The egg cream has an unusual name, especially since it does not contain cream or eggs. It is a drink, invented by Louis Auster in the 19th century. Auster owned a candy shop in Brooklyn, which featured a soda shop. Along with serving traditional sodas, Auster concocted the egg cream, a blend of seltzer water, chocolate syrup, and milk.
In taste an egg cream is somewhat similar to an ice cream soda. Some have called it the poor man’s soda, because it usually costs just a little bit more than a regular soda. The top of the drink is very foamy and appears like an ice cream soda without the traditional scoop of ice cream. Some people compare the foamy top of the drink to whipped egg whites, implying the foam on top suggested the name.
Actually, debate exists about how a drink that contains no eggs or cream got named “egg cream.” Several explanations emerge, like the one offered by Louis Auster’s grandson. The word "egg" in the name may be a corruption of the Yiddish word echt, which means real or true. The egg cream thus becomes “genuine cream.”
From Auster’s Brooklyn candy shop, news of this delightful drink spread. It’s now quite common to find egg creams in New York restaurants and particularly Jewish delicatessens. Most major cities will have a few soda shops or delis that offer an egg cream, but if you live far from New York, you may have trouble finding the drink. A couple attempts have been made to bottle the egg cream, but they’ve mostly failed, since the foamy top of the drink is hard to replicate in a bottle. Also, a brown top is often considered an egg cream disaster, and preparing the drink in a bottle without overmixing the ingredients is difficult.
For egg cream lovers far away from their favorite drink, this actually poses little problem. The egg cream is easily made at home, though recipes and preferences differ. Most people suggest that the only acceptable chocolate syrup for an egg cream is Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate flavor syrup.
Some chocolate syrups are made using Kosher standards, which make them permissible during Passover for practicing Jews observing strict dietary laws. The egg cream is a popular Passover drink, but in order for the drink to be acceptable during Passover, the syrup must be made with sugar and not corn syrup. U-Bet is one of the only chocolate syrups on the market that makes a Passover approved, Kosher syrup, though the Manischewitz brand may be easier to find on the west coast.
Though many recipe versions exist, most insist on using seltzer water over soda water, since seltzer does not contain salt. Recipes also advise avoiding mineral water brands like Perrier. A simple recipe uses 12-inch (30.48 cm) frosted glasses. In the bottom of the glass pour about one inch (2.54 cm) of chocolate syrup and add another inch of whole milk. Add about six to eight ounces (.17-.23liters) of seltzer, until a head forms to the top of the glass. You can lightly stir the bottom, although some enjoy drinking through the layers of the egg cream.