Sunday, January 29, 2012

Egg Cream Origins

An egg cream is a beverage consisting of chocolate syrup, milk, and soda water, probably dating from the late 19th century, and is especially associated with Brooklyn, home of its alleged inventor, candy store owner Louis Auster. It contains neither eggs, cream, nor ice cream.
The egg cream is almost exclusively a fountain drink. Although there have been several attempts to bottle it, none has been wholly successful, as its fresh taste and characteristic head require mixing of the ingredients just before drinking.
Charlie Hall takes an order for Egg Creams
1951 Egg Cream

 The origin of the name "egg cream" is constantly debated. One theory was said that they used grade "A" milk calling it a chocolate A cream thus sounding like 'egg' cream. Stanley Auster, the grandson of the beverage's alleged inventor, has been quoted as saying that the origins of the name are lost in time.

Author of the book Fix the Pumps,[2] historical look at soda fountains, Darcy S. O'Neil claims that the "New York Egg Cream" is a variation of the original milkshake served at soda fountains throughout America in the late 19th century.[3]

Around 1885 the milkshake became a popular item at soda fountains. Unlike today's thick, ice cream like consistency, the original milkshakes were made with sweet cream (sometimes frozen as "ice cream"), a whole egg, flavored syrup and soda water. The egg, cream and syrup were shaken in a cocktail shaker until light and frothy, then poured into a glass where the soda water was added.
The Egg Cream was most likely a version created to keep the price low, as most soda fountain items were sold for 5 cents. As eggs and cream became more expensive they would be removed (eggs) or replaced (cream) with milk leading to what we now know as a New York Egg Cream.

The Brooklyn Egg Cream consisted of chocolate syrup while the New York Egg Cream used vanilla syrup. The vanilla egg cream was offered for 5 cents in the 1950s and 1960s at classic Manhattan candy and newspaper shops in Yorkville and East Harlem.

Egg Cream ingredients

In June 1980, Stuart Grunther and Ron Roth owned a siphon seltzer distributing company in NYC called Seltzer Unlimited. They were responsible for creating the world's largest chocolate egg cream in Central Park, NY. It was 110 gallons in size and the contents were given away. Major media coverage included the AP wire services. The event was sponsored by Fox's U-Bet syrup and the NYC Parks Department.[10][11][12]

and to complicate things even more...

