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Egg Creams and Candy Stores

Updated on July 28, 2011
Courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery
Courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Gallery

A Drinkable Misnomer: No Egg, No Cream!

When I was a kid in New York City the 1960s there was a candy store not far from where we lived. And we used to go there to buy the paper and if I was lucky, to have an ambrosial egg cream at the counter.

The candy store (sometimes called a luncheonette, though this term also applied to greasy-spoon type restaurants) was a New York City phenomenon of the early 20th century, which did in fact sell candy but also sold tobacco, cheap paperbacks, comic books, newspapers and magazines, and cheap toys. There was usually a soda fountain area and a shop area. My grandfather and his brothers ran one, and I so wish I had a photo to show you but I don't.

Candy stores were wonderfully atmospheric and unfortunately there are very few left in New York anymore. The one I went to in the 1960s is long gone. Candy stores grew dusty and drab and could not compete with the shiny new ice cream palaces and gleaming drugstores that sell everything from premium coffee beans and paper towels to paracetamol.

Of course you can still make yourself an egg cream - provided that you can find seltzer water with a nozzle. Do not pour the seltzer from a soda bottle, please, please! You need the mini-Niagara-Falls power of the nozzle-driven seltzer to provide you with a foamy layer at the top of the glass which gives the drink its name.

Here's an egg cream recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The New York Cookbook by Molly O'Neill (New York: Workman, 1992, p. 451). It seems that you must use Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Flavored Syrup as well as seltzer with a nozzle - this is authentic cuisine, you know!

1 cup milk

1/4 cup seltzer

2 tablespoons Fox's U-Bet Chocolate Flavored Syrup

Pour milk into chilled 12 oz. glass. Aim seltzer into glass until foamy top forms. Add syrup.

I have also seen recipes in which you mix in the syrup first. In fact, the Fox's site advises you to do this, see here. I believe that this is something like the tea first or milk first debate about making cups of English tea (apropos of that, I have English relatives and they put the milk in first).

You could probably experiment with using homemade chocolate syrup or a gourmet-quality syrup. This is a bit unorthodox I know, but what if you used strawberry syrup or one of the Torani flavored syrups? You could have a whole flavor range of egg creams. They wouldn't be candy store egg creams - but then, since we don't tend to have those marble soda fountains in our homes, i guess a little variation wouldn't hurt.

If anyone does try a new flavor of egg cream please let me know!

Black and white image is from the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, and shows a drugstore with a soda fountain - not exactly a candy store, which was smaller and darker, in my memory - on Staten Island in the early 20th century. The color picture is from Wikipedia.

Links for finding seltzer with a nozzle, U-Bet et cetera, and general New York candy store information:

U Bet syrups are here

Here's a story about the best egg cream maker in all of Brooklyn

And another great photo, of the Lexington Candy Shop, here

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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