Egg Creams Make a Comeback

At Throwback Fountain Shops, the Fizzy Retro Delight is Back

By Leah Koenig

Published August 01, 2011, issue of August 12, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

New York is having an egg cream revival — again. That thought occurred to me in July, while parked on a counter stool at Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, in Carroll Gardens, sipping the fizzy drink made from chocolate syrup, frosty milk and seltzer.

Brooklyn Farmacy, which is fittingly housed in an actual former pharmacy, has served up egg creams in five variations — classic vanilla, Fox’s U-Bet chocolate, maple, coffee and the dairy-free Dream Cream made with almond milk and cream soda — since opening last year.

Soda Nice: Egg creams are an original New York treat, fizzy and timeless.
Leah Koenig
Soda Nice: Egg creams are an original New York treat, fizzy and timeless.

And this shop is not the only one. Across the river in Manhattan, the fine dining restaurant Eleven Madison Park recently started offering a high-end egg cream, made tableside and finished somewhat curiously with a drizzle of olive oil. A few years ago, the reopened (and relocated) 2nd Avenue Deli began serving pareve egg creams in shot glasses as a palate cleanser between bites of pastrami. And this summer, articles in both The New York Times and Imbibe magazine reported on the country’s new crop of old-fashioned soda fountains, which are introducing nostalgia-inspired drinks, the egg cream among them, to a new generation.

Nouveau soda fountains and egg creams moonlighting on upscale restaurant menus may sound like the signs of a full-force cultural revival. And the drink I enjoyed at Brooklyn Farmacy was deliciously authentic — creamy and sweet, with a frothy cap and a shimmer of chocolate bubbles racing through the straw. But is all the recent egg cream love really so new or revolutionary? Or, is the egg cream such an alluring elixir, such an enduring icon, that it never really went away?

Admittedly, egg creams are not nearly as ubiquitous as they once were. When soda fountains and delicatessens ruled New York’s culinary landscape a century ago, they were the city’s equivalent of a Frappuccino-frosty — refreshing and everywhere. They were so popular that, as with many beloved local recipes, the competition over who made “the first” or “the best” version was fierce.

One of the most prevalent genesis stories is that a Jewish immigrant named Louis Auster developed egg creams in the 1890s at his candy store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. A few years later, Brooklyn residents Herman and Ida Fox created the eponymous chocolate syrup that would become forever linked with a “proper” egg cream. As for the drink’s name, food historian Gil Marks writes in his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food that it likely came from “the egg-white-like foam that rose to the top” of the glass.

At 5 cents a pop, and just the thing to combat New York’s sticky, hot summers, egg creams reigned in New York for decades, from the Bronx down through Brooklyn. In a 1975 interview in Playboy magazine, Mel Brooks (born Melvin Kaminsky, in Brooklyn) proclaimed that the egg creams he grew up drinking were powerful enough to heal the sick and make you “swoon with ecstasy.” And Lou Reed’s 1996 song “Egg Cream,” gushed, “When I was a young man, no bigger than this / A chocolate egg cream was not to be missed / Some U-Bet’s chocolate syrup, seltzer water mixed with milk / You stir it up into a heady fro, tasted just like silk.” But as time passed and cravings changed, the egg cream began to lose some of its original luster. Compared with an ice cream-filled root beer float or a thick malted milkshake, the egg cream must have seemed rather lackluster. And compared with a bottle — and later, a can — of soda, less portable and convenient.

Still, it is safe to say that, since the first foam-topped glass was plunked down on a fountain counter, there has never been a time in New York when an egg cream wasn’t available for sale in the city somewhere. The homely East Village newsstand Gem Spa, where Jack Kerouac and his fellow beat poets once went to get their egg cream fix in the 1950s, continues to sell them today, as do Russ & Daughters appetizing store, Yonah Schimmel’s Knishes, B&H Dairy Restaurant and several other Jewish mainstays in the East Village. And outside New York City, the Kosher for Passover certification on Fox’s U-Bet’s syrup (which includes a recipe for the New York Egg Cream on its back label) has helped to ensure that the drink lives on, even if only as a tasty chaser for matzo.

Today’s egg cream revival is, I think, not much of a revival at all, but rather the most recent renewal of a long-standing appreciation for New York’s most iconic fountain drink.

Like the spirit of New York itself, the egg cream is timeless. It may ebb and flow, or take on different forms (I have plans to head back to Brooklyn Farmacy soon to try the maple version), but with quiet, fizzy persistence, it continues to stir our collective imagination — leaving us with an empty glass, sticky hands and a full heart.

New York Chocolate Egg Cream

2 heaping tablespoons of Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup
1/4 cup of chilled milk
Seltzer to fill the glass (about 1 cup)

Pour syrup into a tall glass; add milk, but do not stir. Add seltzer until the foam nearly reaches the top of the glass. Using a long spoon, briskly but gently blend in the chocolate. Serve with a straw, if desired.

Leah Koenig writes a monthly column for the Forward on food and culinary trends. Contact her at ingredients@forward.com.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.