Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Classic Brooklyn Egg Cream

For this evening's post, I decided to prepare Brooklyn's signature drink.  The Brooklyn Egg Cream is probably one of the most memorable and distinctive foods to come out of Brooklyn's historic Jewish community.  It is quite simple to make, so I decided that tonight I would share the recipe for the Brooklyn Egg Cream, as well as discuss the history of this Brooklyn classic drink.

The Brooklyn Egg Cream does not, contrary to popular opinion, contain any raw eggs, and in fact does not contain any eggs at all.  The egg cream is, according to my research, exclusively a fountain drink - it is not possible to successfully bottle a Brooklyn Egg Cream.

There is actually considerable debate on the origins of the term "Egg Cream" to describe this drink, which is a mixture of seltzer, milk and Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup (and you bet that you better use U-Bet syrup, or its not a real Brooklyn Egg Cream).  Some say that the origins of the drink are not known, while others say that it has its origins in the fact that many fountain drinks at the time the Egg Cream was invented (in the 1880s) actually did use eggs.  Another explanation is that the original version did use eggs and cream, but that eggs were dropped because of a shortage due to wartime food rationing.

Picture shows the U-bet syrups used to make egg creams, alongside a tradition Brooklyn Egg Cream and a New York Egg Cream, or Vanilla Egg Cream

My favorite explanation for the origins of the term "Egg Cream" is this popular explanation:  The Yiddish word "echt" means good cream and thus the term Egg Cream is based on the Yiddish word Echt, which sounds quite a bit like the term Egg.  Wikipedia presents a more complete view of the legend of the Brooklyn Egg Cream, as do other websites.  The legend of how the egg cream got its start here in Brooklyn is one of Yiddish folklore - the Egg Cream was invented by Eastern European Jews in Brooklyn in the 1880s (specifically Boris Thomashevsky), a founding member of one of the first Yiddish theaters in America, who, as the legend has it, had tasted a similar drink called a chocolate et creme in Paris.

Regardless of the origins of the term "egg cream" it is generally accepted that a Jewish candy shop owner named Louis Auster coined the term "egg cream" when he introduced the drink at his Brooklyn store.

To prepare a Traditional Brooklyn Egg Cream:

2/3 cup of milk
1 1/2 cup of seltzer
2 T U-Bet Chocolate Syrup

If you are not using seltzer under high pressure with a siphon or nozzle, and are just pouring it out of the bottle like I did, follow these steps - add the milk first (1 part); add either 2 or 3 parts seltzer depending on what you prefer (I did two parts seltzer) and mix in 2 T of the syrup.  You ideally want the egg cream to have a nice head, which takes a bit of practice, and can better be achieved by spraying the seltzer from a pressurized container.  Mine tasted amazing, but visually should have a bit more head.  That might be easier accomplished if I had used the 3:1 ratio of seltzer to milk rather than the 2:1 ratio.

The amount of the measurements do not matter at all.  What matters is the ration - for a creamier egg cream, do a 2:1 ratio of seltzer to milk, for a less creamy egg cream, do a 3:1 ratio.

Don't let Manhattan tell you the egg cream is theirs, because it's not.  Manhattan has its own variation though called the New York Egg Cream, which uses Vanilla U-Bet Syrup rather than Chocolate.

The Brooklyn Egg Cream is a classic Brooklyn drink that takes us back to the legendary days of the Coney Island Boardwalk.  This is a drink that is deeply rooted in Brooklyn's rich cultural and culinary history.


  1. This might be my favorite post ever! Great photo and WONDERFUL history. GO Brooklyn!

  2. Easy to prepare and delicious! This drink is a winner. Well-done synopsis on the history of the drink.


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