Last updated on May 18th, 2020
Why is it called an egg cream when it contains neither of the ingredients in its name?
But it’s funny you ask this right now, because egg creams are having themselves a mini-moment.
Grub Street recently published a list of egg cream-related specials and carts(!) popping up throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.
And the latest issue of Edible Manhattan delves into the New York delis and restaurants who uphold the tradition of this city-born beverage.
What you’ll learn from reading the Edible Manhattan piece, as well as any of the multiple histories published on the drink, is that there is no single consensus on the birth of the egg cream.
We know it is a New York creation, developed by one of the Jewish delis of the East Village or Lower East Side in the years between the First and Second World Wars. (There’s an entire essay on the topic by Jillian Gould in the book Jews of Brooklyn.)
There are competing families who vie for the title of Egg Cream Inventor, insisting that the creation was perfected behind their grandfather’s soda fountain.
However, like cream rising to the top, there are a few theories on the origin of the name that appear time and again in all written histories of the beverage. Family Feud-style, here are the top three:
How Did the Egg Cream Get Its Name? Maybe…
- It’s a mispronounciation of the French phrase chocolat et crème, which means chocolate and cream. Chocolate egg cream—get it? Say it a few times fast with that French way of catching the “r” in the back of your throat when you say “crème.”
- It’s a derivation of the Yiddish word echt, or “real,” as in “real cream.” Which is also not in the drink, but at this point, are you even surprised that there’s confusion?
- It actually did contain beaten egg whites at one point, but imitators started subbing in the cheaper seltzer and milk combo to replicate the airy foam.
About that foam—creating the head of foam on top of an egg cream is a technique prized and closely guarded by the egg cream masters of old, and there’s much debate over what order to add the ingredients to get the most luxurious foam.
Syrup first? Syrup last? I prefer syrup first (see the recipe below), but to make a chocolate egg cream, all the purists agree on Fox’s U-bet Chocolate-Flavored Syrup.
The product proudly hails from Brooklyn, and is prized (much like the elusive Mexican Coke) for using real sugar in its Kosher, Passover-friendly version.
Although Fox’s isn’t shy about sharing its egg cream recipe on the back of every syrup bottle, it’s a bit misleading, because it asks you to fill your glass with syrup and milk by the inch. How does Fox’s know the volume of the glass you’ll be using to make your egg cream?
I prefer more precise measurements, so after consuming many, many egg creams in the name of research, I’ve come up with a perfect ratio.
The recipe below uses a 1:2:4 ratio that gives ample chocolate flavor without sacrificing fizziness nor erring on the side of either too watery or too thick.
And while you can use a liquid measuring cup, it’s even easier to use a kitchen scale to make your egg cream. Just place your glass on the scale and add the ingredients, using the “zero” function in between each one.
- 1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces) Fox's U-bet Syrup
- 1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces) whole milk
- 1 cup (8 fluid ounces) plain seltzer
- Pour the syrup into a pint glass or tall juice glass, then stir in the milk until the syrup is fully dissolved.
- Pour the seltzer into the glass, watching a full head of foam rise, much like the creamy bubbles that form when you pour root beer over ice cream for a float.
- Drink immediately.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 282Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 117mgCarbohydrates: 64gFiber: 0gSugar: 35gProtein: 4g
The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.