Hello and welcome back to the final week of Diner Month! And I’ve only just now realized that we end Diner Month with an 86, which is super great and appropriate. (If you don’t know why, check out the Diner Lingo post.) Even better, since an “86” also implies cutting off someone’s access to alcohol, we’re finishing the month with a series of non-alcoholic diner drinks! Today, we’re covering an “orange Julius” recipe, a Chocolate Malt Recipe, and an egg cream recipe! Three for the Price of one! That’s a heck of diner deal. So let’s dive in first with a quick talk about the drinks of diners, and why we have these three.
Thirsty for Knowledge
I always knew this post was going to have 2-3 recipes in it. It felt like a nice way to end the month, and most drink recipes are pretty simple compared to cooking ones. However, it’s worth noting that only one of the recipes I ended up using was on my original list. And to explain why, we need to talk about chemistry
See, chemistry as a real science is still a fairly new thing. The Father of modern chemistry is a man named Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier, a name you may remember from the BEGINNING of Diner Month, because he had dinner parties with the potato-obsessed Parmentier. Meaning modern chemistry is a little younger than the United States, and somehow also connected to the history of home fries, in what I’m beginning to assume is some kind of potato-based conspiracy.
"He knows! He must be eliminated!"
"Patience, my friend. He only suspects. If we act now, we risk failing, and then he WILL know."
Anywho, this meant that, as chemistry really kicked off in the 1800’s, there was a period of “throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks”. One of those things was the idea of carbonated water, which was an attempt to replicate the bubbling mineral springs that were renowned for centuries as sites of healing and natural cleansing. This is what created the commercial soda fountain. And while carbonated water didn’t really end up being a miracle cure for anything but a hang-over, soda fountains, sites where syrups, solids, and liquids are mixed to provide frothing flavored libations, ended up connected with the ideas of medicine and chemistry.
As such, I REALLY wanted to make a Phosphate Soda and a Malt for the post, since both are classic soda fountain/diner drinks based on the effects of adding powdered substances to liquids (both carbonated and not). However it turns out that following the fall in diner popularity, pretty much NO ONE sells Acid Phospate (a necessary component for Phosphate sodas, as the name implies) over the counter. There’s just no call for it. Sure, I could have ordered it online, but I was CERTAIN that if I checked one more store, one more alternative organic co-op, I’d find it without having to wait a week. This ended up proving me wrong, and leaving me with no time. So I immediately seized on another powder-based recipe, and spent 2 days searching for THAT, with much greater results.
Kai Su, Teknon?
That may be Title Jon’s most elegant reference to date. I’m proud of you, buddy. Anywho, this recipe is a knock-off Orange Julius recipe from Kenny Shopsin’s cookbook Eat Me. Hence, when you get to the end, the name will be in quotes, because, you know, I can't legally claim to be making Orange Juliuses, because of copyright .And while they’re not EXACTLY diners, a quick history of Orange Julius may lend some fun context to the drink.
I know I've often wanted my juices to have more...context.
That came out worse than I intended.
The first Orange Julius stand wasn’t called Orange Julius. It was just a simple Orange Juice stand opened in LA in 1926 by Julius Freed. It did okay business, but not amazing. However, Freed’s real-estate agent Bill asked him to add a new drink to the menu. He had whipped something up because his stomach couldn’t handle the acidity of straight orange juice, and he’d love to help support his friend and client by buying the mix from him. The new drink, which was frothy and creamy in addition to being less acidic, caught on like wild-fire, increased sales five-fold. People supposedly were standing in line calling out “Give us an orange, Julius!”, and this inspired Freed to rename the drink, the juice stand, and its following franchise locations.
The basic recipe is pretty simple: ice, sugar, orange juice, and the ‘secret powder’. Said powder has several different people claiming what exactly goes in it, but the foundation is agreed: egg white powder. If, like me, this is the first time you’ve ever heard of egg white powder, some explanation is in order: apparently, some people think meringue, the hard version of whipped cream, is just the tops, but actually separating eggs to make it is a real drag. These people, mysteriously transported to our times from…1953 judging from that slang, led to the creation of egg white powder, which is just egg whites, dried out and crushed up.
