The traditional Jewish choice in chocolate syrup: Fox's U-bet (Photo/Flickr-scriptingnews CC BY-SA 2.0)
The traditional Jewish choice in chocolate syrup: Fox's U-bet (Photo/Flickr-scriptingnews CC BY-SA 2.0)

‘U-bet’ we love sodas, egg creams and all things seltzer!

Ashkenazi Jews love seltzer.

Brooklyn used to be full of seltzer delivery men bringing soda siphons full of seltzer to Jewish families, picking up empty siphons from the previous week. Some Brooklynites still get their seltzer in time for Shabbat from the last seltzer delivery guy in the area. Jackie Mason used to joke that seltzer would have been a bigger business if it were trendy and French like sparkling mineral water Perrier. Seltzier! It just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Seltzer differs from sparkling water in that it contains a little salt, which gives it a bit more flavor. For me, the word itself conjures vaudeville, summer, chocolate egg creams. Eggs? Cream? Chocolate? Hear me out. The chocolate egg cream is a classic New York deli staple. It’s a fountain drink made from chocolate syrup (Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup is traditional), whole milk and seltzer.

No one knows exactly where it came from, or how it developed. Marlena Spieler, prolific author of Jewish and other cookbooks, posits that “carbonating water came from Russia with the Jewish immigration. Making it into a sweet drink with chocolate syrup and milk was a delicious innovation. (When I was a little girl my grandfather — from Russia — always gave us our orange juice about half and half with seltzer.)”

A good egg cream is cool, sweet but not too sweet, with a refreshing fizzy tingle. You don’t need a soda siphon to make one, but it helps. If chocolate egg creams aren’t your thing, a simple homemade vanilla cream soda is almost as good.

Chocolate Egg Cream

Adapted from a recipe by Marlena Spieler

2-3 oz. chocolate syrup
Seltzer from a soda siphon, water cooler or bottle

In a tall, chilled glass, pour syrup, drizzling some on the inner sides of the glass. Fill glass halfway with cold half-and-half. Stir well with long spoon or chopstick. Fill rest of glass with cold seltzer, stirring continuously, leaving room at the top for foam. Add more syrup to taste. Variation: Add a scoop of ice cream for an egg cream float.

Homemade Vanilla Soda

1-3 capfuls vanilla extract
Stevia (liquid or white powder), or fine sugar

Pour cold seltzer into a tall glass. Stir in 1 capful vanilla extract, stir with long spoon or chopstick. Taste and add more vanilla for a stronger flavor. Sweeten to taste.

Shelly Butcher
Shelly Butcher

Shelly Butcher is a technical writer and a food writer. She enjoys exploring the fundamental interconnectedness of all things food, where kreplach meet wontons. She blogs at