The Red Eye

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A beer cocktail, the Red Eye has a few different variations, but overall, at its’ core, it is inherently beer and tomato juice.


If you have seen the film Cocktail, with Tom Cruise, you would “know” that a Red Eye comprises of  beer, tomato juice, vodka, and a raw egg.  When dissecting the cocktail, it seems that the appeal of the raw egg, both yolk and albumen, in a drink where it hasn’t been shaken or modified, is rather lacking.  In short, most people would find the texture unappealing.  The recipe given for the Red Eye by the Japanese is much better than the aforementioned monstrosity; furthermore, it is still better than a deconstructed equal proportions variety consisting strictly of tomato juice and beer.  As such, while a lot of people might think of the egg yolk cocktail as being proper, when looking at CocktailDB or other sources that do not originate with Tom Cruise’s film as the originator, such as the Japanese version, I believe that the use of the egg yolk is either a product of the film or a regional variation (read: mistake).

When you look at drinks involving an egg, whether whole or just a part of the egg, usually that of the albumen, you have to realize that these drinks involve processes to modify the egg so that it contributes to the cocktail.  We see as a very simple beverage, the egg nog(g), which as a drink, involves large quantities of raw eggs.  However, you see recipes calling for “beat[ing] them to the consistency of cream” (Wondrich 130).  Or “shake the ingredients until they are thoroughly mixed together” (Ibid 131).  In either case, the drink consists of a creamed (still raw) egg, supplemented with sugar, water, milk, and quite often fortified with wine, brandy, or rum.  We also see eggs being used in other drinks, such as the Silver Fizz, in which the egg is shaken to create a frothy texture, which combines with the effervescence to bring out a really light but creamy and soothing short drink.  Or the most classic drink involving an egg, the Flip, saw the use of eggs as an emulsifier and thickening agent, combining the liquor and syrup into a rather tasty beverage (Wondrich 128).  Eggs are not really drunk in a cocktail int heir unmodified state, as if they came out of the shell: they are at least adjusted or broken apart by the proteases in citrus juices or by mechanical processes such as shaking or churning.  On historical fact alone, I do not see a raw egg going into any properly made drink without some sort of modification, since it seems to be nothing more than a dare itself.

If you were to scour the internet, you can see quite a few instances where the Red Eye / Redeye appears.  The articles almost always talk about how it was made in the film Cocktail starring Tom Cruise.  I guess it makes sense that such a film, less about cocktails and more about flair, should be concerned with creating absurd drinks that break boundaries or challenge the sanity of the imbiber.  When we look at a Japanese version for the very same drink, we can see that it is brought into a balance through not only the use of lemon juice, but also differences in proportion between the tomato juice and beer (Kato 80).  Furthermore, we can see the drink embodying a sort of Japanese ethos on account that Kato calls specifically for a Japanese beer (Ibid).  Even though the drink has some aspects reminiscent towards Japanese novelty or culinary tradition, the beverage was most likely introduced through the West, seeing as how many consider it a variation on teh Bloody Mary.  This is emphasized by the inclusion of lemon juice.

The version given by Tom Cruise calls for a lager.  Now, while the lager version without the egg is decent, I think the Japanese have the right idea concerning this drink.  A lighter style beer is quite good, and while  Japanese beer works decently, I believe that an ale is a better choice.  Since ales, specifically Belgian golden ales, tend to have fruitier flavors, it works well in mediating the flavor of the beer with the slight acidity and sweetness of the tomato (Jackson 66, 128).  Of course, going with something such as a Viennese lager might work well, since they are “on the sweet side” (Ibid 197).  Even accounting for this, to me at least, the flavor profiles of most lagers do not seem to work as well as those of the ale.  In the most common recipe we see the tomato juice being in equal proportions with the beer.  When using an ale, I find that the Japanese proportion of two parts beer to one part tomato juice works exceedingly well, giving the drink the strength of the ales’ complexity while being augmented by the juice.

If you were not aware, an ale is a brew that uses warm fermentation, traditionally with varieties of yeast that float to the top (Ibid 66).  As Jackson notes, warm fermentation brews are more likely “to have a fruity aroma and palate, and often a complex flavor” (Ibid).  These beers are typically fermented between 59-77 degrees Fahrenheit, and are made, depending on the region of the world, specifically for the purpose of being served either warm or chilled (Ibid).  For instance, in the British Isles, we see shorter maturation periods at natural cellar temperatures, which encourages imbibing it at similar temperatures; for other varieties, we see cooler, longer maturation, which causes “those products [to] be more susceptible to being served chilled.” (Ibid 67).  Belgian golden ales are epitomized by Duvel, the “Devil” beer that usually features heavy fruit notes and hoppy complexity (Ibid 128, 129).  As Jackson notes, when cold, it works wonderfully as an aperitif, but when at natural cellar temperatures, it is a digestif (Ibid).  To me, Duvel works exceedingly well in this long drink, especially when chilled but also as it warms up, seeing as how it complements the taste of the tomato juice extremely well, and is not upset by the inclusion of a bit of lemon juice in the mix.

The Red Eye:

2/3 parts beer (ale or lager)
1/3 parts tomato juice (chilled)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon lemon juice (if desired)

Build in a highball glass in the order given, and lightly stir.

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Jackson, Michael. 1993.  Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion.  London: Mitchell Beazley.
Kato, Yuri.  2009.  Japanese Cocktails.  San Francisco: Chronicle Books, LLC.

Wondrich, David. 2007. Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. New York: Penguin Group.