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?
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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