If you wanna make an omelet – or a pisco sour for that matter — you gotta crack a few eggs. But after what seems like a recent Health Department crackdown, bartenders who prepare drinks with raw egg are on the rocks. The victim of a recent bust, Pegu Club in SoHo, has stopped serving its MarTEAni, a drink featuring egg whites to balance out tannin-infused gin, after a health inspector issued the bar a citation and summons to court for serving the drink without checking to make sure the patron knew he was exposing himself to salmonella. The Health Department would prefer that bars use pasteurized eggs, which have been warmed up to prevent the growth of bacteria, but they leave drinks smelling like a “funky wet diaper,” according to Audrey Saunders, who owns Pegu and created the MarTEAni.
Halting the MarTEAni not only feels like an affront to cocktail creativity, it’s also been bad for business. Over $2,000 worth of the drink was sold each week at the bar (that’s eight dozen eggs), according to the New York Times.
In this particular instance, it’s hard to tell who’s being more ridiculous, the Health Department or rebel-without-a-cause bartenders. Nobody has ever gotten sick from drinking a cocktail with eggs at Pegu, (at least according to Saunders), and raw egg is listed on the menu along with a reminder that it may be dangerous to consume, “like sushi.” Still, the health inspector who nabbed Pegu claims that the drink was ordered by a patron who hadn’t seen the menu. The severity of Pegu’s citation has been scaled back considerably, and the bartender on duty insists that no MarTEAnis were served while the inspector was present.
But then there’s this, which makes us think that fancy bartenders could use a little shakedown themselves:
“If they make it illegal to serve egg-white drinks, that would be Hurricane Katrina for us,” said one of several bartenders and club owners who said they had been challenged by inspectors but declined to be quoted on the record, for fear of antagonizing health officials.
Or maybe it was out of fear of sounding totally ridiculous.