This old-time New York thirst-quencher is sweet and full of fizz. Despite its name, the egg cream contains neither eggs nor cream. In the beginning, it was a soda produced almost exclusively in New York (particularly Brooklyn). The basic ingredients are milk, seltzer, and chocolate syrup. It is traditionally made in a small Coke-style glass.
True New Yorkers insist that it is not a classic egg cream without Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup. It is perfectly proper to gulp down an egg cream. In fact, egg cream will lose its head and become flat if it is not enjoyed immediately.
For many years, the egg cream remained a product sold only through New York soda fountains because bottled versions were impossible to make. The cream, chocolate, and soda had a tendency to separate and to go bad after a couple days at best, and efforts to pasteurize or preserve the product ruined the taste. Today, Egg Cream drinks are being bottled by a few small companies.
Egg creams became so popular that author, Elliot Willensky, wrote in his book titled When Brooklyn Was the World: 1920-1957, “a candy store minus an egg cream, in Brooklyn at least, was as difficult to conceive of as the Earth without gravity.”
History of New York Egg Cream:
1880s – One version or legend says that it began in 1880s on the Lower East Side of New York with the teenage Yiddish theatre star, Boris Thomashevsky (1868-1939), who brought the first Yiddish play to New York from London and was also a founding member and pioneer of the Yiddish theater in America. After tasting a similar drink called “chocolate et creme” in Paris, France, he asked to have one made in New York.
1900s – According to most historians, the Egg Cream was allegedly created in the early 1900s by a Jewish candy shop owner, Louis Auster, who came to America and opened a candy store in Brooklyn, New York. It is reported that 3,000 Egg Creams a day were sold until the day the store closed.
Personal remembrances of Lionel Levy, grandson of Harry Harmatz who was the founder of Ratner’s Dairy Restaurant in Brooklyn New York. Lionel shares his memories of the famous New York Egg Cream in the 1950s:
Louis Auster rented his store on the corner of 7th street and 2nd avenue in New York, from my grandfather, Harry Harmatz, the founder and owner of Ratner’s Dairy Restaurant. The Harmatz family owned the corner building where Auster rented his store. This block was also the site of the Yiddish Second Avenue Village Theater which later became the Fillmore East Auditorium. Yiddish theater was thriving and just a little bit uptown was where Carrol Burnett had her 1972 hit show Once Upon a Mattress, in the off-Broadway Phoenix Theatre before moving to Broadway.
The Auster store was a corner location with two entrance doors, one on 2nd Avenue and another on the side of 7th Street. The front counter opened on to 2nd Avenue for walk up service where gum, cigarettes, pretzels, etc. were sold. There was a black and white marble-topped counter with stools located on the left side of the store. Halfway down the store, a group of telephone booths were on the left and right sides. In the back of the store, there was a room with tables for sitting down and hanging out. I knew little about what was going on inside the back room of Austers except it was out of bounds to me. The local bookmakers found this place much to their liking.
Louis Auster’s son, Mendy Auster, worked the counter and made the egg cream mixture in the basement when it was needed. There were two other Auster brothers, one of them was a shady character who was involved in a murder. Mendy’s girlfriend was named Kate. Across the street was a Bar called Foxe’s Corner and it was a hangout for those connected guys. You never asked what they were doing. It was a very colorful location. Louis Auster ran the place until he died 1955, and then it was turned over to his son Mendy.
When I was in my early teens, I worked in Ratner’s Bake shop which was the next store and would barter Danish pastry for egg creams with Katey. Life was easy going and the drunks from 3rd avenue or Bowery would wander in once in a while and we would ask them to leave, and not bother our regular customers. The smell of baked good and rye bread baking could drive you crazy. I was one of the grandchildren of Harry Harmatz and was treated like royalty. I have so many good memories of 2nd Avenue, but all my memories are through the eyes of a child. Remember it was 7 cents for an egg cream and 10 cents for a lime rickey. Pretzels were a penny a piece.
I do not remember if there was a sign on the front of the store, but it was always Austers Egg Cream and the neighbors all would go to Austers for a drink. NYU bought up the property on most of the block and are probably going to build on the site some time in the future.
When I was there as a youth, I tasted the original egg cream, and the taste still lingers in my memory. I do not know who invented this drink, and I am not stating that Louis Auster invented the egg cream. What I do state was that he did in fact hide his formula and never allowed anyone to watch him mix his formula. In later years, Mendy Auster used to lock himself in and boil the mixture up and put it up in glass gallon containers.
