It isn’t made with eggs or cream. It has a complex taste – sort of like what’s left over in the bottom of your glass after you eat the ice cream out of an ice cream soda. You can’t find bottled egg creams – although companies have tried – because the ingredients separate, the fizz disappears, and the taste just isn’t the same.
A recent article got me thinking about egg creams. I’ve made hundreds of them. My parents owned an old-fashioned soda fountain in Flushing, Queens (NY) – the kind with a long counter with revolving stools. We sold lots of fizzy drinks: thousands of egg creams, ice cream sodas, cokes and cherry cokes (vanilla cokes, too), and for those with upset stomachs, old fashioned bromo seltzers that you poured from glass to glass to really get a fizz going.
Historically, fizzy water (essential to an egg cream), was considered medicinal. The first commercial carbonators were found in pharmacies and pharmacists added mineral salts to water to mimic those found in naturally carbonated water. To make the fizzy stuff more tasty and profitable they started flavoring it with sweet syrups (and in some cases — a long time ago — some not so benign stuff like cocaine and alcohol).
What Happened To Soda Fountain Drinks?
There is some speculation that the bottle cap was the death knell for soda fountain drinks. When fizzy soda in a bottle could be conveniently bought at the gas station, soda mixed at the fountain lost some of its appeal, although, in my experience, people would come for conversation and camaraderie along with the soda.
Lately there’s been a resurgence of soda fountain drinks – many made with home-made syrups, fizzy water, herbs, and organic milk when the drink calls for it.
So, What’s An Egg Cream?
An egg cream is sweet and fizzy and initially was made almost exclusively in New York City. Most people think chocolate is the only flavor— a lot of New Yorkers insist on iconic Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup — but they can be made with vanilla or strawberry syrup, too.
Interestingly, some egg cream purists insist on using only Kosher For Passover Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup and not the regular Fox’s U-Bet, made in Brooklyn year round. The reason? Regular U-Bet is made with sugar and/or corn syrup but the original Fox’s U-Bet, made only with refined sugar, is only produced during Passover.
Most of the “new” makers of egg creams – as well as “old-timers” — agree that only cold seltzer made from a carbonator with taps — not from the push button soda gun you see behind bars or from bottles of club soda — gives the popping and lively bubbles that make the best drinks. Our fountain had big gas tanks to provide the seltzer water – which inevitably needed changing (by my father) during a very busy lunch hour!
We always used the iconic coke glass for our egg creams and that’s what I remember an egg cream being served in when I ordered it in other places, too. An egg cream needs to be drunk quickly – gulping is okay – because it’ll lose its fizzy head if it sits too long.
Ingredients for a home made egg cream:
- Cold whole milk (low fat or skim won’t foam well)
- Cold seltzer: a soda siphon with a cartridge that carbonates water is great – otherwise, use very cold seltzer
- Chocolate (or vanilla or strawberry) syrup
- Take a tall, chilled, straight-sided, 8oz. glass
- Spoon 1 inch of U-bet Chocolate syrup into glass
- Add 1 inch whole milk
- Tilt the glass and spray seltzer (from a pressurized cylinder only) off a spoon, to make a big chocolate head