How to Make a Perfect Egg Cream, According to a New York Institution

September 14, 2017

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On Second Avenue, on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, between the dive bars and NYU hangouts and excellent bodegas, there is a here-and-there stretch of old-school Eastern European diners, bakeries, a museum, and other shops.

They’ve earned the nickname of Little Ukraine: Some of the storefronts are kosher (like my favorite hole-in-the-wall and matzo ball soup source, B&H Dairy), a nod to the rich history and culture of Jewish Eastern Europeans; many are excellent; and all are anchored by Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant that’s been slinging soup and pierogi and more right there on Second Ave. since 1954.

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Veselka is known for possibly being the best place in the city for borscht (and borscht at any hour, I might add—they’re open 24 hours). But it is also beloved for its outstanding egg cream, that curious, delicious, eggless, and creamless New York City soda-counter drink that’s like chocolate milk made lighter and fizzier with seltzer water. Simultaneously creamy (hey whole milk!) and fizzy (thanks, soda water).

The drink has as much a legacy in New York—particularly in Eastern European New York neighborhoods—as Veselka itself. Every shop has their way of making it, which is obviously the correct and only way in their eyes. Want to make one for yourself? Stir together equal parts cold milk and chocolate syrup (purists will insist that it be creamy, sweet whole milk and Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup), top with frosty soda water, and whip into a frothy tizzy with a spoon. Watch Tom Brichard, owner of Veselka, make one his way in the video below:

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.