An Egg Cream is a soda-fountain drink that does not contain any egg in it, nor any cream.
Egg Creams have a dry taste, and are not sweet.
Egg Creams are made in New York, and pretty much no where else in the world but New York. There are reports of one or two delis in Berkeley, California, or Chicago, that make them, but they are the exceptions that prove the rule.
The success of making one depends on the right preparation method. It should have a sludgy bottom. Purists will check the colour layering in the drink to see that it has been done “properly.”
In restaurants and delis, they are made in a soda fountain glass. A small amount of chocolate syrup (1 to 2 oz / 30 to 60 ml) is put in the bottom of the glass. A small amount of milk is put in it, and stirred to mix. Then you jet carbonated water from a fountain tap or a home seltzer bottle into the glass, You stir at the same time (if possible) to develop a very foam head, but you jet the stream of carbonated water in along the side of the glass, in order not to go overboard with the foam. You need the pressure to make a jet to get the foam; pouring carbonated water in from a bottle won’t have the same effect or give the same taste.
People from Brooklyn swear the brand of chocolate syrup has to be “Fox’s U-Bet.” Purists even say that the carbonated water has to be made with Brooklyn tap water.
Some places also make vanilla Egg Creams or Mocha Egg Creams.
Method using carbonated water from a can or bottle.
Make sure the carbonated water, can or bottle, is cold. Don’t use club soda.
Fill a tall glass 1/3 full of milk. Fill the glass the rest of the way almost to the top with the carbonated water, and stir vigorously to make a form. Then while stirring more gently, so as not to dissipate the foam, pour the chocolate syrup in a stream. The drink should come out medium-brown. Some people like to aim for up to 4 distinct shades, by putting the chocolate in first, then the carbonated water, then the milk last.
You can actually at home use milk or cream, but the original Egg Creams were just made with milk.
In explaining the name “Egg Cream”, some sources say the syrup is what originally had the egg in it. Others say the drink used to have egg white added to it to make it more frothy. But the foam never even looked like whipped egg whites.
Some say the drink was inspired by Italian cream sodas. People in Brooklyn would just ask for “a cream”, with the “a” being pronounced as “ay”. This got corrupted into “Egg.” Discount, though, stories relating the name to “Echt Krem”, “Boston Egg Cream”, or Yiddish actor Boris Thomashefsky’s visit to Paris where he drank a “chocolat et creme.”
There is in fact no evidence that there ever was eggs in it. Any evidence provided appears to be fabricated in reverse to justify the name.
The best evidence seems to point to Egg Creams being first made in 1890 or sometime shortly by a man named Louis Aster who owned set up his first candy shop in Brooklyn, New York in that year. Auster’s first store was at Stanton and Avenue D in Brooklyn. Some soda fountain places sold “creamed egg drinks” that had in them egg, ice cream, syrup and milk, and sometimes selzer water, but these were expensive, costing 15 to 25 cents. Egg Creams sold for only 5 cents, as they only had a small amount of milk in them, and no eggs, which made them popular in poorer neighbourhoods. An Egg Cream looked as thick as a drink made with ice cream, and tasted as rich as one made with egg, and people were poor, so while calling it an Egg Cream was a bit of an inside joke, nobody minded, as the price was right. In other words, it was just a marketing name — just as Spumoni ice cream is nothing actually like the Italian dessert, and the Swiss cheese made in North America has no correlation to anything actually made in Switzerland.
Over the next 20 years, as Auster expanded to give candy shops, all selling his Egg Creams, the drink became very popular and there were often line-ups for it.
Auster’s grandchilden, who knew the actual Auster recipe for Egg Creams, said that there never were any eggs or creams in it.
Auster made his own chocolate syrup at the back of his store, using cocoa and sugar. Reputedly, the recipe went to the family, who has kept it secret, and the last time they mixed a batch of the syrup up was around 1974.
Others started making Egg Creams as well. The chocolate syrup they originally bought wasn’t just Fox’s; they’d buy it from several makers or in the case of Auster, make by himself.
A recipe for an “Egg Cream Syrup” appeared in “The Standard Manual of Soda and Other Beverages. A Treatise Especially Adapted to the Requirements of Druggist and Confectioners.” (A. Emil Hiss, Ph.G. Chicago : G.P. Englehard & Company, 1897.) The recipe called for 4 oz cream, 12 oz simple syrup, 1 or 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and 4 egg yolks. You then used the syrup as the basis for a drink by putting some syrup in a glass, spritzing carbonated waer in, and sprinkling some ground nutmeg on top of the foam to serve.
A similarly named syrup had also appeared a year earlier in W.A. Bonham’s Modern Guide for Soda Dispensers (1896.)
Literature & Lore
“When I was a young man – no bigger than this
A chocolate egg cream was not to be missed
Some U Bet’s chocolate syrup, seltzer water mixed with milk
Stir it up into a heady fro – tasted just like silk.”
— Lou Reed, 1996.