The True Origins of the Egg Cream

2nd Ave & St Marks Pl, NY, NY 10003
Illustration by Milton Glaser
Not so. I happen to know that the egg cream was invented 40 years ago by my Uncle Hymie. It did have egg and it did have cream. And when I was ten years old, I worked behind his soda counter serving egg creams.
Uncle Hymie had a candy store on Second Avenue and Eighth Street, on the northeast side of the avenue, not on the corner but a few doors, directly opposite the old Stuyvesant Polyclinic and the Ottendorfer Library.
Second Avenue then was the great promenade area of the Jews of the Lower East Side, akin to the Champs Elyses of the Second Empire. In the affluent effulgence of the 1920s it had become the great entertainment and restaurant area from the embourgeoisement of the Jewish middle class. The old anarchist and socialist tea houses of Rivington Street had vanished with the disappearance of the radical movement. The immigrant Jews had come out of the lower depths of Attorney and Sheriff Streets to enjoy the bustle and gaiety of the newly widened Second Avenue as it ran from the foot of Houston Street to the small parks at 15th Street.
Second Avenue then had four Jewish theatres: a roof garden theater on the building on Houston Street which breasted Second Avenue; two theatres at Third and Fourth Streets for musicals; and the great new Yiddish Art Theater, uptown at 12th Street across the way from the Cafe Royale, the combined Deux Magots and Flore of the New York Jewish theatrical world and literary intelligentsia. It was the generation after Tomashevsky and Jacob Adler. At the Yiddish Art Theater the great Maurice Schwartz would play Yoshe Kalb or Sholem Asch's God of Vengeance. But farther down there was less serious fare: for those seeking the nostalgia of the shtetl there was Aaron Lebedeff singing "Rumania"; across the street Molly Picon would be acting the gamine and mugging her small little face as she sang wry songs; for the lachrymose and lugubrious there was the tragedienne Jennie Goldstein wringing her heart and wracking her sob-filled voice as she repeated the travails of the innocent immigrant girl seduced by the villainies of the cruel and heartless New York sweatshop world. (Oh, how my mother would sigh over the play in which Jennie Goldstein had her illegitimate child taken from her and confronted a dilemma, twenty years later, when she discovered her daughter just as she was on the verge of marrying the young doctor: Should she reveal herself or not? I leave it do the reader to decide what happened.)
On Saturday night and Sunday matinees (Saturday afternoon was still the Jewish Sabbath) Second Avenue was thronged with people coming to the theaters and dining out in the meat restaurants (featuring "Rumanian broilings") or the dairy restaurants (Second Avenue then was called "the great bite way") and stopping off afterwards at the candy stores to have a chocolate soda the way a London theatergoer would have an "angel on horseback" as a savoury. One need only look at a French Impressionist painting to capture the spirit of the promenade and spectacle of Second Avenue in the 1920s.
For Uncle Hymie Second Avenue was, as he used to say to me, the creme de la creme. He felt proud to be able to open a candy store on Second Avenue, even if it was only wide enough for one aisle and a counter, and he wanted to be worthy of that achievement. Like many Jewish immigrants who had never found their metier, Uncle Hymie was a frustrated man. His wife, my mother's sister, vaguely wanted her children to read books. But Uncle Hymie was uninterested in learning. He was not very religious, and he was dour towards people. He was an artist manquŽ and felt frustrated by the candy store. Yet having worked himself up to Second Avenue from Avenue C, he now wanted to do something distinctive.
Like most candy store owners, his chief item was the chocolate soda, made of one part syrup and two parts seltzer. Unlike most candy store owners, Uncle Hymie disdained the commercial syrup, which could be bought in one-gallon bottlesÑit was too thin, he complained. He preferred to make his own in fresh batches on the little stove in the back of the store. While the syrup was boiling, Uncle Hymie would sip a chocolate ice cream soda with chocolate ice cream, his favorite combination. But as he became engrossed in making the syrup, the chocolate ice cream would melt in the small heated room, and he would soon be sipping a creamy chocolate soda that was so rich he would have to dilute it with more seltzer. And suddenly was born the idea of a chocolate cream soda made with syrup and melted chocolate ice cream. With great enthusiasm he dreamed of sweeping Second Avenue with his concoction. He had a sign made heralding the Chocolate Cream Soda. But there was an unforeseen difficulty. When the melted ice cream was mixed with the syrup in large batches, it would not distribute evenly through the syrup but would settle to the bottom. As Lord Kenneth Clark said of Civilisation, quoting Yeats: Things Fall Apart/The Center Cannot Hold. Uncle Hymie tried to whip the batches together in his malted machine, but after a while the cream would again begin to settle.»
Then came the stroke of inspiration. One of the esoteric items Uncle Hymie dispensed across the counter was an egg malted. What unknown genius had created it is a story for other chroniclers to tell, bit the logic of it was clear. For many years the medical sage for all Jewish mothers was a certain Dr. Dubovsky who conducted a health advice column in the Jewish Daily Forward. For growing boys Dr. Dubovsky had one prescription: raw eggs. (For middle-aged Jewish mothers who wanted to stay healthy, it was Greek salad.) But how do you get a Jewish boy to suck raw eggs? That was where the unknown genius came in: drop the raw egg into a sweetened malted. It was a brilliant case of political accommodation between the warring generations. (As one of the Odets characters used to say: Some women have children; I have enemies!) The Jewish boys got the malteds they wanted; the mothers got the satisfaction of seeing the raw eggs consumed. The egg malted was in great demand on the Lower East Side.
In making egg malteds Uncle Hymie had noticed, of course, that eggs thickened the malteds. Why not the same with the chocolate cream? He tried it. And thus the egg cream was born. The chocolate cream soda sign went down, and in its place rose the new one: Hymie's Egg Cream syrup and cream held together by real eggs, plus seltzer. It was an instant success. From all over the East Side people flocked to drink Uncle Hymie's egg cream. And, inevitably, competition arose. On Seventh Street and Second Avenue Pop Auster opened a store and advertised Auster's Egg Cream. But something more diabolical happened. Diagonally across the street, on the southwest corner of Eighth Street and Second Avenue, where now stands a successor store that has become the turf of all the East Side hippies, a competitor opened a candy store. His name, too, was Hymie (or so he claimed), and he set up a sign which said: Hymie's Egg Cream. Uncle Hymie went into a rage. Unable to patent his concoction, he put up a new sign: "The Original Egg Cream."
On the East Side the meaning of such a sign was clear. It was a claim that fraud was being perpetrated. It amounted to throwing down a gauntlet. Many years before there had been a famous restaurant on Second Avenue called MoscowitzÕ. People came from all over to eat the mushk steak and to hear Moscowitz play mournful songs on the cimbalon. Subsequently Moscowitz sold the restaurant, and the new owner kept the name on the marquee. But then Moscowitz opened another restaurant and called it the True Moscowitz. Whereupon the owners of the old restaurant put up a sign saying "The Original Moscowitz." (For years the battle raged, and in high dudgeon Moscowitz would go up and down the avenue saying, "How can they call themselves the Original Moscowitz when I am Moscowitz?")
In this fashion Uncle Hymie sought to protect his claim. And for a short while he did. Word spread up and down the avenue that my Uncle Hymie's was the original and true egg cream.
But then came disaster: the Depression. And with it a price war, and then defeat. For years the chocolate soda on Second Avenue had been 5 cents. But since Uncle Hymie had added some expensive ingredients, the egg cream commanded 6 cents. With sales falling off everywhere, the false Hymie cut his egg cream price to 5 cents. Reluctantly, my Uncle Hymie followed suit. But then the final, low blow. To his horror, Uncle Hymie found that his competitor (who was never referred to by name but only as the parech*) had adulterated the product. The false Hymie had found that he could dispense with the egg and the cream and, by putting in some milk and reversing the spigot of the seltzer machine, concentrate the pressure in a narrow, powerful carbonated stream so as to fizz up the liquid into a frothy drink which, to the unwary and the innocent, tasted something like the original egg cream.
Uncle Hymie, as a matter of pride, refused to follow suit. He really couldn't compete at 5 cents anyway, and he would not adulterate his artistic creation. He took down his sign and stopped selling egg creams; only chocolate and plain sodas. On Second Avenue, the creme went out of the creme de la creme.
NOTE: This article is reproduced from an issue of New York Magazine from the early 1970's.

