by Darcy O'Neil on September 18, 2010
Robert over at Off the Presses has a piece, actually a couple, on the rise of New York Egg Creams, which is more a rebirth than a rise. The interesting part is that the vast majority of people think the Egg Cream was invented in New York around 1920 but that’s probably not the case. And as I type that I realize I take my life in my hands and may forever be banished from New York. However, history is important and legends are often created by individual stories and not necessarily the facts. So here is what I know.
First, the article below is an excerpt from Fix the Pumps. Following that there is a recipe for an “Egg Chocolate” from 1897.
From “Fix the Pumps”
One of the few places you can order an “egg cream”, and not get a perplexed look, is New York. However, this is not the original egg cream found at 19th century soda fountains, even though native New Yorkers may vehemently oppose such as statement.
Prior to the New York version, egg creams were an evolution of the ice cream and egg sodas served at fountains throughout America. The unresolved question of who invented the ice cream soda was a hotly debated topic in the early 20th century, but the cities of Detroit and New Orleans are frequently cited. A similar debate rages about the egg cream.
In the March 8th, 1971 edition of New York magazine, Daniel Bell puts the creation of the egg cream in a candy store a few doors down from the corner of Second Avenue and Eighth Street in Brooklyn. It was supposedly created by his Uncle Hymie in the 1920s and the original recipe did include eggs and cream, just like the milk shakes from the 1880s.
There are others who claim ownership of this fountain creation, but the reality is the New York Egg Cream is a simplified version of the original Chocolate Milk Shake (Standard Manual of Soda by A. Emil Hiss, 1897).
The transition from the original recipe to the “adulterated” product—and the one New Yorkers drink today—made with chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer happened because of competition and economic decline.
If you’ve read Fix the Pumps you’ll know that competition between soda fountains was fierce and price was always a serious consideration. Soda sippers had a psychological barrier at 5¢, so most operators did everything they could to keep their basic drinks at that price point. As economic times grew more difficult, removing the egg, and then switching the cream to milk, was probably quite common. However, it is doubtful that these operators would change the name of the drink, and signage, every time they modified a recipe.
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
Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup
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.
If you are interested in some of the original "egg cream" recipes, pick up a copy of Fix the Pumps.