The Frothy Pleasure Of Egg Creams

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My grandfather used to own a pharmacy in Brooklyn. In those days, pharmacies sold all manner of things, in addition to medicine. Since he dispensed the medications, he was known as “Doc.” I never knew him as Doc; he was always just the reason I wasn’t with my friends on Sundays.

Doc’s pharmacy—which I understand was frequently held up in later years—also featured counter service, where malteds, shakes and sundaes were whipped up. I love a good chocolate malted, particularly when served in a frosty aluminum container, with just enough extra to give a friend a taste. But a malted is a meal unto itself, and like noshing on too many brie-and-crackers, too much of a good thing can be, well, too much.


Not so for the humble egg cream. Let’s first define the beverage. Back in Doc’s day, the egg cream included a raw egg, but for the past 50 years, egg creams are comprised of whole milk, chocolate syrup (Fox’s U-bet, generally) and seltzer. (Seltzer is not to be confused with club soda. I’m not exactly clear on the difference, but it seems to matter.)

The whole trick is getting the proportions exactly right, having very cold milk, using the right sort of glass, and a long metal spoon to vigorously stir the mixture. When done properly, the beverage has a creamy head, is sweet but not overly so, and is actually refreshing. And most importantly, while satisfying, there’s always room for a second round.

Egg creams are swell in any context: with a tuna sandwich on toasted rye, with a side of fries, or most commonly, with a salty pretzel rod. That wonderful confluence of sweet and savory, while always a risky proposition, is a sure crowd pleaser. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

Here’s a recipe that Doc would approve of:

  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup seltzer (preferably from a glass seltzer bottle)
  • Chocolate syrup to taste

Pour the milk into a glass (only a glass glass), add chocolate syrup. Then shoot seltzer into the glass while stirring briskly. Enjoy the sound of the metal rapping on the glass. Pretend you are Buddy Rich playing with your band on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and it’s your turn for a drum solo. Drink. Thank me for sharing this pleasure.

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