Lou Reed–who is best known as the vocalist, guitarist and songwriter for The Velvet Underground–has another love besides rock music: the frothy beverage known as egg cream. In his song of the same name, the “Walk on the Wild Side” singer wrote this about his Brooklyn upbringing in the 1950s:
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
No Eggs, No Cream?
The chocolate egg cream of Reed's youth boasts several rivaling–and often contradictory–creation stories, all of which take place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The most popular version claims Louis Auster, a Jewish immigrant who owned a candy store in New York's Lower East Side, as the egg cream's inventor. According to legend, the Yiddish actor Boris Thomashefsky compared Auster's refreshing drink to the “chocolat et creme” he drank on a trip to Paris. While Auster's recipe contained neither cream nor eggs, “et creme” sounded enough like “egg cream” that the name stuck.
While the exact original recipe is unknown, most devotees agree that the basic egg cream combines seltzer water (not the barely-bubbled stuff that comes in plastic bottles, but real seltzer from a soda fountain or a pressurized cylinder dispenser) with a splash of milk and Fox's U-Bet chocolate syrup. Created by Herman Fox in the 1890s, Fox's U-Bet uses cocoa and cane sugar instead of corn syrup and artificial flavorings, and has remained the egg cream's closest syrup companion for more than 100 years.
Throughout the early 20th century–both in the Lower East Side and also in Brooklyn and the Bronx, as Jews climbed their way out of the tenement–egg cream reigned as New York City's iconic “Jewish drink.” That said, there is nothing inherently Jewish about an egg cream, except that it was created and consumed by Jews.
- 2 Tablespoons cold whole milk
- about 1 cup cold seltzer (ideally from a seltzer dispenser)
- 2 generous Tablespoons Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Syrup
Pour the milk into a 12-oz glass.
Spritz with seltzer almost to the top.
Add the syrup, wait a moment for it to fall to the bottom, and then stir with a long spoon. If you get at least an inch of foam, you did it right.
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