From beans to bar at Little Jack’s

Paul Zoeller/Staff

The menu at Little Jack’s Tavern is unabashedly meaty, but the whiskey sour is vegan.

“About two months ago, I read a piece about how bartenders overseas were using something called aquafaba in cocktails instead of egg white,” explains Brooks Reitz, co-owner of the new upper King Street restaurant.

As all Latin speakers know, aquafaba means “bean water,” or as Reitz puts it, “quite literally the liquid from a can of chickpeas.” The ingredient was christened just last year by vegan food developer Goose Wohlt, who embraced French chef Joel Roessel’s 2014 discovery that canning liquid can be manipulated to foam, bind and thicken. Since then, enthusiastic animal product abstainers have turned the stuff into meringues, fudge and mayonnaise: The Vegan Society last year called aquafaba “the next big thing to sweep across the vegan nation.”

But leftover bean juice also found a fan base in bartenders, especially those who cater to a vegan crowd. A recent Eater story (which inspired Reitz’s interest) quoted a pair of Los Angeles cocktail makers who described aquafaba as “magical.”

“I thought it was crazy, but sent it on to the team to earmark for a test,” Reitz says. “Long story short: It makes an amazing sour without the weird smell or tannic finish of an egg white cocktail. No smell, no taste. A revelation for someone that loves a good sour but can’t stand the thought of a smelly egg white in a drink.”

And if you can’t stand the thought of canning liquid in your cocktail, Little Jack’s is also pouring martinis, Harvey Wallbangers and an array of other classic cocktails made without beans.

Little Jack’s is scheduled to open on Saturday.