New Bedford Should Embrace New York Egg Creams
Let me tell you about one of my favorite drinks: the New York-style egg cream.
First off, don’t get grossed out. The cold beverage involves neither eggs nor cream – at least, not officially.
It’s made from three simple ingredients that you probably have already on hand: milk, flavored syrup, and seltzer.
There was a version served around the SouthCoast back in the day known as an "egg fizz," while others have reported calling it an "egg freeze" (although it was never frozen).
So why is it called an egg cream? Well, there’s lots of speculation on that but no firm answers. Some believe that in its earliest incarnations, it was actually made with eggs instead of milk, but that the eggs were eventually phased out and replaced with milk in order to keep the drink affordable.
A few who push the “made with eggs” theory suggest it was also made with real cream in those days.
Others think it may be a pronunciation flub that led to its more common name. According to one theory, Yiddish speakers in New York who ordered the drink said the Yiddish word echt (meaning true, genuine or real), so they were asking for the “real cream” drink but it sounded instead like “egg cream.”
Another pronunciation theory is that a person asked for a French drink called a chocolat et crème, and it sounded like “chocolate egg cream.”
The etymology of the name isn’t the only thing in question about an egg cream. There’s also the question of whether it should be made with whole milk (it doesn’t work well with the more watery 2% or 1% milk, and don’t even try it with skim milk) or half and half. I personally prefer the whole milk.
Another variable is just what order you mix the three ingredients in, because that determines what type of egg cream it is. A “Brooklyn style” involves adding the milk, then the seltzer, then the syrup. A “Bronx style” means milk, then syrup mixed with the milk, then the seltzer.
No matter what order you add the ingredients, the end result should have a foamy head that takes up the top portion of the glass.
The brand of syrup also makes a difference. True egg cream aficionados will tell you it has to be Fox’s U-Bet syrup or it’s not authentic. I was able to find chocolate U-Bet at Market Basket, but had to make due with other brands for vanilla and strawberry syrup. You can order U-Bet online, but it gets rather pricey.
I’ve already suggested to Ian Abreu that when Silmo Syrup makes its big return on December 3 with a three-hour pop-up at Kilburn Mill, Silmo should be used to make a coffee version of the drink that can be officially dubbed a “New Bedford Egg Cream.”