Now that egg creams have come to South Beach, you may be wondering: What exactly is it? The short answer is that it's a beverage made from milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer water. But that's also a deceptive answer: If you try mixing the three any old way, you will get fizzy chocolate milk, not an egg cream.
Here's the long answer: Louis Auster, a Jewish immigrant who came to New York in the 1890s, created the drink and sold it in his candy store at Stanton and Cannon streets in lower Manhattan -- and later at his second shop at Third Street and Avenue D. According to his grandson Stanley, Louis was "fooling around, and he started mixing water and cocoa and sugar and so on, and somehow or other, eureka, he hit on something which seemed to be just perfect for him." It proved to be appealing to lots of other people as well: Louis would sell up to 3,000 egg creams a day.
The name is a misnomer: There is no egg or cream involved, although the white foam atop the beverage looks like whipped cream. Louis would never divulge his original formula for the secret syrup, and it has never been publicly revealed (he made the syrup in a room with the windows blacked out). It was rumored back in the day that Schrafft's ice-cream company had offered him twenty grand for the recipe and was turned down.
When Auster passed away in 1955, the candy store closed and the formula was passed to his family. The final batch of that syrup was made by Stanley and his uncle in the 1970s. Other candy stores and soda fountains forged ahead with the egg cream without the recipe, instead relying on Fox's U-bet Chocolate Flavor Syrup. This syrup was created in 1904 by Herman Fox (he wouldn't name it U-bet until the 1930s), and is widely viewed as the only proper product to use for an authentic egg cream.
This beverage is beloved by an older generation of New Yorkers and expatriate New Yorkers, but has never translated beyond that specific demographic. If the fan base doesn't expand, soon the egg cream will be a beverage beloved by a dead generation of New Yorkers -- which won't help sales much.
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SHOW ME HOW
Here's the recipe, so you can make it at home. It might take a few tries before you can perfect the head. Remember: The future of the egg cream depends on you.
Brooklyn-Style Egg Cream
- Take a tall, chilled, straight-sided, 8-ounce glass
- Spoon one-inch of U-bet Chocolate syrup into glass (about one-and-a-half ounces)
- Add one-inch whole milk (about one-and-a-half ounces)
- Stir the milk and syrup to blend, then tilt the glass and deflect a fast jet of seltzer (from a pressurized cylinder only) off a spoon in order to create a foamy white head