The drink was memorable, and had a true chocolate base which was not overly sweet, but rather mellow. I do know that every cab driver in New York City would take out of towners, who requested a taste of New York, to Austers. Most of the east-siders would visit this site because he made the best tasting drink in the city.
Sitting down and writing these pages have brought so many flashbacks to the booming 2nd Avenue of my youth. I used to buy and egg cream for 12 cents and would pay twenty dollars for that same drink today.
Lionel Levy, West Palm Beach, Florida
October 23, 2008
1974 – The last batch of the secret syrup recipe was made by Louis’s son, Mendy Auster, and Louis’s grandson, Stanley Auster, around 1974.
According to legend, Louis Auster was approached by a national ice cream chain, and they offered to buy the rights to the Egg Cream for a fairly small sum. When Louis Auster turned them down, one of the executives called him by a racial slur, and Auster vowed to take the Egg Cream formula to his grave. He died without revealing his original recipe and the origin of the name, and to this day his family has keep the secret. As the Auster family were Jewish, as were most of his customers at the time the Egg Cream was invented, it is possible the Egg Cream is actually a Yiddish name or phrase that has been Americanized.
1900’s – In the early 1900s, Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup was created. According to the cookbook called The Brooklyn Cookbook, by Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy Jr., “You absolutely cannot make an egg cream without Fox’s U-Bet.” The cookbook refers to Fox’s grandson, David, for the story of the syrup’s name:
“The name ‘U-Bet’ dates from the late-’20s, when Fox’s grandfather got wildcatting fever and headed to Texas to drill for oil. ‘You bet’ was a friendly term the oilmen used. His oil venture a failure, he returned to the old firm, changing Fox’s Chocolate Syrup to Fox’s U-Bet. He said, ‘I came back broke but with a good name for the syrup,’ his grandson relates.
This New York Cream Rrecipe was shared with me by Bonni Lee Brown, who lives in Bradenton, Florida. Bonni writes, "My Dad made egg creams all the time at his old-fashioned drug store and luncheonette, called Joe Fordham Pharmacy, that was at Kings Highway and East 5th Street in Brooklyn. Egg creams were traditionally made in a small Coca-Coca glass. Two cents plain was both the cost and the name of a plain glass of seltzer. When Dad heard that my mother had given birth to me, around 11:00 a.m., he proudly offered free egg creams to everyone to celebrate!" - Bonni Lee Brown (2008).
- Approximately 1/2 cup whole milk, cold*
- 1 cup bottled seltzer
- 2 tablespoons chocolate syrup
Pour 1/2 inch of cold milk into a tall soda glass.
Add seltzer or club soda to within 1 inch of the top of the glass; stir vigorously with a long spoon (this will cause it to become white and bubbly with a good head of foam).
Very gently pour 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup slowly down the inside of the glass; briskly stir with a long spoon only at the bottom of the glass where the chocolate sits. The resulting drink should have a dark brown bottom and a 1-inch high pure white foam top (if you mix it too much, the foam disappears).
NOTE: Drink Immediately! Do not let the prepared Egg Cream sit for a long period of time (5 minutes or more) as it will go flat.
* Skim or 1% milk will not foam as well.
Comments from Readers:
I would like to give a possible explanation on the Egg-Cream debate on how it got it’s name. – Seth A. Balustein (3/26/11)
1880s – One version or legend says that it began in 1880s on the Lower East Side of New York with the teenage Yiddish-theatre star Boris Thomashevsky (1868-1939), who brought the first Yiddish play to New York from London and was also a founding member and pioneer of the Yiddish theater in America. After tasting a similar drink called chocolate “et creme” in Paris, France, he asked to have one made in New York.
I am a punster and great with words. I also am a foreign language speaker/nut (French, Japanese, German, Chinese, etc.). I read your reference above from your online article about Egg Cream’s History. My understanding about Americans and their ears for foreign languages – they are pretty bad: Peking = Beijing; Bombay = Mumbai; etc.
WELL – I see “Et Cre = Egg Cream”. They heard “Et” in French and did not know what it meant and maybe they heard “Egg.” They also heard “cream,” which is the same sounding in French and English. A French-speaking person would drop the “t” sound and the “A” sound is both in Et and Egg. And the Et + Cre = the E (with silent t) of the Et and C of the cre causes there to be a bit of a hard end to the “A” sound which sounds kind of like a “g” sound. Therefore – E g Cream = Egg Cream.
