Pardon My French?
By Angela Denstad Stigeler
This Father’s Day, take dad back to the days of the soda fountain with a good old fashioned chocolate egg cream. It’s a simple concoction of just three ingredients—but if you guessed chocolate, eggs and cream, you’re wrong! Rather, this fizzy drink is made from chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer water. The trick is all in the mixing, whereby you form a chocolate soda topped with a thick milky foam right in the glass from which you plan to gulp it. And it is proper to slurp this soda down quickly, as the frothy top and fizzy chocolate are as fleeting as the bygone days of the soda fountain and the old New York in which the egg cream was born. Less filling and less expensive than an ice cream drink, the egg cream was one of the most popular refreshers of its day.
After a few attempts at recreating this old time drink, I’ve found that the best way of making a good heady egg cream is to try to recreate the milk of yore: the kind that used to be delivered in glass bottles, where you could see the cream rising to the top. By adding a tablespoon of cream to regular homogenized whole milk and pouring the seltzer right down into the center of the glass you’ll get the best foam. All the proportions in this recipe are a matter of taste. Purists would have you mix the milk and seltzer first, then drop the chocolate down and mix it in under the foam to maintain a pure white creamy top; however, that might be best left to the professionals, as stirring the chocolate in afterwards tends to dissipate whatever foam you were able to create. And if you don’t get as much foam on top as you’d like, you’ll still have a refreshing chocolate soda to drink.
But what of that funny name? Like most aspects of this simple drink, its origin is debatable, which is all part of the fun. The legend I like best is that an actor, just returned to Brooklyn from a trip to Paris, asked his neighborhood soda jerk to recreate a drink he had in France that was called something like “chocolate et crème.” As you wouldn’t pronounce the ‘t’ in the French word ‘et’ (meaning ‘and’), you can imagine where the name might’ve come from. So pardon my French, but anyway you say it, I pronounce the egg cream as one great drink!
Chocolate Egg Cream
3-4 tablespoons chocolate syrup
A scant 1/2 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon cream (optional)
3/4-1 cup seltzer water
Put the chocolate syrup in the bottom of a tall glass. Add the milk and stir to combine. Continue to stir vigorously while pouring seltzer water into the glass, filling to the top. The egg cream should have 1-2 inches of foam on top. Serve immediately.