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A well-made chocolate egg cream is hard to find. The beverage, which famously contains neither eggs nor cream, was once ubiquitous throughout Brooklyn and the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Yet today, it often appears on menus as a relic of the past or a novelty, and if you order it, odds are you will be disappointed with the taste. Not many people know how to make it well anymore.
When made correctly, a chocolate egg cream is the perfect balance of sweetness, richness, and effervescence. It must be made with whole milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer in just the right proportions. Too much chocolate results in a drink that's cloyingly sweet. Too much seltzer and the drink will taste diluted, a bubbly embodiment of disappointment. But the perfect chocolate egg cream is a frothy, refreshing treat. Just don’t ask why it’s called an egg cream, because nobody really knows for sure.
The only foolproof way to have a delicious chocolate egg cream is to make it yourself—here's how:
Begin by choosing the correct glass. It should hold approximately 12 ounces of liquid, be tall enough to showcase the beautiful chocolate foam you are about to create, and wide enough to allow you to properly mix the drink with a spoon.
The Milk and the Chocolate Syrup
Once you have selected your glass, you add the milk. However tall your glass is, you want to fill it a little less than a quarter of the way with milk. Next, add about an inch of chocolate syrup. If you are making this drink with a friend or family member, add an extra little squirt of chocolate to your drink while giving them a hard stare, so they know that you mean business and your egg cream will be the best and chocolatiest.
Quick side note: It is acceptable to add the chocolate to the glass first, followed by the milk. I personally like to add the milk first. My father, a Brooklynite born and raised, added the chocolate first. Either way is fine. Just don’t mix the milk and chocolate together yet. That would be a mistake.
Okay, here is the most controversial thing I’ve ever written: You do not have to use Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup. I know, I know, Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup was invented in Brooklyn in 1895 and it is iconic. It is definitely the chocolate syrup most associated with the classic egg cream and it is sacrilegious for me to be telling people not to use Fox’s U-bet. But the original Fox’s U-bet was made with sugar, and the current version is made with corn syrup. So if you really want an original-tasting egg cream, find a chocolate syrup that is made with real sugar instead of corn syrup (which wasn't invented until the late 1950s).
The Seltzer and the Very Aggressive Stirring
When you have your milk and chocolate syrup ready in the glass, select a long spoon to stir with and an unopened bottle of seltzer. It is of the utmost importance that the seltzer is unopened. It needs to be as fresh and bubbly as possible to make an excellent egg cream. In fact, when I make this drink, I open a new bottle of seltzer and then immediately start pouring the seltzer into my glass.
Pour the freshly opened seltzer in an aggressive way: The seltzer should come crashing down into the glass, like a disruptive force. Stop pouring the seltzer as the liquid approaches the top of the glass. Some foam may rise up and spill over the top of the glass at this point, but that is normal. Ignore the spillage and start stirring the drink right away. I move the spoon in a quick up-and-down motion, rather than a swirling, spinning stir. Chopping up and down with the spoon will help develop a nice head of foam on the drink, which is essential.
When the chocolate syrup has been thoroughly mixed, take a look at your foam. If it is white, you want to turn it brown and chocolaty by taking some liquid from the bottom of the egg cream glass and folding it over the top of the foam. Do this until the foam looks nice and chocolaty. This is called “turnover” and it is a vital step. If someone ever tries to give you a chocolate egg cream with a white foam on top, you should send it back.
Enjoy your egg cream right away after it is made. Don’t let it sit for any length of time, or it will lose some of its foam, as well as some of its intangible vitality, power, and beauty.
Okay, okay—how do you make an egg cream? Share your secrets for success in the comments.