The Anachronistic Chef: Egg Cream

This is one in a series of posts in which I sample recipes from the days of yore (i.e., not the 1990s). The dishes featured were mainstays of 19th-, 18th- and even 17th-century tables, but for one reason or another (unusual taste, archaic ingredients), have fallen out of culinary fashion.

My recent fixation on cold beverages led to me to try my hand at making egg creams, which have fascinated me ever since my paternal grandmother told me they 1) were her favorite drink and 2) contained neither eggs nor cream. According to Grandma, egg creams were once a menu staple of most diners, soda shops and ice cream parlors. These days, however, they mostly seem to appear at self-consciously retro restaurants.

The origin of the egg cream is somewhat disputed, as some attribute its invention to Boris Thomashevsky, a late 19th-century New York actor who based the beverage on a similar French drink called chocolat et crème. Others associate it with Brooklyn candy store own Louis Auster, who allegedly sold egg creams beginning in the early 1900s. The basis for egg cream's misleading moniker is also rather murky, though the most popular theory holds it stems from Auster's use of a chocolate syrup made with eggs.

Lighter than a chocolate milkshake and frothier than chocolate milk, the egg cream is mildly sweet and fizzy, and it makes me want to do the jitterbug. It pairs well cheddar cheeseburgers and shoe-string fries.

The recipe for egg creams is as simple as it was a hundred years ago.

Egg Cream

  • 3-5 tablespoons chocolate syrup
  • ½ cup whole milk (cold)
  • 1 cup seltzer water
  • Spoon chocolate syrup into the bottom of a tall glass.

    Slowly pour chilled milk on top of the syrup. Do not stir.

    Pour seltzer water directly down the center of the glass as to form thick white foam.

    Carefully stir milk and chocolate syrup such that foamy head remains intact. The final concoction should be a dark brown liquid crowned with white foam.

    Tip: Use a long-handled spoon for easy stirring and seltzer from a bottle with a siphon for maximum foam.

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    Joanna O'Leary