not confused yet?....

Logical answers are the least entertaining, but attrition can account for the egg cream version New Yorkers love today.
Here's the basic recipe for the Egg Cream:

New York Egg Cream
Whole Milk
Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup
Soda Water

The Egg Chocolate or the Chocolate Milk Shake from the late 1800s was a very popular drink at the soda fountain, starting from the mid-1880s. Traditionally, all “milk-shakes” were made with a whole egg and heavy cream or ice cream. The egg and sweet cream came out when the price wars ramped up, especially after the US government directly taxed soda fountain beverages in 1919 as part of the measures to recoup the costs of the Great War.

Egg Chocolate Shake (1897)
2 oz Chocolate Syrup
1 Whole Egg
1 Spoonful Cream
2 oz Cracked Ice
Soda Water to Fill

Instruction: Shake the egg, cream, syrup and ice until frothy. Add to a glass and fill with soda water. If desired the cream can be added as a float at the end.

With modern tastes, and waistlines, what they are it’s probably a good thing that the Egg Cream has lightened up. We could almost consider the New York Egg Cream the diet version of the original.

No cell phones, just you and her.

Since it's the New Year, why not try one with your Brunch this morning?

There was also a special surprise for Jerry on this opening night, October 15, 1987. Bill Graham’s crew handed out plastic Top Hats to everyone in the audience and we were instructed to stand up before the Encore and tip our hats to Jerry in a spoof of the poster for these shows of Jerry in a Cape and levitating a guitar from a Top Hat. I still have that Top Hat by the way. These shows (15!) were also marked by Egg Creams, a favorite of Jerry’s, being served in the lobby.

In an interview with Barry Smolin:
DK: When we'd get to the venue, like if we had an eight o'clock show, we'd get there at four, we'd eat, and then we'd have three hours of joking around, which was always the greatest, the best part, because you knew you were going to go out and play and that it was us against the world. There'd be special nights when Bill Graham would be there, and it would be the most entertaining three hours of your life, to watch Bill Graham and Jerry Garcia go after each other.
BS: What kinds of stuff would they do?
DK: They'd talk about old times. They would get in fights over how to make an egg cream. Jerry would bust Bill's chops and say God, I can hear him now, that nasal voice, "You know, Bill there's no egg in an egg cream. What's up with that?"(1)

"Sometimes, on a break, he'd have three egg creams. And you know what just one egg cream can do to you." (Clifford "Tiff' Garcia, Jerry's brother)

Jerry enjoyed Egg Creams alot while in NYC.

  1. ^ John F. Mariani (1999), Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, Lebhar-Friedman:New York
  2. ^ Fix the Pumps
  3. ^ New York Egg Creams - An evolution of the original milkshake.
  4. ^ Elliot G Storke, Domestic and rural affairs.: The family, farm and gardens, and the domestic animals, Auburn, N. Y.,: The Auburn publishing company, 1859; page 102
  5. ^ Thomas R. Allinson, The Allinson Vegetarian Cookery Book, 1915
  6. ^ Florence Daniel, The Healthy Life Cook Book, 1915
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ NY Post June 6, 1980 Page 35
  11. ^ Village Voice Centerfold Week June 4–10, 1980
  12. ^ The SoHo News June 11, 1980 Page 5
  13. ^ Smolin, Barry, Dupree's Diamond News, issue #36


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  2. brooklyn style egg cream

    1. add milk
    2. add seltzer
    3. add u-bet chocolate syrup
    4. stir gently

    egg cream will have white top and chocolate bottom


    bronx style

    1. add u-bet chocolate syrup
    2. add milk
    3. add seltzer
    4. stir gently

    egg cream be chocolate throughout


    i don't know if they are truly 'bronx' and 'brooklyn', as i got my egg creams on canal street or on st. marks. but, depending on the order of the ingredients, you do get different results.


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