The mysterious origins of the famous New York Egg Cream
From Brooklyn Blackout Cake to Eggs Benedict, New York City is filled with gastronomic firsts. But while we have a clear origin for most of our foodie favorites, the New York Egg Cream is not one of them. This frothy sweet beverage is made from Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup, seltzer water, and a splash of milk, which makes its story even more confusing since the beloved drink contains neither eggs nor cream. There are a few theories currently in circulation about the name and origin of the Egg Cream, each varying in time and circumstance, but most confirming that the drink originated on the Lower East Side among Eastern European Jewish immigrants.
Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop via Google Maps
One theory as to how the name came about was that grade “A” milk was typically used to make the drink and the name “chocolate A cream” eventually became “egg cream.” Another supposed origin is a bit more simple – the name “Egg Cream” is an Americanization of “echt keem,” which is Yiddish for “pure sweetness.” A third possibility stars a Yiddish theater pioneer from the 1880s named Boris Thomashefsky, who apparently asked a New York soda jerk to make for him the Parisian drink “chocolate et creme,” and the correct pronunciation of the word was lost in translation.
There are also various stories explaining the creation of the actual drink. Historian Andrew Smith points to the popular drink in the 1880s made from chocolate syrup, cream, and raw eggs mixed into soda water. According to his timeline, the egg cream that we know today was the version of that beverage served and consumed in poorer neighborhoods.
The more widely believed theory, however, attributes the creation of the egg cream to Louis Auster, a man who owned a popular candy shop on the Lower East Side. As the story goes, he concocted the first egg cream by accident. The drink used the family’s store-made syrup, and it become so popular that it’s said he sold thousands a day. According to a 1964 New York Tribune article, “The Egg Cream Mystique,” Auster’s son Emmanuel stated, “We are in business since 1892. We started in at Stanton-Lewis Streets on the lower East Side. About 1900, my father originated egg cream chocolate. We made all our syrups.”
The mystery of of how this old school New York drink came to be only adds to its allure. If you’re looking to try the delicious treat, the two most famous spots for scoring an authentic egg cream are Gem Spa newsstand in Manhattan’s East Village or Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop on Fifth Avenue and 22nd Street.