Egg Creams, You Say!

The Egg Cream is an item of fact and fancy in Brooklyn‘s proud and questionable history. Controversial in its origins and awe-inspiring in its appeal, this was the elixir of choice for all the lesser gods and goddesses of Brooklyn’s less than green and pleasant land. From far and wide, high and low, both young and old would partake of the Egg Cream’s revitalizing enchantment; an exhilaration that was such to make all laugh and sing in gleeful merriment under its magic spell. What, you may ask, could this Egg Cream be? What could bring such wonder and joy to people, even to madcap if jaded New Yorkers…except for, perhaps, a bottle of Jack Daniels?

Here, my dear readers (still wondering if this post could get any worse), are the ingredients for our fun-filled brew: seltzer water, chocolate syrup and milk.

Yes, that’s the magical Egg Cream which doesn’t contain any eggs nor any cream. Its name derives from the frothy head that builds from the sugar-sweetened fizz. The drink has to be downed quickly as not to lose the head and it’s an exclusive soda fountain concoction. Efforts to bottle it have always met with failure, due to the mixture of milk, seltzer water and chocolate syrup spoiling with prolonged contact with each other.

A Jewish candy store owner in Brooklyn by the name of Louis Auster is commonly believed to have invented the Egg Cream in 1890. It’s said that he sold 3,000 Egg Creams a day until he closed. After an argument with ice cream executives (they called him by a racial slur) who wanted to buy his formula for an insultingly small sum, he vowed to take the secret of his Egg Cream to his grave. To the present day, his family has not revealed the formula and neighborhood soda fountains are now few and far between.

The recipe used for decades to create one’s own egg creamy masterpiece,  in lieu of Mr. Auster’s masterful if secretive recipe, is as follows: Pour 1/2 inch cold milk into tall soda glass. Mix seltzer within 1-inch of top of glass, stirring vigorously. Slowly pour 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup down inside of glass, stirring briskly only at bottom. The drink should be dark brown with a 1-inch high pure white foam at the top.

A properly made Egg Cream was one of the joys of a summer day. There were many candy store owners (or soda jerks) who would bring instant delight to us anxious kids with a dark brown/white-foamed gem of an Egg Cream, and just as many who would bring disappointment with a “flat tire”…it was all in the mix and fizz.

While I’m somewhat famous among my friends for my great coffee brews and clever martinis (stirred not shaken), I always try to recreate at least one good Egg Cream from days gone by. As with childhood, they’re simple; but, as with childhood, impossible to recapture with the same freshness.

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4 comments on “Egg Creams, You Say!

  1. Brook says:

    So…if you’re a musician first…in what way? Sing, play an instrument…both?

    I didn’t actually put my nose *in* the corn mash. The tour guide told us to lean over the vat to get a whiff of fermenting process (I assume). Said whiff was *quite strong* with alcohol aroma…but not yet the wonderful aroma one gets from the finished bottle of Jack Daniels. I don’t mind the dancing on walls or ceilings with Barleycorn, but I usually hit the floor, which then spins. Then major headaches, so I now teetotal. (so boring!)

    Yes, right before I read your piece about Egg Cream, I “Googled” and got the basic facts. But reading about Egg Cream from a real person is more personal…and more fun. We can get the facts from a machine, but only a person can give us the truth.

    • GrayFoxDown says:

      Well, Brook, I’ll try to continue giving you the truth; a fuzzy version of it, at least.

      A singer? No way! I couldn’t carry a tune in a U-Haul!!! Piano and guitar are my instruments. I began taking lessons (for piano, that is) when I was 8, later studying at the Manhattan School of Music. I also studied Literature at NYU. But then I found myself married to my first wife…and that’s a whole other story.

  2. Brook says:

    Yay! Now I know what an Egg Cream is. Your writing is delightful! I’m glad to learn the Egg Cream does not have eggs…I like cooked eggs, but I imagine at one time people put raw eggs in said Egg Cream. I *must* try this. We have chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer water in the South:) Incidentally, I no longer drink Jack Daniels because I love it too much. But, they make the stuff near my city in Tennessee. On a tour of the distillery years ago, I put my nose so close to the vat of corn mash that it almost knocked me back. The tour guide warned us. Anyway,thanks for the recipe and the fun of reading about Egg Cream!

    • GrayFoxDown says:

      Thanks for the compliment regarding my writing; a possible chance development: I write my memoirs with every breath I take. But I’m a musician first; a writer second…if at all.

      Putting your nose in a vat of corn mash!!! I suspect that you were going for a REALLY big swig of the old John Barleycorn. LOL! You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen me dancing on the wall and ceiling (sometimes the floor) on New Year’s Eve……er, but that’s another story.

      Naturally, if you wanted to find out the ins and outs of egg creams, you could have Googled searched it; a load of assorted info and recipes are scattered all around…you didn’t need me. The post was actually the first I had written at my former blog, The Electric Egg Cream, in way of an introduction and as an excuse for some of my habitual levity. Nevertheless, it’s great to have you out there. See you again soon. Ciao!

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