Some recipes also claim vanilla flavoring and milk powder are involved, which, honestly, wouldn’t surprise me, and, even if untrue, might be just as delicious. Recipe wise, this is 3 parts ice to 1 part orange juice, with few tablespoons of egg white powder and some powdered sugar. The result looks like an Orange Julius, but, does it taste like one?
Subject blurred to protect their identity.
I don’t know. Yeah, the flaw with using this recipe: I’ve never really liked orange juice. Apple juice, grape juice, cranberry, I would ask for any of those before Orange. I think it was because I intensely disliked pulp as a child, so I always drank orange juice expecting betrayal. As such, I had little interaction with orange flavored confections. I think I always got strawberry-banana juliuses. But, the drink I made was fine. A little muted in orange flavor, but smooth and cool, with a hint of something…bucolic from the egg white. Like, it felt a little untamed. Anywho, let’s leave this powdered-based confection for the next, and move from fruit to beans, with Chocolate Malts.
A Malt With a Deadly Weapon
I’m going to jump over a lot of backstory here, so just, for the moment, accept that there is a process called “malting”. It’s something you do with grains, and it makes them sweeter and more…’toasty’ in flavor. It opens up vitamin compounds and other enzymes in the grains. Like how raw tea gets fermented and roasted and comes out as the second-most consumed liquid on the planet. Also, accept that the word “malt” has like 8 valid definitions, and we’re talking about a very specific one right now.
So the dairy-based “malt” (I can’t even say “the beverage based malt”, since there are 2 more of THOSE) is basically a milkshake made with malted milk. What’s malted milk, you ask? It’s a powder made by mixing milk powder, wheat flour, and ground malted barley. It was invented as a baby formula, to give the little children of 1870’s Chicago less rickets, but ended up being quite popular with, of all people, Arctic and Antarctic explorers.
Yeah, turns out a vitamin-packed dietary supplement that can be added to hot liquid to make it palatable was REAL important for guys spending weeks in ongoing blizzards. The resulting cool factor drove domestic sales, and soda fountains began mixing it with Ice cream to make what I think of as a “malt.”
Arctic exploring supplies and ice cream, a match made....well, honestly, that sounds almost normal.
Now, my father was born in the very tail end of the 50’s. Chocolate Malts may be his favorite dessert, on a conceptual level. As such, I couldn’t just snap up any recipe from a Betty Crocker Quick and Easy or some such. I need a malt with some cred. So today, I’m using a recipe given by a man named Jeffrey Moreau, who worked at Sweet Moses Soda Fountain and Treat Shop” a sentence that establishes its own credentials in terms of malt credibility.
It’s a rather simple affair as well. Mr Moreau insists that a great chocolate malt requires, paradoxically, good vanilla ice cream. Yeah, you start with vanilla. I know that vanilla actually enhances chocolate flavor, so I suppose it makes sense. To that, you add a shot of chocolate syrup (and I’m not speaking loosely there. You want 1.5 ounces, AKA, the amount in a standard shot glass.) Then enough whole milk to “surround the ice cream, but not cover it. It should be like a little ice cream berg.” How…impressively 50’s sounding. Then an ounce of malt powder, and blend that mess!
Few things that are meant to be blended look good pre-blending. Also, was I not wearing socks for this? What a strange choice.
Now, in a true soda fountain, they’d use an aerating rod, that essentially folded it all together, incorporating air. They say it’s better than a standard blender. As such, and knowing this was for my father, I set aside my fears, and picked up the immersion blender, also somewhat tragically known as the hand blender.
