The glass is contemporary, but the egg
There is tuna in a tuna noodle casserole. There are strawberries in a strawberry shortcake. There’s ice cream in an ice cream soda.
But there’s no egg in an egg cream—and there’s no cream, either. The ingredients are milk, seltzer and chocolate syrup. In other words, it’s a carbonated chocolate soda made creamy with milk, or carbonated chocolate milk.
Since today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, we’ve been thinking about great Jewish-American food inventions. The egg cream, invented in a Jewish neighborhood in New York, is at the top of the list.
So our tip of the day is: Experience the legend and enjoy an egg cream. We’ve included the regular recipe and our own diet version below.
EGG CREAM HISTORY
Many references say that the egg cream was likely invented in 1890 by a Brooklyn soda fountain and candy store owner, Louis Auster. However, Auster’s store was in actually in the East Village of Manhattan, at the southeast corner of Second Avenue and Seventh Street. In October 2008, the grandson of the founder of Ratner’s, the famous deli restaurant next door, set the record straight with his recollections of Louis Auster’s candy store and the egg creams made with Auster’s own secret chocolate syrup formula.
More exciting than a “two cents plain” (a glass of seltzer, or carbonated water*) and less expensive than a malted milk—not to mention great-tasting—the egg cream was a hit. Carbonated soft drinks were in their infancy. Coca-Cola, a fountain syrup available in Atlanta starting in 1886 and first bottled in 1894, was not a northern soda fountain feature at the time (Coca-Cola history).†
Kids and adults alike loved the egg cream. It was enjoyed at soda fountains, with patrons sitting on stools or in booths, sipping egg creams through a straw. Other soda fountain owners got in on the act, spreading the egg cream throughout New York City. The chocolate syrup of choice became Fox’s U-Bet.‡ And the egg cream was often enjoyed with a pretzel, making the combo a sweet-and-salty snack. Some soda fountains served the egg cream in glasses with silvery metal holders. Others just used a tall glass.
How did they make the famous drink? First, soda jerks pumped the syrup into the glass: two or three pumps, each pump the equivalent of a tablespoon and a half of syrup. The milk followed, and then the seltzer, which produced a foamy white head.
There are different theories on the name of this “eggless” egg cream. Perhaps the best is that the foam on the top looks like beaten egg whites.
We’re old enough to have had egg creams mixed at a soda fountain. After most of the remaining soda fountains and luncheonettes of New York disappeared in the 1970s—replaced by fast food restaurants and delis that did not make drinks—the egg cream faded from view.
Years later, in 1990, Jeff Goltzer, who fondly remembered them, started to produce Jeff’s Egg Cream. You can buy them online in chocolate, diet chocolate, vanilla, diet vanilla and even orange, which is like a Creamsicle soda.
EGG CREAM RECIPE
For immediate gratification, make your own egg cream. In a tall fountain glass, combine:
Note: If you don’t have large fountain glasses, use less milk and seltzer to fit into the glass. Adjust the sweetness to your preference.
For a diet egg cream:
†It was the rise of the well-advertised Coca-Cola and other soft drinks that led to the wane of the egg cream, and the rise of fast food restaurants that led to the demise of the soda fountain itself.
‡In 1894, H. Fox & Company in Brooklyn began to produce chocolate syrup. The name U-bet wasn’t created until the 1930s.