For as much as I love booze, there is one virgin elixir I just might adore even more than all the liquor in the world, and that is a chocolate egg cream.
Oh, how I could rhapsodize about an egg cream, its gloriously proportioned trifecta of chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer (neither eggs nor cream). When you’re this crazy about egg creams, you know that they must be made with Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup if they’re worth a damn, and you purchase specially marked pint glasses from Junior’s in Brooklyn that indicate how much of each ingredient to use, and you hunt online for genuine, old-fashioned seltzer bottles (which must be refilled regularly with carbon-dioxide cartridges, at no small expense), because you can’t get a good, fizzy head on a homemade egg cream with seltzer from a silly twist-cap bottle.
Now, several years ago in St. Louis, I read in one of the local rags about a cocktail called something like Smith and Kearns, which was basically an alcoholic egg cream: seltzer, some sort of light cream and Kahlua. I refused to trust this, first and foremost because Smith and Kearns sounds like the name of a steakhouse, not a chocolaty cocktail. Second, I usually don’t care for the taste of chocolate in my liquor-ful libations. And third, Kahlua? Give me a break.
Recently, on one of my many flips through Eric Felten’s book How’s Your Drink?, I came across the Smith and Curran. It turns out, according to Felten’s meticulous research, that “Kearns” is how the latter half of the cocktail’s moniker got bastardized over the years, and that Misters Smith and Curran were oilmen in North Dakota who once asked their favorite bartender to whip up a mixer that might soothe their nasty hangovers. (It’s a pretty good story; you can read it here.) Also, it should be made with creme de cacao, not Kahlua. At that, the only thing left for me to do was to try it, and hopefully, finally remedy my disconnect between nonalcoholic and alcoholic egg creams.
I have sucked down hundreds of egg creams in my day, usually lacking the self-restraint to time it well with the completion of my accompanying sandwich (tuna salad on whole wheat toast with lettuce and tomato, thank you very much — pickle on the side, please). At first taste of the Smith and Curran, I declared that I really liked it but wouldn’t care to drink a whole one because doing so would be a bit too dessert-y for me. (See: Schlafly Pumpkin Ale.) Then Sean tried it and corrected me: “I want to drink this entire glass right now,” he stated. Then I realized he was, of course, right. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to enjoy the entire thing; it was that I didn’t want to have to enjoy the entire thing in any sort of proper, time-meted, decorum-concerned way.
The Smith and Curran
(Adapted from How’s Your Drink?)
2 1/4 ounces dark creme de cacao
1 ounce half and half
A little bit of seltzer
Build ingredients in a highball, over ice, in the order given. Stir briskly for just about five seconds — says Felten, “just enough to mix the ingredients, but not so much as to dissipate the soda.”
Felten’s published recipe does not denote whether to use light or dark creme de cacao. We actually did a first pass using light, which seemed to produce quite a frothy head (that’s what she said) but, in turn, a not-heavy-enough body. On a second take, we switched to the dark creme de cacao and added a dash more than the two ounces he calls for. This measurement gave the drink its desired heft, with a more chocolate-forward flavor profile, although you do lose quite a bit on the head (that’s what she said).
As much as I advocate owning a seltzer bottle, I do not endorse using it to make a Smith and Curran. The reason being, those puppies are stur-rong, and chances are trying to add just a quick hit of seltzer into a highball glass that’s already half-full with liquid will only result in that liquid being blown out of the glass and onto your tabletop. However, do always try to use a never-been-opened bottle or can of seltzer so that your cocktail’s as fizzy as possible.