Tony the Tour Guy's Blog

A not very regular series of posts on New York City history, historic preservation, genealogy and related themes.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why do they call it an "Egg Cream?"

It isn't made with eggs, or cream. This famous soda fountain concoction was a favorite for many of us, and is currently enjoying a comeback in many restaurants and diners. A mixture of milk, syrup and seltzer water, just how it got its name is one of those things nobody seems to know for sure. But recently a friend gave me a copy of the 1983 edition of NYC ACCESS, which attempts to explain the drink's origins.
According to NYCA, the original egg cream was produced in Manhattan. The syrup which was used was made with eggs, and cream was used to give it a richer taste. Later milk and regular syrup were employed, but the name was kept. However, recently I discussed the matter with a Bronx native who recalls getting a drink with the same name that had egg whites added to make it more frothy. If any of you wish to share your own experiences with this beverage, please feel free.

The egg and cream issues aside, most locals agree that traditional New York egg creams were made by placing a small amount of chocolate or vanilla syrup at the bottom of a tall glass. To this was added a few ounces of very cold milk. Just like a properly-poured pint of Guinness, there was a certain art in the preparation of a good egg cream. A good "soda jerk," as fountain counter servers were frequently called, would first inject a brief spurt of seltzer straight down into the syrup in order to cause it to mix with the milk. They would then fill it to the top by directing the stream against the side of the glass, to avoid creating too much foam.
As soda fountains and ice cream parlors disappeared, true egg creams became harder and harder to find. Some of us tried making our own, but unless you could get real seltzer water delivered to your home, the results were usually rather lame. I am happy to report, however, that more and more restaurants around town are again offering the real thing. At one place I visited the waitress actually brought the siphon bottle to our table.


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