Of all the old-timey drinks I’ve come across, the egg cream conjures up the most delightful notions—most of which are incorrect. For example, an egg cream contains neither egg nor cream. It’s just three ingredients: milk, chocolate flavored syrup, and seltzer. These easy-to-find ingredients create a drink that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
An egg cream may look like a milkshake, but the creaminess of the milk is less pronounced and diluted by the seltzer—it has a unique, fizzy, and light chocolate flavor.
Why is it Called Egg Cream?
No easy answer here. Some historians argue that “egg” in egg cream comes from the Yiddish word echt, which means genuine. Others claim it’s a variation of a drink that did use eggs and cream— both popular cocktail ingredients in the 19th century. No one really knows.
History shows a vast and exciting trove of non-alcoholic concoctions, most come from local soda fountains. The egg cream hails from Brooklyn, although its exact origins are fuzzy, so we’ll never quite have the full story. But like many a storied drink, egg cream makers will tell you it’s the details—the quality of chocolate syrup and the mixing technique—that make their version superior.
Not An Italian Soda
Don’t get an egg cream confused with an Italian soda! An Italian soda is a generic term for the combination of seltzer or club soda, a sweetener, and flavoring over ice, with an optional tablespoon of cream or milk.
The Best Chocolate Syrup for Egg Creams
Traditionalists will tell you the best egg creams are made with Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Flavored Syrup. (Note: It’s a syrup, not a chocolate sauce, which is thicker and more chocolatey.) It’s been the brand of choice since the drink became popular and made it onto menus around Brooklyn.
Fox’s U-Bet can prove challenging to find. For me, it required an Amazon order, as none of my local grocery stores carried it. Try Hershey’s chocolate syrup, which is widely available in the U.S. I found that Hershey’s has a richer chocolate flavor. I’d be hard-pressed to pass on either.
Use Whole Milk
While there is no cream in this drink, use whole milk, not skim, 2%, or a non-dairy alternative. Whole milk pairs well with the aggressive bubbles in the seltzer. Anything less fatty will give you a watered-down drink.
It’s All About the Bubbles and the Technique
To make a traditional egg cream, use plain seltzer. You can get it from a can or a soda siphon if you’ve got one! Do not use club soda or sparkling mineral water. Both contain artificially or naturally occurring minerals that will alter the taste of the beverage.
If you’re shooting water straight out of a siphon into the glass, you’ll get lots of bubbles and a foamy top without much work.
When using canned seltzer, here's a trick to get more foam: Pour it over the back of a spoon and then stir it vigorously. This will help create that iconic foamy top. And whatever you do, do not let it sit around—drink it immediately! The foam, a key part of the drinking experience, will disappear.
Serve Egg Cream in a Tall Glass
Use a tall glass, like a Collins glass, that holds at least 12 ounces. There’ll be plenty of room for your drink, plus the foamy top. You will be able to stir it without spilling it everywhere—it’s okay if the foam tips over the side of the glass a little!
More Milky Drinks to Try
Classic Egg Cream
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup seltzer
Combine the milk and chocolate syrup:
In a tall glass, like a 12-ounce Collins glass, add the milk and chocolate syrup. Stir until the chocolate syrup is fully dissolved. A classic egg cream does not have a strong chocolate flavor, like chocolate milk or a chocolate milkshake. If you want more chocolate, add more!
Pour in the seltzer and serve:
Open a fresh can of seltzer—you want it to be super bubbly—and pour it into the glass over the back of a large spoon. Stir the drink vigorously until a foamy head forms on top. You can also use seltzer from a siphon. Enjoy immediately!
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