As a Bklynite who’s had his fair share of Egg Creams, I enjoyed reading your article. The most logical answer as to how it got its name: when made properly, it has a foamy froth on top that resembles beaten egg whites or the foam from a cappuccino. I also have no idea why you gave that reader the time of day, as his theory made very little sense. In the process, he also bashed Americans, claiming that we’re unable to discern Peking from Beijing! LOL! – Darrin (12/2/14)
33 Responses to “New York Egg Cream Recipe and History”
I adore eggcreams and learned to make a pretty good one ???? growing up in Brooklyn we drank them on a regular basis, sooo delicious!
I agree with everyone—it’s all true. The candy store across from my grandparent’s building (on New Lots Ave, 1/2 block from the EL) made the best egg cream–it, too, had a room in the back and phone booths on the walls. Sometimes the owner, would call out to residents across the street if they didn’t have a phone, if someone was on the “line” for them. I also remember the wooden crate filled with seltzer bottles in the hallways
Don’t forget the big soft pretzel!
I loved Egg Creams, my cousin and I guzzled them often, at our corner candy store, Barentt’s on Audubon Ave and 186th St. in NYC. Delicious! In this recipe I wonder if it is as good with club soda as bottled seltzer? I have to try it again!
Hello Barbara, I lived on Atkins, a few block away from the Last stop of the El down New Lots.
“Burls” candy store made the very best Egg creams, want to fight?
I grew up in bensonhurst in the 60’s and remember fondly getting egg creams on 86th street at a candy store next to Hy Tulip deli. Also… I think Hy Tulip made them too.
I miss those days.
Ricardo de Soto
Born in Cuba, grew up in Puerto Rico, landed in Manhattan at 21 years old. My introduction to the fabulous egg cream what’s a 19 75. My buddy Jesse Reece turned me onto it at St Mark’s news… Being hooked ever since. If any of my friends or family goes to New York I asked them to bring me some U-bet
I am 80 years old – when I was 12, I worked in a jewish luncheonette. A jewish person would come in and with a jewish accent ask for a “a cream”. This sounded like an Egg Cream, so that’s how the wrong name was created.
The cheap-o, lazy version of this is Laverne’s milk and Pepsi.
I grew up in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn and got my egg creams at Sam’s Candy Store at 61st Street and 4th Avenue. My mother said that during the depression, mothers would send their kids to the candy store with the white of an egg to put in a soda for protein and hence the name egg cream.
Has any one mixed egg whites with seltzer and chocolate ?
When ordering at tge Gem Spa be sure to tell them that you will stay in the store to drink it aif .he will make it for you in a Coca Cola glass- It will taste alot better than in a paper cup. And it will feel more auhentic.
We are heading to NYC in December, I’ll have to remember your advice! – Nancy
Lee An Coolen
I’m from Staten Island NY. Around the corner at the end of our block back in the 50’s was an ice cream store my dad would take us to get egg creams. They were amazing!!!
Note to Vinny Montello of Bensonhurst — No, Hy Tulip would never have made egg creams because they were a strictly kosher restaurant and no dairy was served there.
John H Curry
Gem Spa! I started going to concerts at the old 2nd Ave. theater (my dad told me about some of its history) in ’67 There, then, I was introduced to Gem Spa egg creams. Several places in my Queens neighborhood made them, but… HA! And most definitely paper cups won’t do.
To Rich LaVangie of Bay Ridge- I grew up on 57th and 4th ave in the 70’s and there was a candy store on 59th I believe where I used to get my Egg Creams and Charleston Chews. I went to PS160 on 60th and 4th ave
Harriet AUSTER Quaytman
Grandpa Louis Auster had at least 2 stores before he opened on 2nd Ave. My dad Julius, his son, had our store on 3rd St. and Ave. D in Manhattan. These were the original stores which served the BEST and ORIGINAL EGG CREAMS. At 9 years old I served the delicious drinks to customers on the lower East Side. None of the other named places served the original and not UBet drinks. WhenI got into a taxi on Broadway and said going to 3rd St. and Ave. D the driver would ask “Going for an egg cream?” Sorry, don’t know Lionel Levy, (write me Lionel (I’m 86, like you?)
P>S> Since our 3rd St. store was thrown down to build a project, my dad Julius brother of Mendy and son of Louis worked with Mendy for years until his death in 1952 serving and MAKING the egg cream. With the terrible things going on politically these days, I sure could use a pick-up EGG CREAM to sweeten my days.
Born in the heart of Brooklyn. Herman”s on Vanderbuilt served great Egg Creams along with a liverwurst sandwich…Another place on Washington Ave, served them as well, and probably the best in the neighborhood. If I could only remember the name.