For those unaware, which is anyone who started reading after the Facebook days of these posts, I have had a multi-year aversion to hand blenders. Why? Because I literally blended my own hand with one, failing to unplug it as I scooped cookie dough off the blade, sending said blade punching through my middle finger three times. I then refused to see a doctor, because I’m an idiot, and while it did heal, I lost some feeling in it, and the cuts sealed inelegantly. It’s the only visible scar tissue on my entire body to my knowledge. So of course I have some trepidation using one: once blended, twice shy, and all that.
I swallowed my insecurities, and five minutes into the process of making malts, ALMOST STUCK THE SAME FINGER INTO THE BLADE AREA WITH THE BLENDER STILL PLUGGED IN, showing that yes, I am potentially literally incapable of learning self-preservation.
I have at least learned drink construction.
Anywho, the malts were fine. A bit of research showed that, for best results, just as with the ice cream, you shouldn’t use Chocolate Malt powder, which is the foundation of Ovaltine mix. Instead, use regular malt powder. It’s more blatantly toasty and contrasting, which is, in my opinion, the core of the drink’s appeal over a milkshake.
You Gotta Break a Few Eggs
Lastly, we came to the Egg Cream. Reminded of its existence by the paradoxical qualities of the chocolate malt, I figured it was a fine drink to finish with. If you’re unaware of what precisely an Egg Cream is, then I can say nigh-definitively that you are not a New Yorker, nor have you spent much time in the city.
Personally, I only visit via Bat-Jet, so my view is non-standard.
Made using none of the components of its name, the Egg Cream is one of those classic American invention mysteries: no one knows WHO came up with it, or even why it’s called an “egg cream”. It’s NEVER had eggs OR cream. Some think it’s messed up French (from a “chocolate ET Crème”) or Yiddish (“echt keem”) or even just English. (“A cream”, which arguably raises even MORE questions.)
In any case, the recipe is known, and quite simple: it’s cold milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer water. You start with the milk. And now I’ve completed everything that’s agreed upon. Mainly the next steps come in two camps: one group says you add the chocolate and stir, pouring in the seltzer as you stir; the other says you add the SELTZER, then add the chocolate while stirring. I can tell you what is definitely wrong: do not mix the milk and chocolate, and then add the seltzer without stirring. You get half a cup of foam head, and half a cup of weird chocolate milk.
I have some regrets.
In the end, the egg creams were…fine. Coming on the heels of a family favorite like Chocolate Malts, they were bound to have trouble making a strong impression, and they were deemed passable but not amazing.
And with that, we conclude the diner drinks. We had egg white powder and orange juice; a mixture of malted grains with milk and ice cream, and wrapped up with a drink whose structure depends on proper sequencing of steps. All great examples of the quasi-chemistry nature of the drinks that were popular in diners and soda fountains across the nation. So the next time you need a tall cold one, don’t be afraid to mix something up with a little more flair than the usual.
THURSDAY: JON FINISHES BY REVIEWING A BOOK HE LEFT ACROSS THE STATE, LIKE A TOOL. HOW ARE THE PICTURES GOING TO WORK? FIND OUT YOURSELF.
1 c orange juice, preferably fresh
1 tbsp egg white powder
½ c powdered sugar
3 c ice cubes
1. Pour the first three ingredients into a blender, and pulse 3 times to combine. Then add the ice, and blend until smooth and frothy. Just go until you think it looks good, then pour it out and serve. Recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on the size of your blender.
3-4 scoops premium vanilla ice cream
1 ½ oz chocolate syrup
Roughly 1-2 cups whole milk
1 oz malt powder
1. Scoop the ice cream into either a large glass/bar shaker if using an immersion blender, or just a blender if using that. Pour in the chocolate, and then the milk, remembering to come “not quite over” the ice cream. Add the malt powder, and blend until sufficiently smooth and combined.
¼ cup milk
1 tbsp chocolate syrup
¾ cup seltzer or soda water.
1. EITHER: combine milk and chocolate, stir together while adding seltzer, serve quickly OR combine milk and seltzer, stir together while adding chocolate, serve quickly.