a baked Alaska? It’s an ice cream cake completely encased in meringue and baked. The meringue is loaded with air bubbles, and air bubbles don’t transfer energy well at all, so the ice cream stays cold while the outside of the meringue gets a toasted brush of colour.)

I’m not saying your ice won’t melt or your Irish hot chocolate won’t cool down from heat travelling through the sides of your cup, but it won’t come out of the top. (If you are concerned about keeping your drink the same temperature, try using a vacuum insulated mug and topping the drink with meringue.)

How to make a cocktail-friendly meringue

To make the ultimate “snow” topped cocktail, combine egg whites and sugar using a 1:2 ratio in a mixing bowl. If you’re having a party and you plan on topping 12-15 cocktails, I suggest four ounces of egg whites (about four egg whites) and eight ounces of plain granulated sugar, which will make about three to four cups of meringue.

Put one or two inches of water in a small to medium pot, on the stove over medium heat. Place the mixing bowl of sugar and egg whites on top of the pot. This is a bain-marie. Check to ensure the bowl is a few inches away from the water level. If the water touches the bottom of the bowl when boiling then the egg whites risk coagulating, which will ruin your meringue.

Once the mixing bowl is on the pot of boiling water, you must whisk the mixture constantly so the egg whites don’t coagulate. Stir quickly and constantly, though not aggressively — that will be done later, by the machine. After three or four minutes, the mixture will be steaming slightly; if you dip a finger in, it should feel very hot, and when you rub your fingers together, you should not feel any sugar granules. Take the mixture off the heat and immediately add it to the stand mixer with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer or a hand-powered whisk, but the latter method will take a long time). Whisk on medium-high speed for five to ten minutes, or until you have can see soft peaks or medium peaks. Congratulations, you’ve made Swiss meringue.

Meringue is versatile in terms of flavour pairings. Unless you add flavored extracts to it, it only tastes sweet. I love it on a Moscow mule because the sweetness balances the tartness of the lime and the sting of the ginger, but I can see it pairing well with anything intended as a dessert cocktail. Start with a cocktail as usual, filled to within a quarter inch of the rim. Plop a ¼ cup scoop of the meringue on top. The meringue will float, and you can then garnish it with citrus zest or chocolate shavings or what have you. Swiss meringue, no matter how stable, does not keep well overnight. It’s best to use it within four to six hours of making it.

Swiss Meringue Ratio and Method


  • 1 part egg whites (large batch, 100 g)
  • 2 parts granulated sugar (200 g)

Create a bain-marie with a medium pot, filled with two inches of water, and a mixing bowl. Place the egg whites and sugar in the mixing bowl, and whisk constantly over medium heat. The water in the bain-marie should not touch the bottom of the mixing bowl.

Whisk like this for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture is steaming gently. Test it by putting your finger in the mixture. If it is hot and you do not feel any granules of sugar on your finger then you’re ready to transfer it to the mixer.

With a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until they’ve reached a soft or medium peak, about 5-10 minutes. If you’d like to add a flavouring extract, slowly stir it in at the end. Top your cocktail of choice with a dollop of Swiss meringue.

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