Does anyone remember Blossom Brand chocolate syrup being used to make egg creams in New York candy stores
I am, 92 years old, born and raised on the Lower East Side Everyone of my age knows absolutely that the egg cream was a creation of AUSTERS CANDY STORE on HOUSTON ST and AVENUE B. Any other story is false. I drank plenty of them
The best egg creams I ever had were on 18th Ave between 69th and 70th ST in Bensonhurst, in Meyers a German luncheonette with a great soda fountain. Here in Atlanta, I saw it on a menu a few years ago for $6. I couldn’t believe it, and of course I did not get one. Like you could ever get a great egg cream here!
Cassandra L Ross
My grandparent’s owned the candy store on the corner of the Pheonix Theater back in the 1950’s. They made Egg Cream’s as well and served most of the theater’s actors and patrons. They used the original UBet syrup as well and taught me how to make it. I do recall going to Gemspa to get egg cream’s when I got older but sadly the store has closed down probably due to Covid.
Cassandra L Ross
I forgot to mention that most recipes online do not tell you how to make the egg cream correctly so I will. Add syrup first (the amount used is up to you most use about 2 tablespoons worth but I always liked mine sweeter and would put in about 1/2 inch worth if not more at the bottom), then add the milk (some prefer to use half and half for a richer flavor) less than halfway up the glass (when combined with the syrup), finally using the back of a long spoon lowered down to the top of the milk slowly pour the seltzer in over the back of the spoon (if u do not pour it in slowly over the spoon it will foam up way too fast) and leave about an inch before the top. Now use the spoon and mix to create the foam.
I’m ashamed to say that we made egg cremes at home using diet chocolate soda and milk because we didn’t have u-bets. Why ? We were fat an always on a diet. But I did on occasion get an egg creme at a luncheonette. Lime Rickeys at a small luncheonette on Church ave between Flatbush and E21 :). Sadly my last egg creme was a faux one at The 2nd Avenue deli which is not even on 2nd ave 🙂
Lots of stories about who’s grandfather invented the egg cream. Mine, Nathan Goldfeder, who owned Goldfeder’s at 8th St (St. Mark’s Place) and 2nd Ave from the ‘20s till the late ‘50s (which became GEM Spa) was one of those “inventors”. The whole family worked there including my father, Simon, uncle Irving, Aunt Belle, and my brother, Arthur. The sign said “Goldfeder’s Famous Egg Cream” while Auster’s at 7th and 2nd said “Auster’s Original Egg Cream”.
My family never used Fox’s U-Bet. My father made the syrup in the basement in a big vat.
Peter Miller’s short documentary “Egg Cream” uses a nice photo of Goldfeder’s.
To this day I still concoct my own Egg Creams, the way I remember they were made when I was a young guy! What made the Egg Cream happen was the seltzer that was on tap made with a compression tank below the counter or in the basement. Most unflavored soda is club soda not seltzer that has more carbonation. That’s what makes the Egg Cream. You gotta use real deal seltzer. Back in the day there were soda distributors that would deliver sealed bottles of seltzer with spikets attached so you were able to recreate the Egg Cream at home. Thank the Universe for creating Soda Stream so we can recreate real deal seltzer and great Egg Creams. The way I remember the Egg Cream being made was 3 or 4 pumps of chocolate syrup about a inch high in a 12oz Coke glass. Now pour in cold milk to where the half way mark is on the glass. Now with spoon in one hand and the other hand on the seltzer spikets you vigorously stir the chocolate and milk up into the bubbleing seltzer into a nice creamy head. Egg Creams are to live for. I’m going to go make one now!!!
Went to Ryan junior HS (216) in Queens circa 1964
Arlene Fox was in my class ( the only kid in the school who had a limo pick her up )
We always thought she was the little girl on the UBet jar
All the posts are from Brooklyn folk. I grew up in the Bronx 1950s-60s and we had some pretty fair candy stores and ice cream parlors that made great egg creams. Moe’s (where the sports guys hung out) and Kitty’s (where the guys and girls into music hung out) come to mind on 183rd Street and Beaumont Ave. across from P.S. 32
Come on everyone, we all know egg creams are all about good old Brooklyn! Replicated elsewhere but Brooklyn rocked it over the rest!! Can you tell where I was born and raised? Lol
Growing up in the 1960s in Staten Island, we used to go to Eggers for egg creams. They were great!
Joy - to Carmine
Can’t believe you came from Atkins Ave..Grew up there….went to PS202, Hegeman Ave….We made our own egg creams at home, same contents, same taste, no extra funds for candy store….wonderful memories of the old neighborhood, pre 1950, Try explaining the contents to travelers from Europe. I did,when I was a vendor at a NYC flea market. They thought I was crazy, no egg, no cream…..