The exact origin of egg cream, a classic New York City drink, is probably going to be clouded in mystery forever. But the lore around the carbonated chocolate milk is rich, and the short film Egg Cream is a lovely heritage postcard. According to food historian Andrew Coe, egg creams emerged from a desire to conjure a rich Uptown concoction with a Downtown price for locals on the poor Lower East Side. Today the drink (which perplexingly contains neither egg nor cream) can still be found at old-school New York delis and restaurants, but it’s increasingly common to find New Yorkers who have heard of it but never partaken.

The film’s style is clear and affable, and it ends on the funny note when most of the people it features, including those who know the most about egg cream, don’t seem to love the drink (which might explain why it never achieved the status of other New York Jewish staples like bagels or lox). At one point, director Nora Claire Miller’s Hebrew school teacher, Jerry, connects the drink to the Torah (written in “black fire on white fire”) — specifically the story of a warrior woman named Malka, who poured a little milk into her helmet, mixed in water from a bubbling brook, then added some dark beans to create the first egg cream. Yeah, sure. Let’s hope these filmmakers take on other popular New York foods, like bialys or Entenmann’s donuts. These are the stories that nourish our souls.

YouTube video

Egg Cream is available to watch on Vimeo or OVID.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

2 replies on “A Loving Tribute to the Egg Cream, New York’s Classic Drink”

  1. Dear Hrag, you have no idea how happy you made me this morning when I saw the article on the Egg Cream movie. I have a vivid memory of my father, who is now 95, taking me and my brothers to a luncheonette in Brooklyn in the late 1960’s/early 70’s for our very first eggcream. We lived in Vermont, and visited my grandparents a few time a year, in Flatbush. My dad was so excited, it was if we had found the holy grail. I was so happy to send him the link to the review and trailer, and he remembered the event, and said that he wished he could have one right now.

    1. I love that. Thanks for sharing, Julia. Do you remember the name of the place? Is it in the flick? I really want them to do a whole series! My hope is that someone develops a vegan version for me nowadays.

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