Monday, January 09, 2006


Actually, the only thing mysterious about an Egg Cream is its name: it contains neither egg nor cream. And as far as being exotic is concerned, it is only exotic to those who have never walked the streets of Brooklyn.

Hmmm. I guess that would make it exotic. To most residents of these parts, anyway.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I were visiting our friend Gravel-Voiced Larry and his wife Ina in the hospital yesterday. Larry, a retired Miami cop, is still dealing with the aftereffects of a heart attack that struck him about the same time Hurricane Katrina laid waste to N’Awlins. And, as with N’Awlins, the recovery has been slow, difficult, and painful.

As we all sat together and talked about this ’n’ that, the topic of Egg Creams came up.

The Egg Cream is the quintessential Soda Fountain Drink from Olde New York. Simply put, it’s a chocolate soda. But, as with so many things in life, the devil is in the details.

Egg Creams hearken back to the days when seltzer water was sold in heavy glass siphon bottles. Two-Cents Plain, it was called in the soda fountains, because that’s how much you paid for a glass. If you wanted flavoring, you paid extra. Prepackaged soft drinks were not an option, as you might gather.

Today, the Two-Cents Plain is a distant memory. If you want a bottle of Carbonated Water, you may end up with some fancy-pants imported Fizzy Stuff: Perrier, San Pellegrino, et alia. And it ain’t cheap. Two-Bucks Plain, is more like it.

But I digress.

To make a Classic New York Egg Cream, squirt about an inch of Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup into an 8-ounce straight-sided glass tumbler. You may substitute other brands of chocolate syrup only at the peril of your immortal soul.

Next, pour in an inch of cold milk.

Now, dump in ice-cold seltzer water to fill. The Classic Technique involves using an old-fashioned soda siphon (think Clarabelle the Clown and that damned seltzer bottle), squirting the seltzer into the glass onto an inverted spoon. This directs the seltzer to the edges of the glass and ensures the optimum Foam-to-Liquid Ratio. If you do it right, the drink will have a big, frothy head.

Stir and serve immediately.

There is no beverage that better summons those old, warm memories of growing up in New York...even for me, just a suburban kid. It was almost like a Secret Handshake. You couldn’t bottle it; you couldn’t fake it. Simple perfection, it was. And still is.

I’m sure this post will elicit plenty of comments from those of my Esteemed Readers who have their own Egg Cream Memories. If your technique is a little different, share it with us!

Update: With a tip o’ th’ Elisson fedora to Velociman his ownself, who mentioned Lou Reed’s salute to the Egg Cream - the lead-off song on Set The Twilight Reeling - in the comments, I now present for your delectation the following:

Egg Cream

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
You scream, I steam, we all want egg cream
You scream, I steam, we all want egg cream
Now you can go to Junior’s, Dave’s on Canal Street
and I think there’s Ken’s in Boston
there must be something in L.A.
But Becky’s on Kings Highway, was the egg cream of choice
and if you don’t believe me, go ask any of the boys
You scream, I steam, we all want egg cream
You scream, I steam, we all want egg cream
The only good thing I have to say about P.S. 92
was the egg cream served at Becky’s, it was a fearsome brew
For 50 cents you got a shot, choco bubbles up your nose
that made it easier to deal with knife fights
and kids pissing in the street
You scream, I steam, we all want egg cream
You scream, I steam, we all want egg cream
So the next time you’re in Brooklyn, please say hello for me
at Totonno’s for Pizza and ice cream at Al and Shirley’s
But mostly you go to Becky’s, sit in a booth and say hello
and have two chocolate egg cream, one to stay and one to go
You scream, I steam, we all want egg cream, ah
You scream, I steam, we all want egg cream
You scream, I steam, we all want egg cream

[Lyrics copyright (c) 1996 Lou Reed]

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